The Billy Goat. The Babe Ruth trade. Ricky Colavito. Curses in sports are a common excuse for bad luck and championship droughts. In the end, they all come and go, whether it be the dramatic 3-0 comeback by the Red Sox in ’03, or the 3-1 rally by the Cubs last year. Born in Cincinnati, the lost decade of the Bengals, and turn of the century struggles of the Reds have engulfed my fandom. As a Cincinnati sports fan born in the early 90s, I figured there had to be the reason for the postseason failures of all teams in the Queen City. That reason, not frugal owners, or mediocre players, or bad matchups. It’s Bo Jackson.
Way back on January 6, 1991, the Cincinnati Bengals won their last playoff game. Boomer Esiason led the complete enthralling of the Warren Moon-less Houston Texans 41-14. Only two seasons prior, the Bengals made their 2nd Superbowl appearance and subsequent 2nd loss to the 49ers in the big game and with Boomer at the helm, another shot wasn’t out of the question. Then came Bo. Cincy traveled to LA to face the Raiders, who had beaten them a few weeks prior. Up 7-3, Jackson glided down the right sideline on the third play of the 2nd half to the turn of a 34 yards. The tackle wasn’t gruesome, it wasn’t highlight worthy. However, it changed the future of both Jackson, and the city of Cincinnati.
Jackson dislocated his hip on the play and missed the rest of the game. Complications with the injury forced him to retire from both football and baseball. He never played in a professional stadium again. Meanwhile, Cincinnati gave up the final points and lost the game 20-10. The Curse of Bo was born.
Fast forward 9,593 days. The Bengals are 0-7 in the postseason, the Reds have made only 5 post season appearances and are 1-6 in those series. The Bengals ensued a 14 year playoff draught following the game. The Reds went the entire first decade of the new century without playing on a meaningful October night. The Carson Palmer and Andy Dalton injuries to bust Superbowl dreams. A Johnny Cueto injury 11 pitches into Game 1 to end his season. Starved of success, the city of Cincinnati has experienced 25 years of heartbreak. Don’t blame Mike Brown. Don’t blame Marge Schott. Don’t blame Dusty Baker. And even, don’t blame Marvin Lewis. Blame Bo Jackson. Because only Bo Knows.