Is the Sports Illustrated Curse Fiction or Fact?

By: Barbara J. Ross

The cover of Sport’s Illustrated is certainly a coveted photograph.  But – there exists an urban legend about “the curse.”  The curse is explained that if you are lucky enough to be photographed for that premier photo shoot, then you are doomed to failure in the current season.

Let’s examine the past evidence.  As far back as the legend apparently holds true.  OnAugust 16, 1954, baseball’s Eddie Mathews was a third baseman for the Braves.  He had played with the team for a nine-game winning streak and was the very first person that the magazine used for its cover.  What an honor!  The bad news followed.  Mathews broke his hand and missed the next seven games.

Within six months skier Jill Kinmont graced the cover and then was involved in a crash that nearly killed her.  She was paralyzed from the neck down into the rest of her body.

There are examples all throughout history. This has not stopped in modern times.  The famous New York Yankees were affected in April of 2010 when what was known as the “Core Four” were comprised of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. Together, they graced the Sports Illustrated cover.  Jeter suffered injuries within one week and eventually returned to play in what was considered his worst season of his career.

The Texas Rangers catcher, Yorvit Torrealba, was lucky or unlucky to have the cover opportunity on October 31, 2011 during their play in that year’s World Series.  His team, the Texas Rangers, went on to lose the coveted trophy to St. Louis.  This was despite the fact that during the World Series game six, St. Louis lost after they were only one strike away from winning!

One could argue that this jinx is not always true.  For example, Michael Jordan is considered by some to be the greatest athlete in history.  He was featured on Sports Illustrated Cover no less the 57 times.  Mark Spitz was featured on the cover twice – once on July 22, 1968 and again on September 4, 1972.  We all know that these covers  proceeded his win of a record number of gold medals (seven) for his swimming feats.

The consumer must then be the judge.  Is this accolade a curse or impetus?  Is the curse a reality or just the urban legend as claimed?  Well, time will tell with the premier football quarterback of New England Patriots, Tom Brady.

His appearance this week (January 18, 2011)  on the cover marks the twelfth time he has appeared as the cover icon.  This number ties the number of times that retired Joe Montana appeared.  Time will tell as Brady works to advance to the 2012 Super Bowl.  Is the jinx fact or fiction, reality or urban legend?

As a note, the Pittsburgh Steelers are mentioned on the cover that depicts Brady, and they lost their playoff game on the next Sunday after publication. Who knows what this curse means!


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