Feschuk: It’s official, we now have a cover jinx

Illustration by Kagan McLeod

With great power comes great responsibility. Sorry, Dave Nonis, we don’t take requests.

 “Full speed ahead,” our cover declared, alongside a photo of Toronto’s starting shortstop. “How a healthy Jose Reyes changes everything.”

The magazine arrived in my mailbox on a Monday morning. By that afternoon, Reyes had been placed on the disabled list for hamstring-based reasons. This was sad news for fans of the Blue Jays (and for fans of hamstrings, I suppose), but it was super exciting for us. It meant the Sportsnet magazine cover jinx had finally kicked in.

We’ve been waiting for this. All the big sports properties have a cover curse of some kind. Consider the despair and misfortune inflicted on football players who’ve made the cover of EA Sports’s Madden video game:

—Donovan McNabb: painful groin injury.

—Shaun Alexander: broken foot.

—Peyton Hillis: had to live in Cleveland.

A potent but lesser-known jinx involves the Oakland Raiders’ annual media guide. Did you know that every single player who has appeared on its cover wound up having to play football for the Raiders? Will this inhuman curse never be broken?

And then there’s the most famous of hexes: the Sports Illustrated cover. Nomar Garciaparra made the front of SI and promptly split a tendon in his wrist. A Florida State kicker celebrated his cover by missing seven extra points in the next five games. A September 2000 issue declared Ryan Leaf to be “Back From the Brink.” His life and career immediately became a bigger train wreck than the Obamacare rollout wrapped in The Lone Ranger and driven into a tree by Lindsay Lohan.

And then there’s the most heartbreaking SI curse of all: the time Christie Brinkley appeared on the cover and, shortly thereafter, came down with a tragic case of “marrying Billy Joel.” No one ever truly recovers from that.

For a year now, we’ve seen hints that a Sportsnet jinx was emerging. Last spring, we celebrated the revamped Blue Jays lineup with the headline: “This is gonna be fun.” In point of fact, the season proved to be roughly as much fun as certain types of diabetes. Then in December, we asked on our cover: “Are the Leafs good? Or just lucky?” Funny story: Turns out they’re neither.

Now that our jinx is fully operational, we should take a moment to review the rules of cover curses:

1. The more optimistic and specific the words, the greater the likelihood of a jinx. Safe headline: “The Toronto Raptors: Finally back in the playoffs!” Dangerous headline: “Carey Price: He will never, ever suffer a debilitating groin injury in the playoffs next Thursday!”

2. The cover jinx is not the only external force acting on your favourite team. Superstitions matter. Drinking heavily in the stands can have an effect (or so I tell myself at Bills games, Senators games and Little League). And let’s not overlook the various sports gods. They work hard. You’d think the hockey gods would take time off in the summer, but no—they’re in the office at the crack of dawn coming up with exciting new ways for the Edmonton Oilers to suck. That’s dedication.

3. We do not take requests. Now that word is out about the power of Sportsnet, we’re sure to be inundated with cover recommendations from those looking to undermine a rival team or perhaps even conjure an injury that would keep a player out of the lineup. For instance, it’s only a matter of time until a P.K. Subban cover is requested by Leafs fans, or a David Clarkson cover is requested by Leafs management.

4. Not all jinxes are undesirable. It’s been a tough year, but look on the bright side, Canucks fans—you are just one John Tortorella cover away from your team’s coach “mysteriously” coming down with laryngitis.

As for all you professional athletes out there, we want to stress that appearing on the cover of Sportsnet magazine is a genuine honour and a career milestone. There is absolutely no reason to shy away from a photo shoot. Those vultures directly overhead could be circling anyone.

This story originally appeared in Sportsnet magazine. Subscribe here.

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