San Diego sports curse

San Diego sports curse

The San Diego sports curse is a superstition cited for the city of San Diego's inability to claim a modern North American major league professional sports championship (Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, and NBA Finals). With a population of over one million, San Diego is the largest city in the United States with this distinction.[1] San Diego also has the distinction of having the longest major league championship drought for any city that has at least two major sports franchises, the last title dating back to 1963.[2] The San Diego teams with losing records during their tenure in the city are the Padres (2,886 wins-3,330 losses), the Clippers (186 wins-306 losses), and Rockets (119 wins-209 losses). Only the Chargers, at 375-370-11 through January 3, 2010, have a winning record during their tenure in the city.


San Diego Sports Curse in comparison to other notable sports curses

The last major league sports championship for San Diego was the AFL Championship in 1963, when the San Diego Chargers emerged as AFL champions before the AFL merged with the NFL to form the current National Football League. In comparison, in Cleveland, another cursed city, the Browns last won an NFL Championship in 1964. Since then, no other team from that city has won a major professional sports championship. The city of Buffalo is also similarly affected by an alleged curse, having last won an AFL Championship in 1965 (incidentally, the Bills defeated the Chargers for both of their AFL titles). In both San Diego's and Buffalo's cases, there is considerable debate as to how Buffalo or San Diego would have fared had the Super Bowl existed by 1963.[3]

Other notable sports curses affect only specific teams, such as the Chicago White Sox's Curse of the Black Sox and the Chicago Cubs' Curse of the Billy Goat. San Diego's sports curse, by contrast, affects all professional teams in the city and county of San Diego, much like Curse of Billy Penn and Curse of the Inauguration in Philadelphia. Neither the San Diego Padres nor the San Diego Chargers have ever won a championship in their current league, nor has any other major sports team that has been based in the city, including the San Diego Clippers and San Diego Rockets of the NBA and the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association (ABA) prior to the 1976 ABA-NBA merger.

The lore

The cause of the curse has been debated. One is thought to be the trade of Chargers wide receiver Lance Alworth to the Dallas Cowboys in 1970[4], which is similar to Boston's Curse of the Bambino in that the flip side of the curse was the Cowboys' success after the transaction. Dallas went from being a perennial loser in championship games over the previous five seasons (the Ice Bowl, Super Bowl V) to a team that won the Super Bowl during Alworth's first season there (and has won five Super Bowls overall), gaining the distinction of "America's Team." In contrast, the Chargers never made an appearance in the Super Bowl until the 1994 NFL season, where they were decimated by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX.

Another explanation for the curse would involve the 1963 AFL champion Chargers. Following the Chargers' 1963 championship, head coach Sid Gillman approached then-NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle with the idea of having the champions of the AFL and NFL play a single final game (the 1963 NFL champions were the Chicago Bears) but Gillman's idea would not bear fruit until the 1966 season, which today is known as the Super Bowl.[5] In consequence, the Chargers to date have not won the Super Bowl and have only reached it once, in 1994. On the flip side, their AFC West divisional rivals (the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders, Denver Broncos, and Kansas City Chiefs), once envious of the Chargers' early success, have each won at least one Super Bowl since then (ironically, longtime Raiders owner Al Davis served on the coaching staff of the Chargers from 1960–62). Furthermore, every time San Diego has hosted the Super Bowl, an AFC West rival has represented the AFC (the Broncos in Super Bowl XXII and XXXII – the Broncos winning the latter – and the Raiders in XXXVII).

Other explanations include the uniforms worn by San Diego teams, such as the Chargers' powder blue jerseys (despite being well acclaimed) and the Padres' mustard yellow jerseys,[6] and Qualcomm Stadium (the home stadium of the Chargers and, until 2004, the Padres).

Results of the "curse"

The record for all San Diego Sports teams in championship games as of 2010 stands at one win and seven losses, with appearances in five AFL Championships, two World Series, and one Super Bowl. Besides the 1963 Chargers, the only sports teams in San Diego to have won championships were minor league teams. The original San Diego Sockers team won ten championships in both the original Major Indoor Soccer League and the North American Soccer League. The San Diego Gulls won five West Coast Hockey League championships. San Diego has fielded two Little League World Series champions, one in 1961 by Fletcher Hills in El Cajon and another in 2009 by Park View in Chula Vista.

