Nov 23, 2012, 5:25 PM EDT
Sports fans are a superstitious bunch. The Curse of the Bambino (Red Sox), the Curse of the Billy Goat (Cubs), the Madden curse (Larry Fitzgerald, Troy Polamalu, Donavon McNabb, Shaun Alexander, etc., etc., etc.).
But perhaps no curse gets talked about more than the alleged Sports Illustrated cover jinx. I’m not sure if that’s a product of it actually being true, or if it’s simply the fact that SI hits the newsstands every week and there are many opportunities for athletes and teams to fall victim to this mysterious spell.
Just look at last week’s cover, featuring Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein. Days after the cover dubbed him the “best player on the nation’s best team,” the Wildcats got crushed by Baylor, 52-24. The loss ended Kansas State’s national championship hopes and knocked Klein from his place as the presumptive Heisman winner.
To the dismay of fearful Domers across the country, it’s the top-ranked Fighting Irish on this week’s cover.
The image features Touchdown Jesus in the reflection of the vibrant gold helmet. Atop the page, the headline reads “The Notre Dame Miracle” for the cover story by senior writer Tim Layden.
This week marks the 24th time that the Notre Dame football program has been featured on the SI cover. It is also the first national cover since Sept. 30, 2002, when Fighting Irish receiver Maurice Stovall was on the magazine following a victory at Michigan State.
More recently, Tom Zbikowski, Travis Thomas and Brady Quinn appeared on a regional preview issue on Aug. 22, 2006 – and less than two months ago, the regional edition featured Manti Te’o, along with an article by Pete Thamel.
Five days after Te’o’s cover appearance, Notre Dame hosted Miami in the Shamrock Series game. The Irish trounced the Hurricanes, 41-3 in Chicago and their senior linebacker led the defense with 10 tackles.
It’s safe to say the curse did not apply that week.
But that’s not to say Notre Dame has avoided it all together.
After Stovall’s cover in 2002, the Irish returned home to beat Stanford and Pittsburgh, before winning at #18 Air Force and #11 Florida State. What began as an 8-0 season ended in disappointment, however, as Notre Dame lost three of its final five games.
In Sept. 1996, the Irish defeated #8 Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. Quarterback Ron Powlus earned a spot on the cover, and Notre Dame lost to #4 Ohio State in South Bend the following week.
In Nov. 1993, Notre Dame found itself on the cover of back-to-back issues – for opposite reasons. First, after defeating #1 Florida State in the “Game of the Century,” and later, after falling to Boston College.
Prior to this week, that also happened to be the last time the Fighting Irish were ranked #1.
Notre Dame has been on the triumphant end of this hex too. In 1957, SI claimed that Oklahoma was “unbeatable.” The Irish promptly went to Norman and ended the Sooners’ 47-game winning streak.
Even Sports Illustrated acknowledged it in a 2002 story, featuring a black cat on the cover and documenting six decades of the magazine’s kiss of death. (Wikipedia has an in-depth look at this perplexing curse too).
Tomorrow in Los Angeles, SI will look to claim another cover jinx victim.
But just as he did in October, Manti Te’o will be out to prove that not even a voodoo curse can break the Notre Dame defense.
Go Irish. Beat SC.
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