It’s the one day people suffering from Triskaidekaphobia and Cabin-By-The-Lake Dwellers fear most …
It’s Friday The 13th!
In honor of the superstitious – one we will actually see twice more this calendar year (March 13 and November 13) – allow me to run down the 13 most unfortunate sports stories that matter to me, and hopefully, matter to you. Let’s get started:
1) The 49ers’ Unfortunate Coaching Transition
It hasn’t been the best of times for the San Francisco 49ers. Between the unexpected end of incumbent head coach Jim Harbaugh’s decorated tenure (three NFC Championship appearances, one Super Bowl appearance), the head-scratching promotion of former defensive line coach Jim Tomsula and the complete overhaul of the team’s coaching staff, all is not well in the City by the Bay.
The backlash from the fan base – particularly against GM Trent Baalke and owner Jed York – has been vocal and vitriolic, to say the least. Cries of “The sky is falling” have been rampant among the 49er Faithful, and it’s not for nothing – after all, when the new defensive coordinator used to be an “offensive consultant” for the team, and the new offensive coordinator oversaw Colin Kaepernick’s rapid decline at QB, many see the writing on the wall – and it likely says “under .500”.
For their sakes, I hope this staff pulls through, but right now, it doesn’t look promising.
2) Jim Harbaugh’s Unfortunate Post-Firing Message
As if the coaching staff in flux wasn’t bad enough for 49ers fans, the team’s former head coach said in a recent interview that, despite initial reports that the parting of ways between Harbaugh and the team were “mutual”, he didn’t want to leave the Red-and-Gold:
I was told I wouldn’t be the coach any more. And then . . . you can call it ‘mutual,’ I mean, I wasn’t going to put the 49ers in the position to have a coach that they didn’t want any more. But that’s the truth of it. I didn’t leave the 49ers. I felt like the 49er hierarchy left me.
3) The World Champion Giants’ Unfortunate Offseason
They wanted to sign their prized free agent 3B Pablo Sandoval to a long-term contract … and he decided to go to Boston.
They went after prized free agent SP Jon Lester with the money Sandoval left on the bargaining table … and he decided to go to the Cubbies.
They went after a litany of free agent hitters and pitchers, including Melky Cabrera, James Shields, Yasmani Tomas and Chase Headley … and all opted for other options.
They tried trading for guys like Nick Markakis and Justin Upton … but the only trade they could pull off was for Marlins 3B Casey McGehee.
Coupled with the loss of Michael Morse and the addition of former Kansas City Royals LF Nori Aoki, the Giants’ offseason hasn’t blown anyone away, by any reasonable measure. And this was a team that just won the World Series.
Maybe the thought of the odd-year postseason drought kept guys away like the Plague.
4) Russell Wilson’s Unfortunate Super Bowl Pass
Super Bowl XLIX was theirs for the taking. They could have been defending champs. With 20 seconds left at the Patriots 1-yard line, all they needed was one play, and the Seattle Seahawks would bring a second straight Lombardi Trophy back to the Pacific Northwest (much to the chagrin of 49ers fans and haters of the Legion of Boom, alike). Then, instead of doing the smart thing and give the ball to RB Marshawn Lynch … this happened:
Sure, the pass could’ve fell incomplete, and they could have ran it on second-and-goal. But it’s hard not to call the play – and head coach Pete Carroll’s gall to run it – bad luck for the Seahawks.
5) The Madden Cover Curse’s Unfortunate Timing
Speaking of that ill-timed pass, some of the same superstitionists that believe in Friday the 13th would probably point to another particular sports curse for the ill-fated pass play that ultimately doomed the Seahawks’ chances of repeating:
The Madden Curse has plagued those who donned the popular video game’s cover for decades. For Richard Sherman’s Seahawks, it seemed as if the curse had completely misfired. That’s the strange thing about curses – they will rear their ugly heads when you least expect it. At least, that’s what those who believe in the curse to begin with would have you believe.
6) Peyton Manning’s Unfortunate Postseason Career
The 38-year-old future Hall-of-Fame QB has assured the Denver Broncos that he will be returning to the team for his 18th season. So, why is this unfortunate?
Well, because of his less-than-stellar playoff career, of course. Manning has long been criticized for being a regular season superstar – piling up ridiculous statistics en route to seasons of 12 wins or more on 11 separate occasions – but failing to put his teams in positions to win in the postseason, compiling an 11-13 record over 14 playoff seasons. Whether it’s unexpected flameouts against hot wild card teams, or beatdowns by superior squads, Manning has earned a reputation for coming up small on the biggest stages.
7) Mike Malone’s Unfortunate Firing
The Kings started well under their second-year head coach in the 2014-2015 season – a 9-5 record, the team gelling and their star player, DeMarcus Cousins, coming into an All-Star form. Then, when Cousins, among others, was plagued with injury, the team fell to 11-13.
That’s when majority owner Vivek Ranadive and GM Pete D’Alessandro decided to let go of a guy who didn’t seem to get a fair shot early on in the season. Furthermore, he had earned Cousins’ respect – a major coup for a perceived “problem child” with a massive amount of potential on the basketball court. By most accounts, it was a Jim Harbaugh-like firing – reasons amounting to “We didn’t get along.” While the Kings might flourish in the long run with the team’s recent hiring of future Hall of Famer George Karl, it left Malone without a team, and without a good reason for his departure.
