Monday, October 6, 2008

Jersey Curse

I have this thing with sports superstitions. If you are even a halfway hardcore sports fan or if you play sports, you know what I mean. The rally towel, or the rally cap. Wearing certain clothes when your team is playing, or being in the room or not being in the room when they have the ball. It's the Madden Curse, or the Campbell's Chunky Soup Curse, or the Sports Illustrated Curse. Are they real? That's debatable. However, I have a personal curse that I bestow upon on my favorite athletes and teams and it deals with buying jerseys of players from those teams.

Just as background, I am a superstitious person when it comes to sports. I believe that the Madden curse is very real. When I play hockey (I'm a goalie) I don't touch any of the lines when I'm skating to my net at the beginning of the game or in between periods. I have lucky shirts, and unlucky shirts. I have noticed a certain trend develop over the last few years, though, that can unmistakably be categorized as a curse, of sorts. I love buying jerseys of my favorite players. It's something I've done since I was a kid. I used to own a Brett Favre jersey (before he was an jerk), Steve Young, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, etc. Only a few years ago did I start to see a trend of bad luck develop whenever I bought a new jersey. Let's start from the beginning:

The first I can remember me cursing athletes begins a long time ago. I have to go back about 10 years for this one. I got an Eric Lindros jersey for Christmas one year. I can't remember the exact year but I know it was around the time of the Flyers' last Stanley Cup Finals appearance, which was the 1996-'97 season. That following off-season, the drama between Lindros and the Flyers front office started heating up. He and Bobby Clarke feuded in the media, and during the 1998 season Lindros's string of concussions started. Then, during a game in April of 1999, Lindros suffered what was initially called a "rib injury." Later that night, his teammate Keith Jones found him in the tub of his hotel room, pale and cold. The trainer was told to send Lindros back to Philly on a plane with Mark Recchi, who was also injured at the time, and get treatment at home. Jones insisted he go straight to the hospital. They did rush him to the hospital and it was determined that Lindros had a collapsed lung caused by internal bleeding of his chest wall and had bled out about half his body's total volume of blood. If he had been put on that team plane, he would have been dead before he reached Philadelphia. More injuries and verbal disputes with Flyers management ensued between then and 2001, when he was finally traded to the New York Rangers. He played three seasons with the Rangers, then one with Toronto before finally retiring as a member of the Dallas Stars in 2006. In all, he suffered eight concussions in his career (all after I bought the damn jersey), a collapsed lung, and a torn ligament in his wrist that he re-injured shortly after returning from.

At this point, I didn't realize what I had done. But even so, I didn't wear jerseys much anymore so I didn't buy any for a few years. Then came my college years. My junior year was an exciting one. A young running back by the name of Austin Scott was turning heads at Penn State. He was a sophomore during my junior year and I swear he knew there was a curse on him the year before this. During my sophomore year (his freshman year), I bought his jersey, #22. The following year, he switched numbers, to #33, which just so happens to be one of my favorite numbers. So I bought a #33 jersey. That following season, he showed up to camp overweight, was hampered by ankle injuries, and apparently displayed a lack of focus and motivation. He lost his starting job to Tony Hunt, who ended up finishing third on the all-time rushing list at Penn State and now plays fullback for the Philadelphia Eagles. In the middle of his senior season in 2007, he was accused of rape after leaving a bar with a girl he met that night. He was acquitted of the charges, but it effectively ruined the rest of his college career. He had a tryout with the Cleveland Browns this past pre-season and got cut.

That same season, the Eagles signed an all-pro wide receiver named Terrell Owens. As you all know, Owens came into the league with the 49ers and exploded onto the scene, running his mouth along the way. When he signed with the Eagles, it felt like a new era was beginning. The Eagles looked like the best team in the league... until I bought his jersey. The Eagles started the season 13-1 and T.O. was on pace for 16 touchdown catches for the season until Roy Williams brought down T.O. with a now-famous "horse collar" tackle that sprained his ankle and fractured his fibula. The Eagles would lose their final two games of the season, but make a run to the Super Bowl, only to lose in a close game to the Patriots. Owens returned that game, catching 9 passes for 122 yards. The following offseason, Owens' agent Drew Rosenhaus demanded that the Eagles restructure his contract and when the Eagles refused, Owens's stay in Philly was done. He sat out the entire 2005 season and was eventually released by the Eagles in March of 2006. He signed with the Dallas Cowboys soon after, and you all know what has happened since then. Hey, at least I helped get a much-needed new rule passed in the NFL, and now NCAA.

The 2005 season was an exciting one for Penn Staters. Penn State had a great team assembled with lots of freshman talent. One of those key freshmen was wide receiver Derrick Williams. Williams was immediately my favorite player on that year's team. So, I went out and bought his jersey a few weeks into the season. The week after I bought the jersey, Williams broke his shoulder in the annual game against Michigan, and Penn State suffered their first and only loss of the season. Williams was forced to sit out the remainder of the 2005 season and never quite regained that magic he showed during his freshman year.

The following season was the big senior year for linebacker Paul Posluszny. Considered maybe the best linebacker in the storied history of Linebacker U, "Pos" had an outstanding season as he broke the all-time school record for tackles in a career at Penn State. I bought his jersey midway through that season. He fell to the 2nd round in the draft and ended up breaking his arm in his first NFL game, missing his entire rookie season.

That NFL season, I decided to try my hand at buying an Eagles jersey again. I was nervous, because I was now starting to realize the horrible trend that was occurring. Nevertheless, I went out and bought another jersey. This time it was Eagles tight end L.J. Smith. I really wanted a Westbrook jersey, but I decided to hold off because of the curse (no, seriously). He was a rising star after his 2005 season, when he caught 61 passes for 682 yards and 3 TDs. He had a strong start in 2006, despite criticism that he dropped too many passes. His final numbers dropped off that year, but that could be attributed to the loss of Donovan McNabb to a season-ending injury. In 2007, his production dropped even more and eventually suffered a season-ending injury. He has battled injuries and dropped passes ever since.

I figure, it has to be just a fluke right? There's no way that a single person can bestow these curses on so many outstanding athletes right? Wrong. In 2005, the NHL had resumed from a lockout that canceled the entire 2004-05 season. The Flyers returned with a bang and Simon Gagne was their leader, scoring 47 goals and recording 32 assists with a +31 rating. The Flyers were knocked out in the first round but who cares? Hockey is back! During the 2006-07 season, the Flyers suffered through the worst season in their storied history. Toward the end of the season, I went to a game and decided to buy a Simon Gagne jersey. Bad idea. When the 2007-08 season rolled around the Flyers were re-tooled and ready to bounce back. Gagne had been banged up during the entire off-season and true to form, suffered a season-ending concussion after playing only 25 games. It was believed that he suffered 3 concussions in 5 months, although doctors told him he only had one. He was originally injured on October 25, 2007 against the Florida Panthers. After sitting out 4 games, he returned on November 7 and was re-injured in that game. He sat out 26 more games before returning against the Pittsburgh Penguins on February 10, 2008, only to be re-injured on his first shift. He ended up sitting out the rest of the season.

So, I'm terrified to buy any more jerseys. There are a few that I want, namely Mike Richards or Danny Briere of the Flyers, Brian Westbrook of the Eagles, and Ryan Howard of the Phils. I just can't bring myself to do it though. I know, star athletes get hurt, but with a track records like mine, can you blame me?

1 comment:

  1. I demand no Phillies jerseys for the rest of the (hopefully short) series just to be safe.