The Sports Illustrated Cover Curse

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The Sports Illustrated Cover Jinx is a curse that is believed to affect the performance of sports personalities or teams that are featured on the cover of the Sports Illustrated magazine. The curse is very similar to the Madden Cover Curse which affects players who grace the cover of the EA Sport video game.

Effects of the Sports Illustrated Cover Curse

Eddie Mathews, Wes Westrum and Augie Donatellie appeared as a trio on the debut issue of Sports Illustrated in 1954. All three died within the next 50 years. Kareem Abdul Jabal, then going by Lew Alcindor appeared on the 1961 cover and suffered a severely underwhelming season. In June 1967, Boxer Joe ‘Gypsy’ Harris appeared on the SI cover in recognition of his incredible feat of fighting with a handicap in one eye. Slightly over a year later, his visual impairment worsened and he was stripped of his boxing license. He died a pauper in 1990 aged 44 after being unable to secure gainful employment.

The Nebraska Huskers were featured on the September 1972 SI issue right ahead of the 1972 college football season. The two time defending champions lost to UCLA in their very first game and would finish the season with a 9-2-1 record. Andy North won the 1978 Us Open and was featured on the cover of the June SI issue. Andy would wait for seven years to win his next PGA Tour event after which he appeared on the June 1985 issue cover. North never won another PGA Tour event after that. Similar incidences happened to them in 1978, 1984 and 1986.

In September 1981, boxer Thomas Hearns appeared on the cover before his fight with Sugar Ray Leonard. Hearns was knocked out in the 14th round. Hall-of-Famer Jack Lambert, then a linebacker for the Pittsburg Steelers appeared on the SI cover in July 1984 with the headline ‘The Man of Steel.’ He would suffer a toe injury that kept him out of the 1984 season and he retired shortly after. The June 1988 representative on the SI cover was Michael Spinks, who was looking forward to a big money clash with Mike Tyson.

When the fight finally came, Sprints was knocked out in just 91 seconds. In September 1996, the SI cover featured running back Ahman Green of the Nebraska Huskers who like 1972 were two time defending champions. The following week the Hushers were shut out for the first time since 1973 as they lose 19-0 to Arizona. The went out of contention for the national title after losing in humiliating fashion to Texas in the Big XII championship game.

In 2003, the Kansas City Chiefs team started the season 9-0 and were seemingly headed for a great season. However after appearing on the SI cover on November 17, 2003, they lost the next game to the Cincinnati Bengals and went 4-3 for the remainder of the season and eventually lost a divisional playoff to the Indianapolis Colts. The April 2010 issue had the Core Four’ of the New York Yankees on the cover.

Within one week after the release of the issue, three among the quartet suffered injuries. Derek Jyeter was spared but he suffered the worst offensive season in his career. For the July issue of the same year, Chris Bosh, Lebron James and Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat all appeared on the cover. The team would go on to reach the NBA Finals but the trio all suffered a drop in stats and the team lost to the Dallas Mavericks.

The January 2012 issue featured New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady while the February issue featured team owner Robert Kraft. In the Super Bowl, the Patriots were beaten 21-17 by the New York Giants, making the Giants the first team to win the Super Bowl after posting a 9-7 regular season record. The SI Cover curse is not restricted to professional athletes. Little Leaguer Mo’ne Davis earned her August 2014 SI cover appearance with dominant performance for Pennsylvania.

The game immediately after her appearance was an 8-1 loss to Nevada in which Davis gave up three runs on six hits and pitched 2.1 innings. Pennsylvania would then be eliminated by Illinois in the next game. In January 2015, the Seattle Seahawks Legion of Boom defense made the cover with the team heading to Super Bowl XLIX. Injuries however plagued members of the defense and this contributed to the Seahawks’ 28-24 loss to the New England Patriots in the showpiece.