Friday, October 25, 2013

The Mayo Curse

I just had a rare laugh-out-loud-while-alone-in-a-room-after-reading-something-and-look-around-the-room-uncomfortably-as-if-someone-had-heard-only-to-remember-no-one-is-around-then-laugh-out-loud-longer-and-louder moment.  I felt I would be remiss if I didn't share it here.

I was reading this week's issue of the UCD newspaper, University Observer- and excellent (and free!) piece of student journalism.  A particular article caught my eye about sports superstitions and curses, and the first story made me put down the paper, smile, and laugh.

I am, as an American, no stranger to sports superstitions and curses.  American sports fans all know about the Red Sox Babe Ruth Curse, broken earlier this century, and the famous Cubs Goat Curse- with no end in sight. I had never thought about the possibility of other countries' sports having similar curses, until today.

The article began by describing the dejected fans of the County Mayo Gaelic Football team after their defeat to Dublin in the All-Ireland Football Final.  Many attribute this heartbreaking loss to the famous "Mayo Curse," dating back to 1951.  In that year, the Mayo football side won the All-Ireland Final and were celebrating maybe a bit too boisterously on their return trip home.  According to legend, they passed by a funeral in progress and their celebrations angered the officiating priest, who cursed the team, saying that Mayo would never win another Football Final while any of the 1951 team are alive.

In the years since, Mayo has lost six All-Ireland matches, strengthening the power of the legend.  Several attempts have been made to exorcise the curse, including official blessings from the local Catholic Church.  Despite these efforts, Mayo is still winless since 1951.  Maybe they will have to wait for the rest of the 1951 team to pass away...

This is just a great story, especially to a Chicago Cubs fan dealing with decades of baseball irrelevance and just-missed opportunities.  The parallels between this very Irish of curses and the American sports curses are stunning.  All of them started with the team making some brief lapse in judgement (although refusing to let a goat into a baseball game doesn't seem all that unreasonable, even in 1945...) and an angry proclamation that the teams would be doomed to sports mediocrity for their missteps.  All have been historically reinforced with decades of failures by the teams, often in unusual and coincidental ways.  All have had (mostly failed) efforts to reverse the curse- with blessings and a disturbing amount of goat-butchery and cruelty.

The article goes on to describe some individual athletes' peculiar superstitious habits- Serena Williams and her shower sandals and Michael Jordan's famous North Carolina shorts.  (Your shortssssshp?  From College?  Eeeeeeeeew!  -Daffy Duck, Space Jam).  Good storytelling and well put-together, but I couldn't help myself reading the Mayo Curse column one more time before reading on.  It's wonderful to see those little similarities, things one wouldn't think to seek out, when they appear without warning in an innocent student newspaper.

Thanks for the laughs, University Observer!  Oh yeah... and the good journalism... that, too.

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