Madden NFL video game.
The par-3 contest at The Masters at Augusta.
And a Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber award.
What these four have in common has absolutely nothing do with sports.
There is a growing professional and public fascination with the potential of jinxes being associated with SI, Madden and Augusta. Now I am starting to wonder if the folks at the chamber should be wondering the same about their honors.
Some history first:
Sports Illustrated has the most storied jinx history. It’s so chronicled, that in 2002, they even did their own investigation and story on their own covers to “unravel the jinx,” as SI writer Alexander Wolff tabbed his work.
As legend goes, if one appears on the cover of SI, they are condemned to a failure of prolific degree. SI’s own probe in 2002 found that, indeed, 37 percent of all people who appeared on the cover endured some diminished performance — 2,456 covers since starting in 1954, and 913 mishaps.
Among the victims: Anna Kournikova, Nomar Garciaparra, Oregon State, Daunte Culpepper, Todd Marinovich.
The list goes on, and is well documented online.
The SI cover picture for the jinx edition is a black cat. NFL quarterback Kurt Warner was supposed to be holding the black cat. But he opted out of the photo shoot — for obvious reasons.
The Madden NFL video game has developed similar notoriety.
A new game version comes out every fall with the new NFL season, and a single player is presented on the game cover.
When Barry Sanders was featured, it was the year he abruptly quit football. A day after Michael Vick graced the cover of the Madden game, he broke his leg in a pre-season exhibition.
Last year, Brett Favre was decked out in his Green Bay finest on the Madden cover, but left for the New York Jets after a messy, pre-season departure from the Packers.
The new game is out in August and the cover model is a closely guarded secret. One rumor has the Giants’ Eli Manning. An ESPN writer predicts Troy Polamalu.
The Augusta jinx is a little less known, but well documented.
Whoever dons the green jacket today, legend holds it should not be Tim Clark, who won the fun par-3 tourney on Wednesday before the real event started Thursday.
And since its 1960 start, no par-3 winner has gone on to win that year’s Masters. Thus, many golfers have gone to great lengths to avoid winning it, including having other people finish putts, etc.
As of this morning, Clark is six strokes off the lead, and probably set to keep the jinx alive for another year.
So how does the Regional Chamber figure in the jinx mix?
The chamber bestows many honors on local leaders. Its highest honors come in March with its annual luncheon, where they present, among other awards, the William G. Lyden, Jr. Spirit of the Valley Award and the Chairman’s Political Achievement Award.
The list of honorees is a who’s who of local leaders.
But the last couple years have been bumpy.
In 2007, WYTV’s Dave Trabert was honored with the Spirit award. By the end of the year, Trabert was leaving Youngstown as a casualty of the merger between WYTV and WKBN television stations.
In 2008, Marc Dann was honored with the political award. Within a month, he was embroiled in personal and professional misdeeds that led to his political collapse.
This year, Youngstown State University President David Sweet was honored with the Spirit award, and even made the cover of the chamber’s Valley Magazine.
Within two weeks, he was told that YSU will not tweak his contract and that his services with the university would no longer be required after June 2010.
There were quiet, unofficial, negotiations going on to try and sweeten his retirement send-off. That did not fly too well with trustees, and he was told so.
The accolades leading up to the awards for each chamber honoree were all well deserved.
But the unforeseen events afterward have to make those next in line feel like a football or golf great:
Anyone but me.