Tempting Fate / Sports

  • Baseball: On August 12, 1951, with his Brooklyn Dodgers sitting comfortably on a 13½-game lead in the NL standings over the rival New York Giants and having just completed a three-game sweep of the latter team, manager Chuck Dressen happily if ungrammatically declared, "The Giants is dead!" By the time the season ended on September 30, the Giants had tied Brooklyn in the standings, forcing a three-game playoff series which ended in Bobby Thomson's immortal "Shot Heard 'Round the World" to give the Giants the pennant.
    • At a game in Philadelphia in 1989, the Pittsburgh Pirates took a 10-0 lead in the first inning, prompting Pirates radio announcer Jim Rooker to joke, "If we don't win this one, I'll walk back to Pittsburgh." The Phillies ended up rallying and won. Rooker later did a charity walk from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh.
    • In Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, the Chicago Cubs had the lead and were six outs away from clinching the pennant and going to their first World Series since 1945. Celebrity guest Bernie Mac was called up to sing the traditional "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh-inning stretch. Instead of singing "root, root, root for the Cubbies" like singers usually do, he sang "root, root, root, for the champions"... and sure enough, the Cubs lost the game and the following game to fall short of the World Series. (Of course, this was also the Steve Bartman game.)
    • In an interview prior to the start of the 1986 ALCS regarding the pressures of postseason play, Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner said, "Your dreams are that you're gonna have a great series and win, and the nightmares are that you're gonna let the winning run score on a ground ball through your legs." Guess what happened, and to whom, a couple weeks later in Game 6 of that year's World Series?
  • In Britain, this sort of thing is sometimes known as the Murray Walker Curse, after the Formula One commentator who had a reputation for observing that a particular driver's victory was inevitable mere moments before their car suffered some catastrophic failure that put them out of the race. Frequently led to commentary along the lines of "Unless I'm very much mistaken... I am very much mistaken!"
    • Walker himself called this the "commentator's curse," saying that it happens to everybody in his profession, but pop culture particularly associates it with him.
    • American sportscaster Curt Gowdy was sufficiently known for this that the term "getting Curt Gowdyed" became part of the sports vernacular in the 1960s and '70s, and is still occasionally used today.
  • Figure skating: Michelle Kwan, heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics having choreographed a program to the song "Fields of Gold" as the massive, overwhelming favorite. She promptly fell in the final round to slip from a gold to a bronze medal. What makes it worse? She should have known better, after having ALREADY lost as a heavy favorite in the final round four years earlier in the 1998 Olympics.
  • Soccer: Brazilian team Cruzeiro was in the Copa Libertadores final against Estudiantes, a team which they met in group stage. First game of the finals, a draw in Argentina. Second and final game is at home, a draw gives the title, the game during the group stage ended 3-0. So, the team president did a reunion to discuss the player's prizes, and the supporters went mad, making "Champion" ribbons — one even started paying the ticket to Dubai, where the FIFA Club World Cup would occur! In the actual game, Cruzeiro scored first, but Estudiantes went on to win 2-1.
  • Rugby: This advert proclaimed England to be the 2011 Grand Slam winners in the six nations. For those not in the know, the six nations is an annual tournament between England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France and Italy. A country wins a grand slam when they win all their matches. Trouble is, it was made before their final match against Ireland. Ireland won by 24-8.
  • Australian Rules Football: Speaking at the 2010 Grand Final Breakfast, following the hung parliament in that year's election, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said, "Please, we cannot have a draw!". Guess what happened?
  • "Commentator's Curse" (complimenting a player on their performance right before they screw up) is an established technical term among BBC commentators (also quite prevalent Stateside, esp. among commentators talking about field goal kickers). A typical exchange would be:
    Guest commentator: Davis really is producing some brilliant snooker tonight.
    [player misses a colour off the spot]
    Main commentator: That's a nice case of commentator's curse you've got yourself there, Gerald.
    • In January 2012, ESPN covered a Clippers game in back-to-back weeks. In both games, color commentator Hubie Brown mentioned Clippers guard Chauncey Billups being among the top-5 leaders in free throw percentage in NBA history as Billups headed to the line. In both games, Billups missed the very first FT after Hubie put the whammy on him, something lampshaded by his play-by-play partner Mike Tirico.
  • In the 2008 Olympic Games, the French men's swimming team was the favorite to win the 4x100 freestyle relay and they bragged about how they would crush the US team, their main competition. Cue Jason Lezak miraculously overcoming a full-body length deficit in the last 25 meters against Alain Bernard, who had entered the race as the world record holder at 100mnote , to edge the French out for gold.