Some of the instances of a curse are listed below, including but not limited to playoff and championship games ending in defeat, controversial calls by officials, and players spurning San Diego teams and going on to win championships.

San Diego Padres

Many famous athletes, such as Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn (pictured), were unable to win a major league championship during their tenures in San Diego.

Prior to the 2011 World Series, the Padres were the only team in Major League Baseball to win at least two league championships and never win the World Series. They now share that distinction with the Texas Rangers.

  • As a side effect to the curse, the Padres have never had a pitcher throw a no-hitter and have never had a player hit for the cycle. While the New York Mets have never pitched a no-hitter and the Florida Marlins have never had a player hit for the cycle as well, the Padres are the only MLB team with both of those distinctions.[7]
  • On July 21, 1970, the Padres' Clay Kirby pitched a no-hitter for eight innings. However, manager Preston Gomez decided to relieve Kirby and as a result, the Padres lost the No-hitter and the game.[8]
  • In 1984, the Padres appeared in their first World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Unfortunately for the Padres, the Tigers would win the series 4-1, with the Padres only winning Game 2; this is the only World Series win in Padres history to date. In Game 5, San Diego closer Goose Gossage talked manager Dick Williams into letting him pitch to Kirk Gibson. Gibson went on to hit a three-run home run into the upper deck of Tiger Stadium which led to the Tigers clinching the championship.
  • In 1990, television producer Tom Werner bought the Padres from Joan Kroc. Werner made many controversial decisions during his ownership, such as inviting Roseanne Barr to perform the national anthem and numerous fire sales. He eventually sold the Padres to John Moores in 1994. In 2002, however, Werner became co-owner of the Boston Red Sox and saw success, as the team broke the Curse of the Bambino by winning the World Series in 2004 and followed it up with another championship in 2007.
  • Pitcher Hideki Irabu spurned the Padres when they purchased his contract from the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1997. He desired instead to play for the New York Yankees, refusing to sign with the Padres. Ironically, in 1998, the Padres returned to the World Series, facing the Yankees. In Game 1, Padres pitcher Mark Langston threw what appeared to be a third strike against Yankees first baseman Tino Martinez in a 2-2 count, bases-loaded, two-out, tie-game situation. To the surprise of many in attendance, home plate umpire Rich Garcia called the pitch a ball, and Martinez hit the next pitch for a grand slam, putting the Yankees ahead in what would become a 9-5 win. In Game 3, the Padres led 3-2 going into the top of the eighth, but closer Trevor Hoffman gave up a three-run home run to eventual Series MVP Scott Brosius for the go-ahead score. The Padres lost that game 5-4 and eventually got swept in the series 4-0.
  • In 2004, the Padres had the first pick in the draft, but instead of picking prospects such as Justin Verlander, Jeff Niemann, Stephen Drew, and Jered Weaver for financial reasons, they drafted Matt Bush who, notwithstanding his high draft position, turned out to be a bust. The Padres were heavily criticized for the decision.
  • In 2005 and 2006, the Padres earned two consecutive National League West championships, only to lose to the St. Louis Cardinals both times in the National League Division Series. In 2006, the Cardinals went on to win the World Series.
  • On April 25, 2007, Padres starting pitcher Jake Peavy was on the verge of tying Tom Seaver's consecutive strikeout record of 10 when umpire Jeff Kellogg missed Eric Byrnes' go-around on what would have been the third strike. Byrnes would eventually walk.
  • In 2007, with two games left in the season, the Padres played their last series against the Milwaukee Brewers and were one out away from clinching the NL Wild Card, when the Brewers' Tony Gwynn Jr. (the son of former Padres great Tony Gwynn), hit a triple down the line off Trevor Hoffman, preventing the Padres from clinching the Wild Card. The Padres would also lose the last game of the season, forcing a tie-breaking game against the divisional rival Colorado Rockies. In the top of the 13th inning, Scott Hairston blasted a two-run home run, but Trevor Hoffman blew the save again in the bottom half of the inning and allowed the winning run on a controversial call by home plate umpire Tim McClelland. Rockies outfielder Matt Holliday appeared to have scored on a sacrifice fly by Jamey Carroll when Padres catcher Michael Barrett dropped the ball. However, replays were inconclusive as to whether Holliday ever touched the plate, and Barrett picked up the ball and tagged him afterwards. Regardless, McClelland's call stood, the Rockies won the game, and went on to win the National League Championship. The Padres have not returned to the playoffs since.
  • In the 2010 season, the Padres were considered to be surprising contenders and led the division until August 25, when they went on a 10-game losing streak that helped the divisional rival San Francisco Giants close in on the division lead. Throughout the remainder of the season, the Padres and Giants were in a close pennant race, with the team that was in second place also competing with the Atlanta Braves for the Wild Card. However, on September 30, the Padres fell three games behind the Giants for the divisional lead and two games behind the Braves for the Wild Card, putting them on the brink of elimination with only three games to go in the season and the Giants being the opponent for those last three games. The Padres managed to win the first two games and tie for the Wild Card and close to one game behind for the division, thus having a chance to at least force a tiebreaker game. The Padres, though, lost the last game, giving the Giants the division, and with the Braves winning on the same day, the Padres were eliminated from playoff contention. To the chagrin of many Padres fans, the Giants, ironically under the leadership of former San Diego manager Bruce Bochy, went on to win the World Series, while in the off-season, Padres star Adrian Gonzalez was traded to the Boston Red Sox.
  • In the 2011 season, a down season for the Padres, they had another no-hit bid spoiled late in a game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 9. Aaron Harang (in his first start returning from an injury), Josh Spence, Chad Qualls, Mike Adams, and Luke Gregerson combined on a no-hitter until the final out of the game, when noted Padre nemesis Juan Uribe doubled to end the no-hit bid and Dioner Navarro followed with a single to score the game's only run, giving the Dodgers a 1-0 win despite having been held hitless for 8 2/3 innings.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers' overall playoff record, as of 2010, stands at ten wins and sixteen losses, a .384 winning percentage.

