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Monday, November 29, 2004

Cursology 101: Phinding The Phoundations of Philly Phailure

Is the Bambino's Curse thrashed? By this I mean the Curse itself, not the defunct blog. I daresay it is, the sign being the sprouting of rings on the hands of Jesus Christ's twin brother and his coworkers. So, by the Conservation of Curses principle -- similar to the First Law of Thermodynamics -- at least one new curse must spring into being. At first, I thought it might be the Curse of A-Rod, but realized then that that curse predated the demise of the Bambino's.


The matter's resolution may be found in Philadelphia, where they now have the curse of Billy Penn to explain the idiocies of Larry Bowa and Ed Wade:

Perched atop the City Hall building at Broad and Market Streets in Center City, Philadelphia is a statue of William Penn, universally regarded as both the founder (and namer) of the city, and the founder of the then-British colony of Pennsylvania, the name of the latter itself meaning "Penn's Woods." By tradition — although not by law — no building in the city could ever rise above this statue; however, in March of 1987, a glass skyscraper, known as One Liberty Place, was opened for business approximately three blocks away. It dwarfed the City Hall building, exceeding its height by a whopping 397 feet (121m), reaching 945 feet (288m) compared with the latter's 548 feet (167m).

Meanwhile, the city's sports teams had, up until then, enjoyed an admirable run of recent success, as in 1980 Major League Baseball's Philadelphia Phillies had won their first World Series title ever....

Following the opening of One Liberty Place, Philadelphia's sports teams commenced a pattern of narrow failures to win a championship: The Flyers have lost in the Stanley Cup finals twice since the skyscraper's construction (in 1987 — a mere two months after One Liberty Place opened — and again in 1997), the Phillies lost the 1993 World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays, and the 76ers lost the 2001 NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. But perhaps the most excruciating near-misses of all have been contributed by the Eagles, who lost the NFC Championship Game (the winner of which meets the winner of the corresponding game played in the AFC in the Super Bowl) three years in a row starting in 2001....

With four appearances in championship finals since 1987, the theoretical odds against the Philadelphia team losing all four were 15 to 1 — yet this is precisely what happened, and this does not even factor in the numerous semifinal-round losses the city's teams have suffered over this period.

The mystery, then, is why the statue is not raised atop One Liberty Place, thereby neutralizing the Curse. I throw out the suggestion, and pass on.

By your logic, this "curse" wouldn't work anyways as it started in 1987 (not 2004). The real question is whether the replacement curse starts when the first curse ends or if it is realized when it ends (you cannot decide something is a curse until some years afterwards, anyways). And for that matter, how long does a curse need to be in effect before we realize it is a curse? I would say at least 20 years, and this statue one is not that great, anyways, as Philadelphia in general has been pretty crappy for championships over the long haul.
First: time of discovery is more important than origin. For instance, the Curse of the Bambino was allegedly discovered after the 1986 disaster Boston suffered at the hands of -- well, Bucky Dent and the Mets. In this case, clearly someone felt compelled to write about it only as recently as the 26th.

Second: curses are one-hundred-per-centum BS. It's easier to believe in a curse than to realize that the GM is a chucklehead, the team has a racist owner who overlooks all the quality talent coming from the recently deceased Negro Leagues because he's a redneck, your owner is a newspaper that doesn't especially care about winning, etc.
Bah, that takes the fun out of it. It makes for a much better sports mythology if you use curses. What else can explain that the football Cardinals (the oldest professional football team, older than the NFL) have only won one championship game (I think they also won a championship when there was none) and have done nothing reasonably ok since 1947. Or that the Phillies only have one championship in their over 100 year history. Sure, there are likely to be factors that influence (bad GMs, coaches, players, owners, luck), but if you weave a good curse in, you can even say that the Curse explains why they would hire these types of people. The Curse of the Bambino certainly helped in the hiring of Grady Little and it wasn't until they were ready to completely excise such boneheaded franchise moves that they were able to break the Curse. Basically, curses are way more fun.
Then what is the curse in Buffalo that caused the Bills to lose 4 Super Bowls, a far, far worse fate than losing the NFC championship game?
I am sure you could find something. Curse of the Buffalo Wings? Curse of the Buffalo (maybe the Buffalo population has to be thriving before they can win a championship). Could be anything. The Curse of the Bambino was pretty unique in that you could trace the rise and fall of two teams to just that moment and that situation lasted for 84 years. It might take us another 20 years before we can pinpoint the moment a Bills curse began.

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