  • Before Super Bowl XLII, New York Giants player Plaxico Burress told the media his team would beat the perfect season New England Patriots by a score of 23-17. When the media told Patriots QB Tom Brady this during an interview, he laughed at the prediction. During the Super Bowl, Tom Brady, who had his best career season scoring 50 touchdowns, was mostly stopped by the Giants defense, resulting in them only scoring 14 points and losing the game that mattered the most. Since then, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots haven't lived it down. Especially, since they would lose the Super Bowl to the New York Giants again four years later.
    Tom Brady: "We're only going to score 17 points?! HA HA HA! Okay!"
    • Happened again to Tom Brady during the 2017-2018 season. When Tom Brady, after winning his fifth Super Bowl last season was picked to be on the cover of John Madden Football's latest entry, he did a commercial talking about the Madden Curse. He bragged that the curse was a myth and wouldn't stop him. This seemed to be true at first. The Patriots went back to the Super Bowl, Tom Brady at 40 years old had one of his best seasons ever, becoming the first player to win the regular season MVP at 40 years old. Only for him to lose the Super Bowl to the Philadelphia Eagles in a rematch of the controversial game in 2004. And he got outgunned by a backup quarterback in Nick Foles, who was close to retiring before the beginning of the season.
      • Compounding the fate-tempting was just about every commentator and Patriots fan in existence during the 2017 offseason. The trade for Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks was hyped up to be the second coming of the Randy Moss trade, 28-3 jokes were everywhere, and quite a few people suggested in all seriousness that the Patriots might go 16-0 again. Then, in what in hindsight seems like a preview for Super Bowl LII, the Patriots got spanked at home by the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener, which neatly shut up all that talk.
  • During his prime, heavyweight boxing champion, Mike Tyson, defended his title against a no-named journeyman fighter named Buster Douglas in Tokyo. Before the fight, it was heavily reported that Tyson didn't take Douglas seriously as an opponent and spent most of his time before the fight partying and sleeping with different call-girls every night. During the championship fight, Douglas knocked out Tyson in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
  • Also in boxing in 1980, white British boxer Alan Minter made a major "he did not just say that" gaffe during the run-up to his fight with the African-American Marvin Hagler when he said "I do not intend to lose my title to a black man", widely seen as a tasteless and inflammatory remark. This may have had something to do with the curb-stomping that Hagler gave him in the ring.
  • During the 2012 NBA Eastern Conference playoffs, the Indiana Pacers were ahead of the Miami Heat 2 games to 1. With both LeBron James and Dwyane Wade playing poorly, it seemed like the Pacers would advance to the Conference Finals. However, star player Lance Stephenson decided to mock LeBron by making a choke sign. Guess what happened next? Yup, the Heat came back to win the series and the team eventually won the NBA Championship.
  • During a Moto GP race, the late Marco Simoncelli takes the lead of the race in Jerez, and starts to pull ahead from the rest of the field. And then comes probably the most amazing 'Commentator's Curse' ever from main commentator Toby Moody.
    Moody: Marco Simoncelli leads this Grand Prix and is leading it brilliantly. [Simoncelli starts to slide] Oh NO! NO! [Simoncelli crashes] OHHHH! Simoncelli crashes, he nearly held it, and Lorenzo now leads the Grand Prix! That first corner is glacially slippery! Simoncelli, what have you done? What have I said?
    Co-Commentator: Wonderful commentator's curse, Toby!
  • College Football: In 2010, the University of Florida's Gators had been enjoying a string of success, earning two national championships in the past 4 years and having a 6-year winning streak against their in-state arch rivals, the Florida State Seminoles. To play up the achievement, a group of Gator fans erected this obnoxious billboard sign outside of Tallahassee, Florida (the location of FSU's campus) to taunt the Seminoles for their woes. Guess who would win the very next rivalry game between the two teams?
  • At the start of overtime in a 2003 playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks, and the Green Bay Packers, the Seahawks won the coin toss. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck famously said, "We want the ball, and we're going to score." Hasselbeck proceeded to throw an interception that was returned for the game-winning touchdown.
  • In hockey, goaltenders have a reputation for being rather superstitious. Accordingly, if a goalie has a shutout going, it is considered to be extremely poor form (and, of course, tempting fate) for them, or even a teammate or commentator, to reference that fact, to the point where most hockey players, commentators, and even fans won't say the word "shutout" until the game is over.
  • Hockey has a slew of playoff superstitions and defying them is often seen as courting disaster. Players (and some fans) often stop shaving during the playoffs in order to grow a playoff beard; shaving one is seen to invite disaster. Similarly, the Stanley Cup is considered to be a "jealous trophy", and touching any other trophy will ensure that you lose in the finals; accordingly, many team captains do not accept or handle the Prince of Wales Trophy or the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl (awarded to the Stanley Cup finalists from the Eastern and Western conferences respectively) after winning them in the conference finals.