  • The Chargers set to defend their 1963 AFL title in 1964 against the Buffalo Bills. However, a key play by Mike Stratton on Keith Lincoln would help the Bills win, 20-7. The next year, the Chargers would play the Bills again in the Championship Game, but were shut out 23-0.
  • In a 1978 game between the Chargers and division rival Oakland Raiders, the Raiders were behind 20-14 with 10 seconds to go and facing fourth down on the Chargers' 14. Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler deliberately fumbled forward and teammates Pete Banaszak and Dave Casper batted the ball forward until Casper fell on the ball in the end zone for the touchdown that tied the game. The Raiders won with the ensuing point after touchdown kick. The play would enter NFL lore as the "Holy Roller", and directly led to changes in NFL rules regarding fumbles on fourth down or within the last two minutes of the game.
  • On January 11, 1981, the Chargers hosted the AFC Championship Game but lost to Oakland, 34-27. The Raiders go on to win Super Bowl XV, the first Wild Card team to do so.
  • The next year, the Chargers' leading pass rusher and defensive leader, Fred Dean, was traded to the San Francisco 49ers due to a contract dispute with Chargers' ownership. Dean would ultimately prove to be a catalyst for the 49ers defense, helping that team to their first Super Bowl title (and another one in 1984). Ironically, the Chargers that season would again return to the AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals, with a win over the Miami Dolphins in The Epic in Miami. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the game would be played in frigid weather, going down in NFL lore as the Freezer Bowl. The Chargers would lose the game, 27-7.
  • In 1994, the Chargers clinched an appearance in Super Bowl XXIX, their only Super Bowl appearance to date. However, they lost to the San Francisco 49ers, 49-26, for San Francisco's fifth Super Bowl win overall. San Francisco quarterback Steve Young threw a Super Bowl record six touchdown passes and was named Super Bowl MVP. The Chargers would not win another playoff game for 13 years, most of those years being losing seasons.
  • In the 1998 NFL Draft, two elite quarterbacks were highly anticipated to be the top two selections: Peyton Manning of the University of Tennessee and Ryan Leaf of Washington State University. The Indianapolis Colts had the first pick in the draft, while the Chargers traded up to the second pick to receive one of the quarterbacks. The Colts chose Manning, who went on to win four NFL MVP awards and a Super Bowl MVP award, while the Chargers chose Leaf, who is considered by most to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, bust in the history of the NFL draft.
  • In the 2004 NFL Draft, Peyton's brother Eli Manning, who was anticipated to be a high draft pick, spurned the Chargers; the team picked him anyway but traded him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers and draft picks that led to the signing of Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding in the deal. Three years later, however, Eli went on to lead the Giants to a victory in Super Bowl XLII and received Super Bowl MVP honors.
Current Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding (pictured) is considered to be one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL. In the postseason, however, he is 3-for-9 on field goal attempts, which includes game-losing misses, and is often compared to Scott Norwood.[9]
  • Marty Schottenheimer, head coach of the Chargers from 2002-2006, has been infamously known to choke in the playoffs, with some calling Marty Ball a sports-related curse much like this one. In 2004, Schottenheimer's Chargers returned to the playoffs in nine years and faced the New York Jets in the AFC Wild Card round, which eventually went into overtime. The Chargers marched down the field and got into field goal range, but kicker Nate Kaeding missed a 41-yard field goal. The Jets got the ball back and marched down to field goal range, kicking the winning field goal for a 20-17 win.
