Somewhere in a cramped apartment in Manhattan (because everything is cramped in Manhattan), someone watching Curb Your Enthusiasm decided the show's creator, Larry David, somehow had something to do with the 2011 Boston Red Sox.
This really happened.
One day at a typewriter, a sports writer for The Boston Globe sat down and first typed the words "Curse of the Bambino," connecting what would be 86 years without a World Series title to the Red Sox selling the greatest player in baseball history in 1919.
This really happened, too.
The latter grew into a phenomenon, and as ridiculous as any sane person finds the first example, the fact that it appeared on the website of The New York Times promises that it will have at least some staying power.
It was all going so well for so long, wasn't it? There was the Super Bowl victory for the Patriots in 2002, then two more. There was a long-awaited World Series title for the Red Sox, followed by another. There was a 17th banner for the Celtics and a Stanley Cup for the Bruins. Then the Red Sox lost a nine-game lead in less than a month and it's 1986 all over again. It's incredible how quickly we revert back into gloom-and-doom mode.
To the south and west, though, the time to respect Boston's pain has passed. Outside New England, it's open season to joke about the Red Sox' collapse.
In less than a month, Boston went from model sports city to punchline.
There was no way, for instance, for Texas A&M's two second-half collapses in back-to-back weeks to go by without a mention of the Sox. The Aggies, who handed away a 17-point halftime lead to Oklahoma State last week and an 18-point halftime lead to Arkansas on Saturday, "have become football's version of the Boston Red Sox and the Atlanta Braves," wrote Steve Megargee of Rivals. Ouch.
Most of us can predict what's coming next. The only way for a laughingstock to deflect humor is to bring attention to its own pain, and there's no better way to publicize something painful than to give it a name.
This is how curses are born, folks.
When the Red Sox didn't win a World Series for 86 years, it was supposedly because of Babe Ruth. When the White Sox failed to win a title for 88 years, many blamed the 1919 Black Sox. With the Cubs working on their 104th year without a championship, Steve Bartman and the Billy Goat became useful, um, goats.
It's historically taken time for such curses to develop — the Curse of the Bambino didn't get a name until the 1980s — but as with everything in the 21st century, things move faster now. The Red Sox' tumble from first place in the division to out of the playoffs entirely already has two proposed explanations: "The Curse of (Robert) Andino" and "The Larry David Curse."
A lot of fans scoff at curses, but curses are very, very real. Not in the way one might think, but they're definitely real.
The 2011 Red Sox were indeed cursed with poorly timed slumps, an unreliable bullpen, devastating injuries to their starting pitching staff and a general clubhouse-wide malaise. Yet it's doubtful that during the collapse, the Red Sox players gave any thought to an Orioles utility player who entered the season with 440 plate appearances. It's even more doubtful any of the players even know who David or the Times' Nate Silver is.
In a city such as Boston, with all its history of sports heartbreak, the teams have just one curse: That any time something bad happens, they'll be saddled with some sort of made-up curse. There's no losing unless ghosts or gods or HBO shows somehow played a role.
Save the curses for pithy remarks made by out-of-town sports columnists. Real Boston fans don't need a curse to carry around like an albatross. Losing in unprecedented fashion is painful enough.
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