Talk about a raw deal.
8) Charles Barkley’s Unfortunate Rip on DeMarcus Cousins
Speaking of Cousins, the franchise big man did not want to see the coach he started the season with to depart, and he didn’t have any say in which coach would end up replacing him in the long run.
That didn’t stop TNT and NBA TV Analyst Charles Barkley for ripping him a new one, as he responded to reports that Cousins had “consulting power” in the hiring of a new head coach.
I’m sure Barkley’s response had nothing to do with an apparent public feud between the two. But, as they say, the damage was done, and Cousins was once again painted as a bad guy in the eyes of the media – despite the fact that he had nothing to do with the coaching change.
Talk about a raw deal.
9) Jameis Winston’s Unfortunate Status as Top QB Prospect
Florida State QB Jameis Winston and Oregon QB Marcus Mariota are considered the top prospects in the upcoming 2015 NFL Draft. Both have done very well under pro-style offenses on their respective teams, and both have the intangibles to succeed in the pros.
Furthermore, NFL analysts have a consensus going that, between the two, it is Winston that would likely be the better QB going forward. He has the better arm and stands a little better in the pocket. He’s a prototype kind of signal-caller for any team that needs him.
Well, don’t tell the masses of SportsNation, that would rather have Mariota.
Blame it on Winston’s numerous immaturity-laden incidents at Florida State. Blame it on a perceived regression from year one to year two starting for the Seminoles. Blame it on the fact that Mariota essentially beat Winston head-to-head in this year’s College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Rose Bowl. But, them’s the breaks for who many believe could be the draft’s top passer.
Talk about a … Well, you know.
10) Tim Howard’s Unfortunate Return as Toffee Netminder
In the world of futbol, American goalkeeping star Tim Howard returned to his English Premier League club of Everton. Despite missing six weeks due to a calf injury, he looked great minding the net, reportedly showing no signs of rust. Ultimately, he gave up one goal in his match against Chelsea.
Unfortunately, one goal was all Chelsea needed to take the win. The offense could get nothing going, and it dragged into a 1-0 final score on Wednesday. Adding insult to injury, the Blue Lions got their lone goal in the 88th minute – mere seconds after Everton midfielder Gareth Barry was ejected from the match.
Despite a good showing, it obviously wasn’t the way Howard was hoping to have his team perform.
11) The Chicago Cubs’ Unfortunate World Series Drought
2015 marks the 107th season for the Cubbies without a World Series championship. It also a year that reflects this little ditty from a little Sci-Fi film you may have heard of:
According to Robert Zemeckis, this is the year the Cubs win the World Series.
They’re about due, aren’t they? After all, they haven’t been relevant since their last postseason appearance in 2008. The closest they got to the World Series was in 2003, holding a 3-1 NLCS lead over the Florida Marlins, and we know how THAT worked out.
There’s reason to hope, though – they have a new manager in Joe Maddon and a new centerpiece pitcher in Jon Lester. David Schoenfield ranks them 13th overall in his spring training power rankings. They may very well end their drought once and for all this year – but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they didn’t. Such has been the luck of the Northsiders for the past century.
12) James Dolan’s Unfortunate Email Gaffe
When you’re the owner of a team in almost perpetual turmoil, you’re going to get some hate mail. But that doesn’t mean you have to respond to it – after all, sticks and stones, right?
Well, New York Knicks owner James Dolan didn’t adhere to that, and fired back at a particular fan by the name of Irving Bierman. When Bierman’s email criticized, among other things, his lack of knowledge in running the franchise and his “lowballing” of now-Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Dolan apparently took it personally, calling Bierman “a sad person”:
Why would anybody write such a hateful letter. I am.just guessing but ill bet your life is a mess and you are a hateful mess. What have you done that anyone would consider positive or nice. I am betting nothing. In fact ill bet you are negative force in everyone who comes in contact with you. You most likely have made your family miserable. Alcoholic maybe. I just celebrated my 21 year anniversary of sobriety. You should try it. Maybe it will help you become a person that folks would like to have around. In the mean while start rooting for the Nets because the Knicks dont [sic] want you.
When the email went public, Dolan got an earful. And while he wasn’t punished by the league, he certainly looks like an all-around jerk in the whole thing. And as a billionaire running a struggling franchise, that’s definitely not a good look.
13) Justin Bieber’s Unfortunate Presence in Sports
And finally, to the realm of obscure sports curses.
Oddly enough, the whole thing started with the viral pop star’s attendance at a Cleveland Cavaliers game last November. Stacked with an all-star lineup that featured LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, the Cavs would end up losing to the New York Knicks in their opening game, 95-90 – the same Knicks team currently wallowing under James Dolan at 10-43.
Then, Bieber showed up to the 6-3 Pittsburgh Steelers’ Bible Study the night before they faced the 1-8 New York Jets. The Steelers proceeded to fall behind the next day to the listless Jets 17-0, ultimately losing 20-13.
This prompted Bieber haters and Steelers fans everywhere to trend the hashtag #BlameBieber, and it caught on pretty quickly.
Aside from being highly perceived by his critics as a self-entitled, self-absorbed brat of the #YOLO Generation, Bieber was even crossing over into the sports world as a bad luck charm.
Nah. Not that much of a raw deal.