  • In 2006, the Chargers entered the postseason with a 14-2 record and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. In the 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff round on January 14, 2007, the Chargers meet the New England Patriots. The Chargers surged to a 21-13 lead entering the fourth quarter. However, the tide would slowly turn, as Eric Parker fumbled on a punt return leading to a Patriots' score. Later in the game on a fourth down throw at midfield, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was intercepted by Marlon McCree. But as McCree started upfield he was grabbed by Troy Brown, who yanked the ball out of his hand and Reche Caldwell, now with the Patriots, grabbed the fumble. Brady then connected with Caldwell for the touchdown and Kevin Faulk ran a direct-snap in for a two-point conversion. After forcing a Chargers punt Brady launched a 49-yard strike to Caldwell down to the Chargers 14-yard line, and Stephen Gostkowski kicked the go-ahead field goal. Nate Kaeding's 54-yard field goal try in the final seconds fell short in a 24-21 Patriots win. To add insult to injury, the Patriots excessively celebrated after the final gun and Tomlinson confronted Caldwell, Ellis Hobbs, and other Patriots and had to be separated, while Philip Rivers called Hobbs "the sorriest cornerback in the league." The loss also led to the firing of coach Marty Schottenheimer and hiring of Norv Turner.
  • One year later, the Chargers would face the Patriots again in the 2007 AFC Championship Game after close wins against the Tennessee Titans and the Indianapolis Colts, ending their 13 year playoff victory drought in the process. However, the wins were not without significant injuries to the team, including LaDainian Tomlinson suffers an injury; keeping him on the sidelines for the entire game, Antonio Gates with a toe injury, and Philip Rivers suffering an ACL injury. Although the Chargers forced three interceptions off Tom Brady, the Patriots took advantage of the battered team, keeping the Chargers out of their end zone and limiting them to four field goals, while scoring three touchdowns for a 21-12 loss, sending the then 18-0 Patriots to Super Bowl XLII, which they would go on to lose to the Eli Manning-led New York Giants.
  • On September 14, 2008, in a game played against the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field, the Chargers were the victims of two calls against them in a 39-38 loss.
    • The first bad call was a play in which a pass from Philip Rivers to Chris Chambers was originally called a fumble recovered by the Broncos' Champ Bailey. Though TV replays clearly showed Chambers was down by contact, the play could not be reviewed due to a malfunction with the replay system. The fumble recovery led to the Broncos' first touchdown of the game.
    • Later, with about a minute to go in the game and the Chargers leading 38-31, Broncos QB Jay Cutler fumbled with linebacker Tim Dobbins apparently recovering the loose ball. However, due to referee Ed Hochuli believing the play to have been an incomplete pass, the play was whistled dead before Dobbins' recovery and the Broncos maintained possession. Two plays later, the Broncos would score a touchdown to close to a 1-point deficit, and running the same play with which they'd just scored a touchdown, succeeded with the game-winning two-point conversion.
  • The two above calls would help send the Chargers to a 4-8 record and the Broncos to a 8-4 record by Week 12 of the 2008 season, with little hope for the Chargers to win the division. However the Chargers rallied to win the remainder of their games; while the Broncos the complete opposite, capping the rally with a Chargers 52-21 win over the Broncos on week 17, clinching the division. The Chargers won their Wild Card game against the Colts 23-17, but the momentum would end with a loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, 35-24.
Many San Diego players such as Philip Rivers (pictured) have been labeled "Chokers" for their inability to win a championship, despite their career performances.
  • In 2009, Chargers finished the season with a 13-3 record and the #2 seed and a first round bye in the AFC Playoffs, with an 11 game winning streak, the longest active win streak at the time. In the divisional round, the Chargers hosted the New York Jets, who some argued that the Jets made it to the playoffs by default as their last two regular season they played teams which sat their starters as they had locked up their divisions. However with the #1 rushing offense and passing defense, the Jets were able to beat the Chargers, 17-14. The Chargers had 10 penalties, most of which were personal fouls. Nate Kaeding, despite having the title of most accurate kicker in the league, missed 3 key field goals and during a key play, a pass from Philip Rivers bounced off the cleat of Wide Receiver Vincent Jackson and landed in the chest of safety Darrelle Revis while he was on the ground. Adding more dismay to San Diego fans, this turned out to be LaDainian Tomlinson's last game as a Charger, who signed with the Jets the next year; while in that same postseason, former quarterback Drew Brees went on to lead the New Orleans Saints to their first ever Super Bowl victory and received game MVP honors. The Chargers have not returned to the playoffs since.

