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Broken Sporting Curses - The Boston Red Sox

Updated on March 19, 2017

Breaking the Curse of the Bambino

As a fan of the Warrington Rugby League team I know the pain of waiting a long time for your team to win the biggest title available to them, they have not been Champions since 1955. Warrington are far from alone in being a sports team that have suffered a long wait to win a championship. Several clubs in many sports have felt that they were cursed. With team sports the wait can be stretched out over so much longer than in the case of an individual. Every summer from around 1996, for about ten years, the British public would look forward to Wimbledon that little bit more than they had done for years, because there was genuine hope that a Tim Henman could win the men’s singles title. That hope never quite became expectation and certainly never became reality. At the time it did seem like a long time, but compared to teams sports that have been around for over a hundred years an individual chasing a dream for ten years is barely more than a blinking of an eye. Also when the individual retires, whether successful or not, the wait is over, because fans know the player can’t possibly win it anymore.

Another slight oddity when it comes to sporting ‘curses’ is that rather than clubs who have never won the title, it is those that have haven’t won one for a long time that seem to feel the weight of history more. As if they are trying to emulate their predecessors at the club, who have shown it is possible for that club to be champions. Fans expectations of current players do tend to be shaped somewhat by the exploits of previous players. If they hadn’t seen such riches, they could live with being poor.

Possibly the most famous curse in sport is the ‘Curse of the Bambino’, that was supposed to be to blame for the Baseball team Boston Red Sox for not winning the World Series since 1918. The story behind the curse begins when they sold their star player Babe Ruth to their arch rivals New York Yankees. By 1918 the Red Sox were the dominant team, having won four out of the previous seven World Series, whilst the Yankees were yet to register their first series win. At the end of the 1919 the Red Sox owner sold Ruth to the Yankees, to raise funds to put on a Broadway show. In the following eighty four years, the Red Sox couldn’t muster up another series win, whilst the Yankees racked up twenty three wins. To make matters worse for the long suffering Red Sox fans, the format of the competition meant that the Red Sox would often have to beat the Yankees in the their quest to win the big one, and it was often the Yankees themselves that ended Boston’s dreams for another year. Books have been written about the subject including ‘Breaking the Curse’ and ‘Faithful’ – a fans eye view on the 2004 season as two fans, one of them Horror writer Stephen King, tell the story of the season through their journal entries and correspondence between each other. Films have been made about it, including ‘The Perfect Catch’, an American version of ‘Fever Pitch’. The whole situation has been used as a metaphor as people apply their own theory on Boston’s inability to win when it counts most and apply it to other situations in life. This curse was introduced to a whole new audience when it featured in the smash hit television series LOST. One of the lead characters father would often tell him, ‘that’s why the Red Sox will never win the series’, a reference to some things being meant to be and decided by fate.

Finally in 2004 the curse was ended and in the most dramatic and history defying way imaginable, if someone had written the story it would never have seen the light of day, for being too unrealistic. In what we would simple call a semi final, the Red Sox were once again up against the Yankees, in a best of seven match series. After losing the first three matches, a freaky play in the fourth game leads to a victory and they go on to become the first team to ever come from three matches down to win a seven match series, leaving the Yankees and the rest of America stunned. Still they hadn’t won the world series yet and most people were still expecting them to somehow blow it again when they came up against St Louis in the World Series match, despite their heroic comeback against the ‘Evil Empire’. Clearly this particular bunch of individuals were either too mentally strong or simply too good at baseball to be affected by any curse, and they stretched their winning run to eight games to sweep the Series 4-0 and well and truly end the curse. The character in LOST was busy being lost on a mysterious island whilst all this was going on, and another character shows him the footage of the series win to show to him that he does have control over his own destiny and fate can be fought.

The phrase ‘Curse of the Bambino’ was only coined by a writer Dan Shaugnessy in his book of the same name, published in 1990, it wasn’t until then that Red Sox fans had something to call their pain. Bizarrely enough the World Series winners the following year were the Chicago White Sox, who had waited since 1917 for a world series win, one year before the Red Sox’s previous win. In 1919 eight Chicago players were convicted of accepting bribes to throw the World Series match. Maybe ‘Curse of the Bribes’ didn’t quite have the same ring to it, for whatever reason the story behind the Chicago White Sox’s even longer wait for a world series win, didn’t seem to create a legend to anything like the same extent that the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ did.

When you start talking about waits over eighty five years, you know there have been several fans that waited their entire life to see their team become champions, and never got to witness it. Just think for a moment about how the world changed between 1918 and 2004 and you begin to understand the full extent of the wait.

Lesson to be learned from the breaking of this curse:

You have control over your performance, past performances do not have to be an indicator of future performance. A group of players and coaches can change the identity of a club.

Sporting Curses series

One of a series of articles on sporting 'curses' being broken - when a team finally wins the 'big one' after a loooooong wait.

This one looks at the famous 'Curse of the Babino' that effect the Boston Red Sox in Baseball for so long.


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