Roy Exum: UTC And ‘The S.I. Jinx’

Thursday, November 21, 2013
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

The much-dreaded “Sports Illustrated Jinx” could play right into the hands of the UT-Chattanooga football team this Saturday afternoon but Auburn fans the world over are hoping it won’t go until effect until next Monday when the Nov. 25 issue becomes official. After all, University of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron will be shown on next week’s cover and urban legend holds that is the worst thing that can happen in the quick future of a star athlete

Countless stories have been told about the “Sports Illustrated Jinx,” the most recent occurring just three weeks ago; Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was featured on the cover and three days later the Ducks suffered a gut-wrenching 26-20 upset loss to Stanford. Could the same hold true for Alabama on Saturday when the UTC Mocs travel to Tuscaloosa for a 2:00 p.m. appointment with McCarron and his top-ranked Crimson Tide? After all, regular subscribers will be delivered their magazines today and the jinx isn’t too technical.

Or, will the spell hold off until the following Saturday’s “Mother of All Iron Bowls” when the great rivalry between the Crimson Tide and once-beaten Auburn is renewed at 3:30 p.m. in what will be a delirious game on national TV? If either UTC or Auburn topples the Tide, the aura surrounding the “Sports Illustrated Jinx” will only get bigger.

For the record, the Alabama Nation is playing down the Jinx because the university has made huge strides in repelling the gloom and doom associated with the cover elsewhere across America. While it is true the jinx reared its head three straight times in the Bear Bryant era, Alabama now has a string of 11 straight wins in games after the Crimson Tide has been featured on the famous sports weekly’s cover.

But many athletes and teams haven’t been as lucky. On Nov. 16, 2009 a picture of Peyton Manning accompanied by the headline, “Inside the Helmet of the League’s Most Cerebral Quarterback” resulted in a 31-17 loss to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Race car legend Dale Earnhardt was on the cover Dec. 2, 2000 and two months later died on the final lap of the Daytona 500.

On March 26, 2013 baseball’s Albert Pujols was on the baseball preview cover with a caption that read, “The game’s greatest slugger starts over the Angels.” Are you kidding? He didn’t hit a home run until May 6, 2012 in his 28th game and his 111th at-bat of the season. You see how it works? There are people all over the world of sports who swear the SI cover ain’t nothing but bad ju-ju.

Pro baseball’s Josh Hamilton was having a dazzling year when he was on the June 11, 2012, cover. Three days later he was hospitalized for an intestinal virus.  On March 25 of this year University of Indiana basketball player Victor Oladipo made the cover and the Hoosiers were promptly upset in the very next game by Syracuse at the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen.

Jeremy Linn was on the Feb. 17, 2012 cover when the Knicks were riding a seven-game winning streak and, ka-boom, suddenly New York dropped an 89-85 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, a team that at the time had the second-worst record in the NBA.

Happenstance? Lin was such a hot item at the time he made his second consecutive cover the very next week but as soon as SI hit the streets, Lin went 1-for-11 in a 102-88 loss to the Miami Heat and several weeks later suffered a season-ending knee injury. Ask Jeremy about karma.

Only three weeks earlier, Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rogers was the cover-boy as the NFL playoffs began and – bingo -- the Packers became the first team with a 15-1 record to ever lose in the first round. It’s true; the Giants won 37-20 in Green Bay!

This July Pittsburgh pitcher Jason Grilli was the first Pirates player to grace the cover since 1992. Leading the National League with 30 saves, it made sense until on the very same day the magazine came out Grilli strained his forearm in a game and was placed on the disabled list.

And remember last year on August 20 when Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was on the cover before facing Alabama in a huge opener? What happened? Tide won it 41-14 and took the first victory in what would become a national championship season. 

One month later Oregon’s De’Anthony Thomas was featured for the top-ranked Ducks – at the time -- and that is when Oregon first learned about the curse – Stanford clipped ‘em 17-14 in overtime last fall before tragedy befell Mariotta two weeks ago in Jinx II.

There have been some famous moments with the jinx. Michael Spinks was on the cover June 20, 1988 with a caption that read, “Don’t Count Me Out.” Yep, 91 seconds into the fight Mike Tyson not only knocked him cold, but into permanent retirement. In 1984 legendary Steelers linebacker Jack Lambert was pictured as “The Man of Steel” and soon missed most of the season with injuries before he also retired that same year.

On and on it goes. Sports Illustrated put a picture of a black cat on a cover in 2002 when staff writer Alexander Wolff wrote a story on the jinx and let it be said that Michael Jordan has been on the cover a record 49 times and it hasn’t seemed to bother him much.

royexum@aol.com

Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron as he appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. The top-ranked Crimson Tide hosts UTC this Saturday in a 2 p.m. game.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron as he appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine. The top-ranked Crimson Tide hosts UTC this Saturday in a 2 p.m. game.

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