Maybe this sort of thing only works in baseball (see: the curse of the billy goat in Chicago and what was the curse of the bambino in Boston), but there is no question that a lot of attention can be drawn to a franchise when people think that there is something seemingly mysterious that is effecting the fortunes of a team. It becomes a sort of romantic story that excuses all the mistakes players, managers and owners can make, but more importantly, it creates sympathy and draws attention to the organization. So this may sound ridiculous, but hear me out. Now I’m not exactly sure how these “curses” enter the mainstream media and become part of the American consciousness, but I do know that we have plenty of ammunition to start one. Before I get any further however, if you’re the superstitious type and actually believe in these sports curses, you should probably stop reading this post now.
Okay, that’s out of the way.
The curse of Sam Bowie. Lets consider these ideas: The Portland Trail Blazers committed what is considered to be the biggest blunder in NBA draft history by taking Sam Bowie with the second pick in the 1984 draft over Michael Jordan. The Houston Rockets are excused from this because their number one pick, Hakeem Olajuwon was able to win them 2 championships while Mr. Jordan decided to play triple A baseball. Of course Jordan went on to win the Bulls 6 championships (it could have easily been 8 straight) and become arguably the greatest basketball player the earth has ever seen. Sam Bowie began his career in Portland playing in 76 games and averaging 10 and 8.6 his first year but was then only able to play in 63 games over the next 4 seasons due to injury. Now the bright side to this was that the blazers were able to eventually trade Mr. Bowie for one Buck Williams who turned out to be an excellent addition to our team and helped propel the team to two NBA finals appearances…unfortunately we were promptly trounced by the Detroit Pistons and, you guessed it, Jordan’s Bulls. But what has happened since that fateful day in 1984? Well to briefly summarize, high expectations came crashing down in the late eighties to early nineties, followed by first round playoff exits, and a desperate gamble by a GM hell bent on “breaking the curse” by any means possible. This GM ushered in a new era in the name of winning an NBA championship. We set payroll records, we brought in multiple NBA all stars, and sacrificed everything decent in order to reach the promised land. And we almost made it, too.
The 2000 Western Conference Finals. Lakers and Blazers. The Yanks and Red Sox. The evil empire and Blazer Nation. Two powerhouse teams destined for greatness in a series that went to 6 and ¾ games before the Blazers gave up the biggest comeback EVER in a game 7 to the Lakers who proceeded to win the next 3 world championships. 13…consecutive…misses…by the Blazers.
Frustrated with our poor fortune and the now wild success of our greatest rival, the team began a now obvious transformation. Coaches and players who could not produce immediately were shipped out without a second thought. First round playoff exits abounded and the term “Jail Blazers” entered our lexicon.
First round playoff exits seemed to suck the life away from the fan base of a team headed nowhere until team management, backed into a corner, decided to nuke the roster and start over from scratch. Fast forward to 2007, a debate ranged: The next great center, or the next great shooting guard…
So why on earth would I want to relive all of this, or come off as someone who is actually drawing parallels between Greg Oden and Sam Bowie? Because although I’m a little crazy and sensitive to “jinxes,” I don’t actually believe in curses, especially sports curses. And what we all witnessed in 2004 with the Boston Red Sox ending their much publicized curse was something magical to behold. The Red Sox had become the darlings of the entire country, so much so that they have become almost too popular today. But am I crazy to think that a little artificial excitement in the form of a curse could propel the Blazers into the spotlight? Certainly their play should attract attention in the near future, but this is a small market afterall, and although I would love to have the success of the Spurs, I wouldn’t want to hear the endless complaints by sportscasters that San Antonio gets every time they are in the finals. This creates story lines, it makes us the perpetual underdog, and it makes us sympathetic to fans on the fence. Now how do I get this ball rolling?