We all know about the Sports Illustrated cover curse. And we know the story of the Madden NFL cover curse. But is the worst curse of all just being part of the Washington sports scene? That’s what ESPN claims, saying, “A star-destroying black hole of unimaginable proportions, the Washington curse goes beyond sports, touching everything from reality TV (worst seasons ever for “The Real World,” “Top Chef” and “The Real Housewives”) to politics (the reputation of any popular pol who stays in town long enough).” Ouch. But does the DC area really have a sports curse?
Well, before we can figure out if there is a curse, let’s look into the history of the DC sports scene. The city hasn’t brought home a national championship since 1992 when the Redskins won the Super Bowl. Here are some of the oft-mentioned elements of the DC sports curse:
- First, the Redskins. While they haven’t been terrible (well, last year’s 4-12 record was pretty terrible), they have “suffered nearly 20 years of mediocrity” and have only seen post-season play four times since their 1991 Super Bowl win.
- Next, the Capitals. They’ve never won the Stanley Cup in their entire thirty-six year franchise history. They made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998, and last year they won the Presidents’ Trophy (and got really close, but blew a 2-0 lead in the playoffs), but still… no Stanley Cup. Ever.
- Then there’s the Wizards. With “possibly the worst draft luck in NBA history“, the Wizards haven’t won an NBA title since 1978. The Wizards have had a history of injury-plagued seasons, and they’ve got a curse of their own to deal with.
- On the women’s side, the Washington Mystics have also never won a championship and have reverted to celebrating attendance championships instead. The team has gone through 10 coaches in 11 years, and even though they made it to the first round of the playoffs last year (with a losing record), they were knocked out in the first round. Still no championships there.
- And there’s the Nationals. Even though they started out with a season at .500, they’ve had losing seasons ever since, and they’ve finished last in their division in all but one year since they came to the city in 2005. And just when things were looking up with the signing of the most-hyped pitcher ever, Stephen Strasburg got injured after just a month and will now be missing a whole season of baseball.
- DC United was the area’s most successful sports team, and the most successful club in Major League Soccer, but they’re currently in the middle of their worst season in franchise history. Has the curse finally gotten to them too?
When you put it all together like that, it seems pretty bad. I asked my friend CJ, who works for ESPN and is an expert on all things sports-related, what he thought of a so-called curse, and here’s what he said: “I really didn’t want to say DC is cursed as a sports town but when you add up widespread mismanagement (Redskins), heartbreaking playoff exits (Capitals) and general poor luck (Sean Taylor’s shocking death in 2007, Gilbert Arenas’ knee injury in 2007, Stephen Strasburg’s arm injury in 2010, the entire Kwame Brown era) it kinda starts to feel like the area is cursed.”
But how does DC compare to other cities? Do we really have it that much worse?
As it turns out, we’re not at the bottom of the barrel. Cleveland is worse off than DC, as the last time they’ve won a national title was 1964. ESPN calls them the most tortured sports city in America, and their three teams (Cavaliers, Indians, and Browns) have really suffered through a drought of national championships for over almost fifty years. CJ says, “Now Cleveland, there’s a cursed town. Cleveland’s sports history is built on being the team bad things happen to: Jordan over Ehlo in the 1989 NBA Playoffs, John Elway’s “The Drive” in the 1986 NFL Playoffs, Ernest Byner’s “The Fumble” in the 1987 NFL Playoffs, the existence of the Baltimore Ravens, the Cleveland Indians starring in Major League, and everything LeBron James did this summer.”
Several other cities don’t have it easy, either. Seattle hasn’t had a major national title since 1979, and the Mariners and Seahawks have never won a national championship, ever. It seems like Buffalo is cursed too, as they’ve never won a Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, or NBA Championship in their history. And San Diego is the largest city in the US that has never won a modern major league sports championship. So there are plenty of other suffering cities out there, too.
While DC has seen its share of bad luck, there are plenty of other cities out there that have gone longer without any national championships. Still, it’s hard to keep up the positive mindset when DC’s sports teams get so close to throw it all away (ahem, Capitals last season) or get their hopes up on a miracle pitcher and have him taken away. But, as CJ notes, at least we’re not all dispirited sports fanatics here: “Most of DC doesn’t live and die by the area’s sports teams. Obviously there are die hard fans of the Caps and Wizards but DC is a Redskins town that flirts with whatever other teams happen to be winning. And the winningest D.C. team over the last 15 years can’t even get its own stadium — D.C. United.” So DC sports fans, if you want to break the ‘curse’, just learn to love soccer and head out to a DC United game.