By Julie Buehler
I was at the Timothy Bradley vs Jesse Vargas title fight. A WBO Welterweight belt on the line, Bradley supporters filing in to support their guy, the sky overcast above Stubhub Center, but the opportunity for our local boxing champ to regain international repute was bright.
I sat in press row, punching out the lead to my story, the first few grafs outlining the incredible journey Bradley’s been on to reach this pinnacle.
Then I got a tap on the shoulder.
I turned around, “Uh, hi, Julie. Can I get a picture with you? We love your work.”
I stood up, “Oh, yes! Thank you!”
At this point, I assumed the natural evolution of conversation would be to the fight, Bradley, the pride of a local man beating the odds and overcoming the insane politics of boxing to have a chance to hoist yet another World title. Or perhaps the conversation could travel to discuss the traffic these desert sports fans endured to witness Bradley’s feat in person. We could have talked about the weather, the food, the beer, anything pertaining to the sport we were about to enjoy.
“Hey, what’s up with your Niners. Anyone else retire yet?”
I didn’t expect a kidney shot, so I stumbled a bit.
“How many is that now?” One of the fans jabbed. “Is there any shot they make the playoffs?” Another with a tough right hook. “Are you even going to watch the games this year?” They were going for the knockout. But I’ve got a strong chin.
“Fellas, here’s the deal. It’s called the Super Bowl Curse and it’s become evidenced earlier than expected for the Niners.”
I stunned them with my own combination and went on educating these boxing fans on the consequences of hosting the world’s most illustrious single day sporting event: The Super Bowl.
They say it’s an “honor” to host the Super Bowl. Or so the host committee and NFL owners want you to believe. The economic impact on a city can be profound and reach nearly half a billion dollars.
Now, add to that supposed “honor” the fact THIS coming Super Bowl, the one in Santa Clara, hosted by my San Francisco 49ers, is Super Bowl 50 and a celebration of half a century of the growing spectacle that has become less and less about football and more and more about Americana, and you can be sure this is going to be the biggest Super Bowl celebration ever.
So it makes sense, IF there is such a thing as a Super Bowl curse, which levels franchises anointed as host, that it be particularly potent when the game is particularly important.
Like Super Bowl 50.
Not sure if I’ve been hit too many times in my head? Think I’m a wack-job just hoping to excuse an unbelievably tumultuous offseason for my beloved team?
Consider the evidence, my friend.
In the previous 49 Super Bowl season, only 23 times has the host team managed a .500 record or above and only 11 teams have made the playoffs who were hosting the big game.
But it’s not just the fact teams have a tough time earning a winning record or making the playoffs, it’s the fact that DISASTER has befallen a great deal of teams that have the inglorious “honor” of Super Bowl host.
Just look at last year.
The Super Bowl was in Phoenix for the first time since 2007.
In 2013, the Arizona Cardinals were one of the few teams in NFL history (19th to be exact) that won 10+ games and still missed the playoffs. So coming into 2014, the expectations were high for head coach Bruce Arians’ second season.
Enter the Super Bowl Curse.
In training camp, Darnell Docket, a beefy star defensive lineman blew out his ACL, and was out for the year. Versatile linebacker Daryl Washington was suspended for the season for repeated violations of the NFL drug policy. A running back was kicked off the team for domestic violence, while another was lost for the year for hernia surgery. Tyrann Mathieu missed the first part of the season recovering from 2 knee injuries, then once he came back, missed more games with a thumb fracture.
But the team still kept winning. It seemed they were stronger than the pummeling the Super Bowl Curse could offer.
But then quarterback Carson Palmer suffered another ACL tear in November and was knocked out for the season.
And the Cardinals chances for a playoff victory went down with him.
They did make the playoffs. Impressively so. And they’re one of those 11 teams to host a Super Bowl and make the post season. But they lost on the road to the Carolina Panthers. They simply couldn’t go 12 rounds with the Super Bowl Curse.
The year before, 2013, the Jets and Giants hosted the big game, neither made the playoffs, and the Jets ended up drafting Geno Smith in the next draft.
I could rest my case right there. But there’s more.
The year before, 2012, the Saints hosted Super Bowl 47. The same season they had the Bountygate scandal suspensions to deal with and appeals to launch. They suffered their first losing season in 5 seasons.
The year before that, 2011, the Indianapolis Colts were the host. The city of Indy did a beautiful job and the Super Bowl curse did some its best work on the franchise as well.
2011 marked the only year in a decade the team failed to win more than 10 games and make the playoffs.
In fact, no team in NFL history won more regular season games in a decade than the Colts did between 2000-2009. So one of the most consistent franchises in NFL history couldn’t put up a fight against the Super Bowl Curse??
They didn’t stand a chance.
Peyton Manning was lost for the WHOLE season with a neck injury. The team started Kerry Collins to start the season, concussions mercifully took him out, then they placed Curtis Painter under center. That was painful. He had nice hair, but that’s the only compliment you could offer him. Then Dan Orlovsky was the quarterback. In less than one season the team went from Peyton Manning and setting new NFL records to Dan Orlovsky and a 2-14 record. Yeah, just coincidence that they were also hosting the Super Bowl.
The year before, 2010, Dallas saw Tony Romo suffer a broken collar bone, they finished 6-10.
The year before, 2009, the Dolphins, who had made the playoffs the previous year, went 7-9, missed the playoffs and haven’t been back since.
The curse stretches far back too. How about the 1980 New Orleans Saints. They were coming off an 8-8 season in 1979, and did not win a game in 1980 until Week 15 where the beat the Jets in New York, 21-20. Then they lost the season finale and limped into their Super Bowl hosting responsibilities for the Philadelphia Eagles and Oakland Raiders.
I could go on, but I think the Super Bowl Curse has been prevalent enough that I needn’t help you draw conclusions about the 49ers pending season.
They’re hosting the iconic Golden Anniversary of the sporting world’s most fantastic event. And they’ve already started paying dearly for it.
Now, all that being said, don’t count the Niners out just yet.
They’ve taken some blows this offseason for sure, but they’re not on the mat. They still have solid leadership on the offensive and defensive lines and talent at the skill positions.
Are they any match for the Super Bowl Curse?
We won’t know til the bell rings.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 2-4 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She can also be seen every morning between 6-7am on KMIR sharing the coolest stories in sports. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 2-4 pst at www.team1010.com or watch “Buehler’s Day Off” on Ustream and KMIR.com for her sports reports.