    • Sidney Crosby, who is otherwise well known as one of the most superstitious players aroundnote , did not touch the Wales trophy after the 2008 conference final and lost the cup to the Detroit Red Wings. A year later he did touch it and won the cup. He touched it again when the Penguins won the cup in 2016.
  • Alexandre Daigle is an infamous case in hockey circles. Drafted first overall by the Ottawa Senators in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft, he was interviewed afterwards and commented that he was very glad he was taken first, because "Nobody remembers number two." The second overall pick in the 1993 draft was Chris Pronger, who would go on to become a superstar defenceman and win multiple Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, as well as a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks. Daigle managed 51 points over three seasons and is generally considered to be one of the biggest draft busts in NHL history.
  • During the 2016 Olympic Games, crowds chanting "Eu acredito" ("I believe") for the home Brazilian athletes started becoming this for viewers not on location, given most "Eu acredito" were followed by failed comeback attempts or painful defeats. An ESPN Brazil narrator even ranted against it remembering the origin of the chant - "'Eu acredito' only worked for Atlético!".
  • 2015 Rugby World Cup: One South African commentator's words on Pool B's teams: "Japan and USA are there on holiday, so we don't have to worry about them." Japan then went on to upset South Africa 34-32 in their opening match. Oh damn! At least he was half-right.
  • Having secured automatic promotion and seven points clear of second-placed Newcastle United with three matches left to go, Brighton & Hove Albion goalkeeper David Stockdale hit out at those who predicted that Brighton would slip up in the 2016-17 Championship title race, saying "Bottlers? Who’s bottling it now?" Brighton went on to lose their next two matches and concede an 89th minute equaliser in the last match to allow Newcastle, who had won all three of their remaining matches, to overtake them on the final day.
  • The 1967 Grand National at Aintree went down in history as one of the most bizarre races in British horse racing. Two horses, Popham Down and April Rose, had thrown their riders at the first and third fences, but continued running without them - and with the reduced weight, they were running ahead of the pack. Michael O'Hehir, upon taking over the commentary during the second lap, observed as the racers jumped over Becher's Brook (the sixth and twenty-second of the race's thirty fences) that the riderless horses didn't seem to be interfering with the race. At the very next fence, this happened...
    Michael O'Hehir: Rutherfords lost a bit of ground there, but he's... all right at the turning out of the fence after Becher's, and as they do, the leader is Castle Falls, with Rutherfords along the inside, [Popham Down and April Rose suddenly run to the inside of the track just before the next fence, straight into the path of the other racers] and he's been- and Rutherfords has been hampered! And so has Castle Falls! Rondetto has fallen! Princeful has fallen! Norther has fallen! Kirtle-Lad has fallen! And The Fossa has fallen! There's a right pile-up! Leedsy has, er, climbed over the fence and left his jockey there! [a single horse manages to run around the confused mass of horses and jockeys and jump the fence at the first attempt] And now, with all this mayhem, Foinavon has gone off on his own!note 
  • Rugby Union. The 2017 British & Irish Lions Tour to New Zealand. Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland took issue with the way the New Zealand All-Blacks gave his players during the 1st Test, particularly Scrum-half Connor Murray, a good pasting. Steve Hansen, NZ Head Coach, was not impressed with the accusation of foul play; only two New Zealand players had ever been sent off in Test Rugby history, the last being the legendary Colin "Pinetree" Meads in 1967, and defended the conduct of his players as hard but fair. A New Zealand newspaper even had an image of him with a clown's nose, labelling him a "clown" for such accusations. Before the week was over, Inside Centre Sonny Bill Williams became the Third All Black to be dismissed in a Test Match (and the first to be dismissed on home soil!) for a head high Shoulder Charge on Lions Right Winger Anthony Watson during the 2nd Test, which proved vital in the Lions winning the 2nd test and ultimately going on to tie the series, the best they've done since they won there in 1971. Following the 3rd Test, Gatland turned up with a clown's nose at the press conference.
  • Dutch football national team manager, Dick Advocaat was asked about scenarios for the match between Luxemburg and Sweden, which would be decisive for the Dutch team. When a journalist stated that Sweden could beat Luxemburg 8-0, Advocaat said "They're not winning 8-0. What kind of stupid question is that?". Sweden won 8-0, meaning that Netherlands would have to beat Sweden by a margin of 7 to qualify for the World Cup playoffs.
  • In the run-up to the West Indies cricket team's 1976 Test series against England, England captain Tony Greig (a white South African by birth) declared that he intended to make them "grovel". West Indies won the five-match series 3-0. Towards the end of the last match, Greig fell to his knees and crawled across the grass in front of the Windies supporters.