SI’s Miss. Mayhem: Should we be worried???

si cover

Ole Miss and Mississippi State football share the Sports Illustrated cover this week, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve

Cleveland
Cleveland

heard a Rebel or a Bulldog say, “Oh s—, we’re screwed.”

They say that because of the so-called SI jinx.

Those who believe in the jinx believe that appearing on the SI cover brings bad luck.

Here recently Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota appeared on the magazine’s cover. Five days later, he was sacked seven times by Washington State. Twelve days later, Oregon got beat.

Back in August, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller and Little League pitching sensation Mo’ne Davis appeared on back-to-back SI covers. Miller quickly injured his shoulder and was lost for the season. In her next game, Davis was shelled and then her team was eliminated from the World Series.

The jinx dates back to 1954 when Eddie Mathews, the great Milwaukee Braves third baseman, became the first person to appear on the cover of SI. The Braves lost their next game, ending a nine-game winning streak and Mathews broke his hand.

Probably the most convincing case of the SI jinx happened in 1957. Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners had won 47 consecutive games and there they were on the cover with the headline: “Why Oklahoma is unbeatable.” So, guess what? Yep, they got beat. That week.

Millions blamed it on the jinx. Me? I believe Notre Dame, which was the team that ended the streak, had a little something to do with it.

Prior to the 1974 Sugar Bowl, Bear Bryant appeared on the cover with a headline proclaiming his Alabama Crimson Tide as: No. 1. But then Notre Dame beat them 24-23. Sports Illustrated jinx? Or luck of the Irish?

Archie Manning graced the cover of SI prior to the 1970 season, his senior year at Ole Miss. Later that year, his arm was broken.

Some blamed the jinx. I blame coincidence and maybe the Houston Cougars.

And I am guessing that for every time failure or injury has followed an SI cover, success has occurred just as often, perhaps more.

After all, Michael Jordan appeared on the cover 49 times. Didn’t seem to bother him, except for the time he was in a baseball uniform. Even then, people blamed the SI jinx instead of curve balls and sliders, which Jordan, as most folks, could not hit.

One thought on “SI’s Miss. Mayhem: Should we be worried???”

  1. Are the performance implications real? Yes. Is it a jinx? Not at all. It is simply a matter of understanding what typically lands one on the cover of SI (or the cover of a video game for that matter). It is generally exceptional performances…performances outside the norm. Underdogs beating favored teams, teams with long winning streaks, hitters who are incredibly hot, etc. In all likelihood those exceptional performances will be replaced by more average performances in the future (it’s a statistical concept called regresison to the mean). And, by the time a team or individual has been exceptional enough to be on the cover…it’s right about time for their performance to come back to reality.

    The injury thing is harder to explain, it is primarily coincidental timing, but also has an aspect of confirmation bias. People get injured in almost every game, we just tend to remember it and put more emphasis on it when it occurs right after they were on the cover.

    As far as Jordan goes, well as much as I detest him, the fact of the matter is that he was great (at basketball), and his average performance was typically good enough to get him on the cover…just doing what he did every night was so far superior to what his peers were doing. So, there was really no performance decrement to be expected. But, as you point out, put him in a baseball uniform where he was actually less than ordinary, and he performed just like you would expect him to, rather poorly.

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