Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Top 10 Sports Illustrated Cover Jinxes

Jeremy Lin is on the cover of Sports Illustrated for the 2nd week in a row.

Uh-oh. If you're a Knick fan, this is trouble. It's "The Dreaded SI Cover Jinx!" (Yes, it must always been written like that, as a mark of respect, much like "The Curse of the Bambino" – which, since we now know the Red Sox cheated, has been revealed to still be in effect.) In the immortal words of Harrison Ford, "I've got a bad feeling about this!"

Who was on the cover of SI right before the recent Super Bowl? Tom Brady, not Eli Manning or any other Giant. Who won? You know damn well who won.
And, as a Yankee Fan, I can never forget this one. In 1987, after the Mets won the World Series the year before, Darryl Strawberry looks like nothing is going right for himself or the Mets, while Don Mattingly looks determined to get the Yankees back to the World Series.
Instead, right after this, Willie Randolph got hurt, Dave Winfield went into a slump, and it was the Mets who got closer to the Playoffs than the Yankees. (No wild card in those days.)

Granted, the Jinx is not a gurantee of failure or tragedy. Michael Jordan has been on the cover the most times, 57. This breaks the record once held by Muhammad Ali, with 38. Next is Tiger Woods, with 24. And which team has the most covers? Far and away, the Yankees, with 71. The next-best team is the Los Angeles Lakers, with 67. The football leader is the Dallas Cowboys, with 48.

On the other hand, Jordan's father was murdered, his marriage has broken up, and he's been a failure as a team owner thus far. Ali has battled Parkinson's disease. Woods has screwed up both his personal life and his professional life. And the Yankees, Lakers and Cowboys, as franchises, have all had serious difficulties.

This is what Arsenio Hall – and as a native of the Cleveland suburbs, he would know about sports jinxes – would call, "One of those things that makes you go, 'Hmmmm…. '"

Top 10 Sports Illustrated Cover Jinxes

10. July 30, 1984: THE MAN OF STEEL. Jack Lambert, the gap-toothed Hall of Fame linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was mean. How mean was he? His former teammate, the memorably-nicknamed Mean Joe Greene, said of Lambert, "He's so mean, he don't even like himself."
Early in the season, Lambert's career would end with an injury. One hardly befitting his legendarily tough status: "Turf toe." He deserved better.

9. September 26, 2005: PHILADELPHIA STORY: Brotherly Love? The Soap-Opera Eagles Come Together and Win Big.
That happened in the 2004 season, when the Eagles, with the pass combination of Donovan McNabb to Terrell Owens, won the NFC Championship Game, after losing the last 3. But the 2005 Eagle season was one of the biggest disasters in NFL history, making the 2011 Eagle season look tame by comparison. In the end, T.O. had to go, and D-Mac has never won a Super Bowl.

8. June 20, 1988: DON'T COUNT ME OUT. That was boxer Michael Spinks' message as he prepared to unify the heavyweight title against Mike Tyson. The fight lasted 91 seconds, as Tyson knocked Spinks out. Spinks never fought again.
7. January 16, 1984: BRING ON THE RAIDERS! The words seem to be coming right out of the much-exercised mouth of Joe Theismann, the quarterback of the defending Super Bowl Champion Washington Redskins. The 'Skins got slammed by the Raiders, 38-9.
Later in the year, on September 3, Theismann was on the cover again, with tape over his mouth. Sure enough, he got himself and the 'Skins jinxed again, as they lost to the Miami Dolphins, and that loss got put on the cover.
6. April 6, 1987: INDIAN UPRISING: Believe it! Cleveland is the best team in the American League! The Tribe had put up their best season in 20 years the season before, and Joe Carter and Cory Snyder were put on the cover.
The Indians ended up losing 101 games, leading to, among other things, manager Pat Corrales getting fired. Corrales was quoted as saying, "Sports Illustrated isn't getting my hitters out. Sports Illustrated isn't hitting my pitchers."

You'd think, having been a member of the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, Corrales had already seen enough baseball misery. (He's now a coach with the Washington Nationals, so maybe he hasn't!)

5. November 18, 1957: WHY OKLAHOMA IS UNBEATABLE. The University of Oklahoma football team had a 47-game winning streak, which is still a record in major college football. They'd won the last 2 National Championships. They hadn't lost a game in 4 years.
They lost their very next one, to Notre Dame. In spite of 2 previous accidents (one paralyzing, one fatal), this cover, combining the word "unbeatable" with a surprising upset (Notre Dame, which had also given the Sooners their last loss and gone on to win the 1953 National Championship, was not nearly as good in '57), put the idea of the Jinx in SI readers' minds.

4. January 31, 1955: No headline. Skier Jill Kinmont is on the cover, the 1st woman so featured. Shortly thereafter, she was paralyzed and nearly killed in a ski crash. She was only 19. She was portrayed by Marilyn Hassett in the film The Other Side of the Mountain, and died earlier this month, just short of her 76th birthday.
3. May 26, 1958: INDIANPOLIS: PREVIEW OF THE '500.' The cover shows young driver Pat O'Connor. Four days after the date of the issue, the race is held, and he is killed on the very 1st lap.
2. May 28, 1956: BOB SWEIKERT: KING OF THE BRICKYARD. Sweikert had just won the Indy 500. Less than a month later, he was killed in another race.
1. February 13, 1961: LAURENCE OWEN, America's Most Exciting Girl Skater. Despite the name, she was female, and only 16 years old. She was expected to follow in the footsteps of recent U.S. skating stars Tenley Albright (Gold Medal at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy) and Carol Heiss (Gold Medal at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California).
Just 2 days after the date on the cover, a Boeing 707 carrying the entire U.S. figure skating team crashed just before its destination of Brussels, Belgium. There were 73 deaths, including all the skaters and all their coaches.


One thing I should mention: For the most part, the Swimsuit Edition cover models seem to be immune from The Dreaded SI Cover Jinx. Granted, not all of them have avoided pain and tragedy. But most became as famous as they wanted to become, and all of them, as of Kate Upton's 2012 appearance, are still alive.

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