Are the Chicago Cubs Cursed? (Part II)

By Andrew Muschel

chicago-skyline-1432569-sAs baseball’s Winter Meetings wrapped up yesterday in San Diego, among the teams to make the most noise were the Chicago Cubs, picking up several players including prized free agent pitcher Jon Lester. All of their acquisitions made members of the media wonder whether the time has come, and if the Cubs will once again play in, maybe even win a World Series.

Previously, we explored the question of whether or not the Cubs’ extensive history of failure was due to a metaphysical curse and concluded that fielding bad teams probably contributed to their failure more than goats. But we still need to address why the Cubs have fielded such bad teams over the years and why fans insist that they’re cursed.

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Are the Chicago Cubs Cursed?

By Andrew Muschel

stock-photo-16532231-wrigley-field-outsideWhen Pablo Sandoval caught the final out of the 2014 season, it marked the 106th consecutive season that ended without the Chicago Cubs as champions. The absurdly long drought, a full 40 years longer than the runner-up Cleveland Indians, makes some fans wonder if their team is simply cursed. Under new general manager Theo Epstein, the team is pushing to be relevant again, even looking to make a splash this winter. But the team’s history remains ugly, including some excruciatingly close calls and extremely bizzarre incidents. So is it possible that a team has been cursed by the baseball gods (as Cleveland fans mistakenly believe about their own teams)? If not, why have the Cubs been so bad for so long and why do fans think they’re cursed?

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Can Talking Sports Be Beneficial?

By Andrew Muschel
male-bonding-163743-sShould he have sent the runner home? Does the NFL care about women? Will he be traded this winter? These are several of the many questions that plague sports fans daily. In previous generations, they may have been forced to share their quandaries with family and friends, but with the expansion of media and social media, most fans can find a sports talk radio show, online forum, or Facebook page to share their opinions.

Sports talk is as old a tradition as sports, but is it just a waste of energy? Noam Chomsky was dismissive about the function of  sports passion:
And I suppose that’s also one of the basic functions it serves in the society in general: it occupies the population, and keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter.
Was Chomsky right? Does sports talk have any benefits other than passing the time on a drive home from work?

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Why Do Parents Still Let Their Kids Play Football?

By Andrew Muschel

On a receamerican-football-284113-snt drive home one Sunday afternoon, I noticed a public park filled with high-school aged children, dressed in pads playing football. I immediately thought of the results of a recent study, demonstrating that nearly one in three retired NFL players will develop cognitive difficulties and at significantly younger ages than the general population. These facts, which have began to emerge over the last decade, led Malcolm Gladwell to wonder about the difference between the socially accepted professional football league and the much maligned dogfighting rings. On other occasions, Gladwell has predicted the gradual downfall of the NFL, as he believes parents will forbid their children from participating in such a devastating sport. After the release of the new data about the severity of brain injuries, why are these kids still playing football in the park? Why would their parents let them play and risk their future?

Suppose I would ask you the odds that you–in comparison to someone of equal gender, age, health, etc.–would have a gifted child or make it through the winter without getting sick? What about your chances of being fired or having your car stolen?

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Psychology Lessons from the Ray Rice Fiasco

By Andrew Muschel

stock-photo-13322751-silencedOver the past few days, the sports media has been focused almost exclusively on the story of Ray Rice. Ray Rice was a superstar running back for the Baltimore Ravens who, before the summer, was caught on a security camera dragging his fiancé (now wife) out of an elevator, believed to be after he struck her. The NFL suspended Rice a mere two games, and only changed its domestic violence suspension policy after significant fan and media backlash. This week, the actual video of Rice striking his fiancé was released to the public, and the Ravens, along with all of the companies who had employed Rice for endorsements immediately dismissed his contract. The most important topic of discussion related to this fiasco is understanding domestic violence; however, the scope of that topic requires a separate and more thorough post. Here, I hope to review a few interesting psychological lessons that emerged through this story.

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How to Market a Losing Team

By Andrew Muschel

trophy-1237607-sAs the World Cup demonstrated with winning and losing, fans enjoy rooting for winning teams. Beyond mere rooting interests, the preference for winning has strong marketing implications as well.

