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Under the Radar.
October 29, 2004

by Bill Hogan


The Champaign barely had time to lose its fizz before the pundits started thinking about – and writing about – which team now takes the place of the formerly hapless Boston Red Sox atop the list of biggest losers in professional sports.

The general consensus is the Chicago Cubs. They haven't won a World Series since 1908 and haven't appeared in a World Series since V-J Day. Cubs fans – according to "those in the know" – now bear the burden of rooting for the longest suffering franchise in sports.


The reality is that putting the poor Cubs at the top of such an ominous list isn't as cut and dry as it seems. There are a lot of people who really don't care how long it takes the Cubs to get back to – or win – the World Series.

There are a lot of people who didn't breathe a big sigh of relief when the Sox finally tossed that Ruthian monkey off their backs when they put away the Cardinals in four. There are a lot of sports fans with their own problems. And the woes of some other fan's team have little or no significance in their lives.

Sports fans who could care less that "the Curse" is finally broken; fans that lay in bed at night wondering how and when their own team will ever win a championship. Fans that spend a lifetime hoping and praying that somehow, someway, their team can turn the corner and deliver them to the Promised Land.

The Buffalo Bills – losers of four straight Super Bowls – always run a close third to the two bad luck baseball teams whose history is littered with misfortune. How does a team lose four straight Super Bowls?

The Red Sox were "Cursed." The Cubs and Bills are "Cursed." We read a lot about how these poor saps have lost time after time because of the "forces of evil." The Ghost of Babe Ruth, a Billy Goat, Bill Buckner, Steve Bartman and Scott Norwood. Something, or someone, always had a hand in the fate of these sad sacks.

Well, there are a lot of teams that deserve at least as much sympathy as the Red Sox, the Cubs and the Buffalo Bills. The problem is that these second tier losers don't have any one identifiable demon that puts them in the same league as "the Cursed."

It's gotta be really tough to be a Minnesota Vikings fan. Really tough. Their history is a running sob story, yet, they get little acknowledgement when it comes to the "Big Loser" lists frequently compiled by ESPN and Sports Illustrated.

The Vikings went to the Super Bowl four times between 1970 and 1977; and the Vikings lost the Super Bowl all four times. But the Vikings didn't have a Scott Norwood on which to heap the blame. There was no Steve Bartman running out of the stands to trip Fran Tarkenton as he scrambled toward the end zone for the game winning touchdown.

Minnesota had the best team in the National Football Conference in 2000 – an unstoppable offense and a good-enough defense. The new millennium would cure all past ills; this team had Super Bowl Champions written all over it. Then the New York Giants dismantled them in the NFC Championship 41-0.

But they had no physical being on which to pin the blame; therefore, no "Curse." No credit for being a team "destined" to lose by some form of divine intervention. It's just not fair. Some teams are losers for decades and they get a pass because of some perceived curse and their fans are pitied.

Other teams – like the Vikings (or Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco Giants, Houston Astros, place your team's name here) – suffer a similar fate, decade after decade, and the long suffering fans go virtually unnoticed. No pre-game television montages, no CBS interview with Joe, the eighty-year-old barber who refuses to die until his team brings home a championship.

If the 5-1 Vikings manage to make it to the playoffs this season, and screw it up again, I hope it's because some dope dropping from the rafters of the Metrodome lands on Daunte Culpepper at the one yard line with the clock at zero. At least then the fans of Minnesota may have the good fortune of being ranked among "the Cursed," instead of just among the losers.

I never believed in curses. Still don't. But I know a thing or two about losers.


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