Lurking deep within the souls of all humanity, lies an evil so pure, so unrivaled, so indefatigable, one dare not say its name for fear of its wrath.

Striking throughout the ages, it shows little attention to age or gender, status or grace. It knows no bounds, yet shows surprising subtlety when it requires.

No amount of respect will sate its hunger.

No amount of fear will quench its thirst.

My warning is complete. Here now is the tale of ...

The Sports Illustrated Jinx!!!!

The Birth Of Evil

August 13, 1954: Atlanta Braves third baseman Eddie Matthews is caught mid-swing in vibrant color by cameraman Mark Kauffman. This animated shot becomes the first cover of Sports Illusrated, a brand new venture in sports journalism.

And then it struck.

One week later, Matthews suffers a deep bruise on his throwing hand and sits out 15 days on the disabled list. An innocuous beginning to ...

The Sports Illustrated Jinx!!!!

Evil Takes Shape

As the periodical grew in stature (and subscribers), the tales emerged slowly: Grand Slams, FBI careers, swimming dominance, boxing titles, Super Bowl hopes, even movies about Notre Dame - all dashed to bits by the phantom menace.

These tales of woe are sad enough, but then the evil truly began to manifest itself: Jill Kenmont's paralyzing ski accident the week of her cover, Pat O'Connor's tragic death at the Indy 500 (and Ricardo Rodriguez's death the year he is named the future of CART racing), Laurence Owen and the U.S. skating team's plane crash - the coincidences were eerie. Truly there was no stopping ...

The Sports Illustrated Jinx!!!!

The Banality Of Evil

Of course, the villainy was not merely relegated to big games and the human condition; it feasted on the day-to-day business of many of the gracious subjects of SI's portentous cover: player after player after player after athlete after athlete after athlete after sportsman after sportsman after sportsman suffered bad games, bad streaks, and bad breaks - truly demonstrative of Arendt's prophetic words.

Some potent examples:

The evil also stole away some of the most promising days and weeks of many young men's and women's lives. Injuries frequently piled up: Ken Venturi, SI's 1964 Sportsman of the Year, carpal tunnel syndrome; Jim Beatty, Olympic long distance runner, hyperextended knee; Paul Westphal, Seattle Supersonics forward, stress fracture; Vinny Testaverde, University of Miami quarterback, motor scooter incident - or, in a particularly costly cover shot, a double shoulder separation! This in addition to a 65-14 shellacking in the process of acquiring these dubious mementos. Yet it was soon time for new blood. Like so many tired slasher sequels, creativity would prove to be the major key to survival for ...

The Sports Illustrated Jinx!!!!

Abstract Evil

So overwhelming was the stench of the debauchery that it affected even those who did not participate in the glory of competition:

  • Evel Knievel's failed canyon jump begins the decline of his previously illustrious outrageous stuntman career;
  • The Double Eagle II, a hot-air balloon, has 3 of its primary aerialists perish within 2 years of its moment in the sun;
  • Howard Cosell's infamous "that little monkey" statement comes 3 days after he appears;
  • A compelling case for the contagiousness of the jinx: tennis star Ivan Lendl appears on the cover September 15, 1986. That week he takes race car driving lessons from silver screen star Paul Newman. Within minutes of Lendl's exiting the vehicle, Newman crashes the car, breaking a collarbone.
  • Baseball Commissioner Bart Giamatti's erudite statement on the lifetime ban of Pete Rose is printed word for word on the sidebar of Sports Illustrated sans picture, but its author does not escape the jinx; Giamatti dies of a heart attack the week it comes to newsstands.

Not content with merely ruining individuals and teams, the evil expanded to new levels by taking on entire programs, corporations, and marriages - nothing was sacred.

  • August 16, 1993: Nike CEO Phil Knight appears. One month later, 800 Nike workers are fired as Nike's 6-year-long earnings streak is snapped.
  • January 10, 1994: Newly crowned NCAA football champions the Florida State Seminoles revel in a snapshot of glory. Within weeks, the entire program is slapped with probation and scholarship cutbacks due to impropriety.
  • January 14, 2002: His Airness Michael Jordan's impressive return to the NBA earns him another SI cover, increasing his record number of appearances to 43. A-ha, you say, a weakness in the power of the jinx! Not so fast: the next day, Jordan's wife of 17 years files for divorce.
Devious. Deliberate. Dastardly. These still pictures now had life beyond their momentous printings, life thanks to ...

The Sports Illustrated Jinx!!!!

Evil Explained

By 2000, the specter's renowned infamy had acquired its own warped metaphysics: athletes began to beg off photo shoots with the magazine; managers and coaches would occasionally bench superstars featured for fear of injury before the playoffs or an important game; and people would shudder with glee when their team's hated rivals would appear on the cover, confident that soon misery and consternation would be amongst them.

Many musings on the evil's origin were offered:

  • "Regression to the mean," statisticians said. To get on the cover, a player had to be doing exceptionally well, far above average. This meant over time the player would have to move back to the average - the curse was just a rather sudden application of this mathematical fact.
  • "Self-fulfilling prophecy," psychologists said. Being on the cover of Sports Illustrated put undue pressure on athletes to perform well and live up to their newfound fame and glory. Some athletes simply weren't up to task.
  • "A bunch of hype," agnostics said. Injuries, upsets, even unexpected deaths - what about the 1,600 covers where the subject went on to do great (or at least uneventful) things?

Objections aside, the evil had proven to be rather wily in recent years. Yet nobody expected what was to come next. Of course, "expect the unexpected" might as well be the motto for ...

The Sports Illustrated Jinx!!!!

The Triumph Of Evil

Finally, Sports Illustrated decided to bravely defy its unholy master: the jinx itself would go on the cover.

Would this finally vanquish the evil from the annals of time and spirit? Could this be the end?

MVP quarterback Kurt Warner was taking no chances. After appearing on the October 9, 2000 cover of Sports Illustrated, he had broken his pinkie finger the following weekend and had missed 5 games. When he was asked to appear along with a black cat for the proposed cover phot of the jinx issue, he politely refused, cryptically remarking, "I don't believe in the jinx, but I don't believe in taking chances, either."

And so the issue went to press January 14, 2002, titled "The Cover That No One Would Pose For." The only face on the cover? Mr. Ed, a 2-year old black tabby (who as of this writing is still doing just fine, thank you.) And suddenly all was quiet ...

Flash forward to the beginning of the 2002 football season: National Football Conference champions the St. Louis Rams (featuring Kurt Warner) kick off against the Denver Broncos and ..

proceeded to lose 5 games in a row. It was the worst start ever for a conference champion. And to add insult to injury, Warner broke his pinkie again in the 5th game, although this may have been a relief to him, as the season was shaping out to be his worst in professional football.

The evil had now done the impossible: it had reached out and struck a player who had purposefully refused to appear on the cover. No one felt safe. It could get anyone next - bowlers, water boys, minority owner of the Charleston River Dogs and comedian Bill Murray - even you or me.

As the evil continues to evolve, one can only sit back and watch as the horror unfolds.

Slowly enveloping our puny planet, it casts soulless glances at our feeble beings.

As sweat begins to trickle down our ashen faces, a slow dirge begins, announcing the arrival of our imminent demise.

Run! Run while you still can.

You can never escape it, but you must run.

It's coming ...

It's coming ...

The Sports Illustrated Jinx!!!!


With undeniable help from http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/cover/2002/jinx/main/.

See also: http://abcnews.go.com/sections/scitech/DailyNews/Paulos_SIJinx020125.html.

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