Three sports marketing professors, Dalakas, Madrigal, and Anderson (2004), noted that the easiest way to market a team and increase ticket and merchandise sales is by winning. When a team is successful, BIRGing (basking in reflected glory) is natural and sales flow. This phenomenon is as obvious as the countless ads released within seconds of the final out or whistle in a championship game for championship hats, t-shirts, and anything else.

But what if for some reason, be it financial constraints, lack of talent, or bad luck, a team cannot succeed? Is there any way to still market successfully?

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Why We Care About Sports – Introduction

By Andrew Muschel

crowd-1026767-sJerry Seinfeld, in a way that only he could, summarized the passion people have for sports teams, comparing it to “rooting about laundry.” To a rational human being, it is difficult to explain why people should invest so much, or any, emotional energy into a game played between an assortment of athletes completely unaware of almost every fan’s existence.

Or in the words of my late grandfather, “Tell me, is this Mr. Jordan walking around with a shirt that says ‘Muschel’ on it?”

But as Eric Simons points out, we’ve all been there before. Every sports fan has experienced severe nausea, stomach aches, and headaches when his or her team comes so close but loses at the last second. He or she has also experienced that unique euphoria that hits after a miraculous comeback or championship win that somehow feels comparable to significant life milestones.

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Why Do Cleveland Sports Fans Think They’re Cursed?

By Andrew Muschel

cleveland-skyline-380811-sPreviously, we looked at the legitimacy of a so-called “Cleveland Curse” in sports. Statistics demonstrate that while Cleveland may have the bad fortune of being the city without a championship in the last half-century, having a city come up empty is not unusual. Additionally, Cleveland sports teams enjoyed a very good first half of the 20th century, but few people remember those days. Furthermore, Cleveland fans only discuss championships, a high standard when compared to the numerous failures other fanbases have suffered.

So if Cleveland fans are indeed not cursed, why do they think they are?

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Is Derek Jeter that Good?

By Andrew Muschel

whats-in-a-word-1055796-sSomehow, Derek Jeter has become one of the most polarizing players in baseball. It is difficult to overrate a player who has won Rookie of the Year, five World Series rings, five Gold Gloves, All Star Game and World Series MVP honors, appeared in 14 All Star Games, and has recorded well over 3,000 hits, the most by a shortstop or New York Yankee.

Yet, after this past week’s All Star Game, Jeter’s final one, the focus on The Captain and the excessive Re2pect awarded to him fueled the debate as to whether despite his accolades, Jeter is overrated by the media. Nobody can debate Jeter’s Hall of Fame credentials, but some take offense to his Divine treatment. In response to the recent “scandal” involving Adam Wainwright’s admitting that he allowed Jeter a hit in honor of Jeter’s final All Star Game, Deadspin founder and writer Will Leitch finally had enough:

“The problem with the way we’ve always treated Derek Jeter is that we’ve repeatedly let — demanded — the story get ahead of the man, a man, I might add, we know absolutely nothing about. It’s never been enough that Derek Jeter had more than 3,000 hits and is one of the 10 best shortstops of all time. He has to stand for so much more than that. True Yankee. Face of Baseball. A Throwback. Mr. November. Class. Professionalism. The Captain. The obsession to turn Jeter into a myth has been present from the very beginning of Jeter’s career. It has never stopped.”

So the debate rages on: Does the media still manage to overrate a superstar legend like Derek Jeter? Though the question is subjective and therefore impossible to answer, we can examine a few reasons people may overrate him.

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Are Cleveland Sports Fans Really Cursed?

By Andrew Muschel

letterWith the release of The Letter, Lebron James announced his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. His departure was not momentous for the city, and perhaps his return will end the Cleveland sports curse.

despair-592305-sYou see, the city of Cleveland probably has had many redeeming factors, but the success of its sports teams is not among them. Aside from having its own Wikipedia page, Youtube video, and cleverly titled blog, the Cleveland sports curse is an essential part of the city itself. The media has certainly subscribed to the notion of a curse, defined primarily by a 50 year championship drought for a city with three professional sports teams. Aside from a general lack of success, the city has had multiple heartbreaking moments, from The Drive to The Fumble, The Shot, and most recently, The Decision, in addition to the currently unnamed moments of Art Modell’s moving the football team to Baltimore and a tough loss in the 1997 World Series.

So is the curse real?

Probably not. But why not?

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