Sports Illustrated’s Olympic Preview issue recently hit newsstands. Featured on the cover were none other than the five members of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, Aly Raisman, Kyla Ross and Jordyn Wieber.
This cover was particularly historic. According to USA Today, it’s the first time the entire women’s gymnastics team has ever been featured.
The superstitious sports fans among us are now worried that the jinx (or curse) of the Sports Illustrated cover will somehow affect the Fab Five.
My gut reaction is that any cover jinx of any kind—Sports Illustrated, Madden, etc.—is totally ridiculous. But I understand why people are bringing it up. After all, the last Olympian to be featured on an SI Olympics preview cover was skier Lindsey Vonn with the tag line “America’s Best Woman Skier Ever."
As you might remember, she headed into the 2010 Vancouver Games with a deeply bruised right shin that nearly derailed her medal hopes.
(As a side note, when does giving out superlative titles ever work out? Don’t people learn this from their high school yearbooks?)
Personally, I suggest jinxes and curses be treated the same way one might regard a daily horoscope. You know, how horoscopes make vague predictions like “Someone in your past is going to be important to you right now,” or “Be careful about the decisions you make this week?"
Don’t play it cool. Of course you do.
Well, these statements are so open-ended that, if you choose to believe it them, they’re true. If you don’t, they’re not.
The same goes for the U.S. gymnastics team. If they want to believe in the Sports Illustrated curse, they’ll be cursed. And if they don’t, they won’t because the truth is that no curse is real unless you believe in it.
If this team is as focused and poised as they have shown to be so far, this talk of a jinx will never be spoken again. Many have said this is the strongest team the U.S. has ever sent to an Olympics. NBC Olympics analyst Tim Daggett, who himself won a gold medal in 1984 with the men’s team, told Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register that he believes this women’s team is the best American team ever—even better than the 1996 gold medal team.
“I think this one might be even tougher mentally,” Daggett said.
At this point, just days before the Games begin, that mental toughness will be the key to Team USA’s success. All of the talent is there and everyone is healthy. Being in the right frame of mind to compete to the potential they have is the only thing they have left to prove.
If you aren't convinced that this jinx doesn't have legs, here are just a few athletes who also appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated before the Olympics and went on to have Olympic success:
- 1996, U.S. women’s basketball team
Result: Won the gold medal, completing a 60-0 national team campaign.
- 2004 & 2008, Michael Phelps
Result: Sixteen medals.
- 1992, The Dream Team
Result: World domination.
Let the curse be cursed.