Friday, August 22, 2008

The Cover Curse

Georgia has been picked number one in almost every major preseason poll this year, including the Coaches Poll and the Associated Press poll. To go along with their ranking, they have also begun appearing on the cover of several different college football preview edition magazines.

From the moment it was announced Georgia would appear on the SI cover, the Dawg Nation has been rumbling about the “Cover Curse”. The idea of the cover curse comes in many different forms from magazines (The SI Jinx), to print ads (The Dan and Dave Olympic ads in 1992), to video games (The Madden Curse). While some laugh at the idea of the curse, there are plenty of occurrences to support the idea that being on a cover spells doom for your season. Below, I examine the two best known examples of the cover curse, the “SI Jinx” and the “Madden Curse”.

The SI Jinx
The SI jinx may have been born with the creation of the magazine itself. The very first issue of Sports Illustrated was released during the week of August 16, 1954 and featured future Braves hall of fame third basemen Eddie Matthews on the cover. One week to the day after the issue hit news stands, Matthews injured his hand, forcing him to miss seven games.

The first time college football felt the wrath of the SI jinx was in the fall of 1956:
Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung appeared on the cover of SI on October 29, 1956. The Irish were playing Oklahoma that week in what was expected to be a competitive game. The Sooners crushed the Irish 40-0 that Saturday and Notre Dame went on to lose games to rivals Pitt and Navy, finishing the season with a dismal 2-8 record.

Alabama is another team to suffer from the SI jinx. Legendary Coach Bear Bryant appeared on the cover in 1973 after waltzing through the regular season 11-0. Facing Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, Alabama’s season was foiled as they fell to the Irish 24-23.

The jinx not only got to teams, but to individual players as well. It brought down Florida State kicker Scott Bentley in 1993. Bentley missed seven extra points in the Seminoles’ first five games after appearing on the cover before the season. However, Bentley would get a shot at redemption and kick the game winning field goal against Nebraska in the 1994 Orange Bowl.

Over the last decade, the SI Jinx has also had its effect on teams appearing on its annual College Football Preview cover. The 2001 Oregon State squad graced the cover of SI as their preseason number one, only to be upset by Fresno State 44-24 in week one. The Beavers would finish the year at 5-6 and fail to make a bowl game. USC graced the cover of SI’s preseason report as the number one team twice recently (2005, 2007), only to come up short of the National Championship in both seasons.

The Madden Curse

For 20 years, John Madden football has been the number one sports video game for video players around the world. In 1999, the cover of the game was altered and replaced John Madden himself, with a star player from the league. Every year since that first season, the player who graced the cover of the game has had something out of the ordinary to derail their season or their team’s season. Here are the players who have appeared on the cover of Madden:

‘00 – Barry Sanders – Sanders did not play in the 1999 season and ended up retiring.

’01 – Eddie George – After a good season, George mysteriously bobbled an easy pass in the playoffs which was picked off and returned for a TD, leading to a Titans loss.

’02 – Duante Culpepper – Culpepper had a horrible passing season and ended up missing the last 5 games to injury.

’03 – Marshall Faulk – Faulk’s Rams failed to make the playoffs in 2002 as he was plagued by injuries.

’04 – Michael Vick – Broke his foot in a pre-season game against the Baltimore Ravens on the same day that the game was released. Vick played in only 5 games that season and the Falcons went 5-11.

’05 – Ray Lewis – The Ravens missed the playoffs as Lewis missed final game with injury.

’06 – Donovan McNabb – Suffered a sports hernia in the first game of season. He finally opted for surgery and missed the last seven games of season

’07 – Shaun Alexander – Broke his left foot in week 3 and ended up missing 6 games. Afterward, he was noticeably not the same player.

’08 – Vince Young – He missed a game because of injury for the first time ever (including high school and college) as he was plagued by an injured quad throughout the season.

Is Georgia Cursed???

If we learn anything from the past, in a championship season, no curse can defeat the Georgia Bulldogs. Herschel Walker appeared on the cover of SI after defeating Florida in the Lindsay Scott game in 1980. Georgia would complete the dream season two months later, defeating Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl to cap off an undefeated, National Championship year. Come January of 2009, we hope the Dawgs can grace the cover of SI with the same headline that appeared on November 17, 1980:

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