San Diego Rockets/Conquistadors/Clippers

  • The Conquistadors signed Wilt Chamberlain as a player-coach in 1973, but the Los Angeles Lakers sued to block him from playing for them, limiting him to coaching duties.
  • Twenty Two years after the Rockets relocated to Houston, they won two consecutive NBA finals in 1994 and 1995.
  • The Los Angeles Clippers, who have been inept for years after leaving Buffalo and before going to Los Angeles, played a few years in San Diego.

San Diego State Aztecs


  • In 2010-11 season, the Aztecs were ranked as high as #4 in the country by putting up a 34-3 record. They lost in the Sweet 16 to eventual champion, and worse-seeded Connecticut.
  • Later that year, Aztecs star player Kawhi Leonard's draft stock plummeted as he fell out of the NBA Draft Lottery


  • 1990, the Aztecs faced top ranked Miami Hurricanes and SDSU Placekicker Andy Trakas missed 3 field goals in the 4th quarter (including the game winner) in a 28-30 loss. In fact, you can go back and review the collegiate career of Andy Trakas' missed field goals which thereby created a phrase often referenced by Aztec alums of that era with "I Trakas'd it" or "He totally Trakas'd it."
  • However, the Aztecs convincingly beat Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, with a final score of 35-14. The win, combined with the lopsided score, might mean that Aztec football is no longer affected by the curse.

Untimely player deaths

Several players on San Diego teams have had untimely deaths.

  • Former Padre Alan Wiggins died from AIDS in 1991, former Padre Eric Show died of a heart attack in 1994, and Mike Darr was killed in a car accident at the age of 25 in 2002.
  • Ken Caminiti died from a drug overdose in 2004, three years after his retirement from MLB.[10] He won the National League's MVP award as a Padre in 1996.
  • The Chargers defeated the heavily-favored Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1994 AFC Championship game. Within 18 months, Chargers running back Rodney Culver was killed in a plane crash in Florida and Chargers linebacker David Griggs died in a car accident.
  • Including Griggs and Culver, 5 members of the Chargers only Super Bowl team have died untimely deaths. Linebacker Doug Miller was fatally struck by two bolts of lightning in July 1998 in Colorado. Center Curtis Whitley and defensive lineman Chris Mims both died in 2008, at age 39 and 38, respectively.[11]
  • Former Chargers Defensive Lineman, Shawn Lee, who played with the 1994 AFC Championship team, died in 2011 from cardiac arrest.

See also


External links

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