John Smallwood: Philadelphia sports and the curse of the inauguration

Jerome McDougle is consoled by Ike Reese, 17 days after George W. Bush's 2005 inauguration.
Jerome McDougle is consoled by Ike Reese, 17 days after George W. Bush's 2005 inauguration.
Posted: January 21, 2009

IT MIGHT BE HARD to accept, especially with Sunday's loss in the NFC Championship Game still so fresh, but the Arizona Cardinals probably did Philadelphia fans a favor by beating the Eagles.

Yep, by keeping them out of Super Bowl XLIII, the Cardinals likely spared Eagles fans the heartbreak of suffering another loss in a Super Bowl.

And why, you ask, am I so sure that the Eagles would have lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Simple. Yesterday in Washington, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States of America.

History shows the inauguration ceremonies are typically bad omens for Philadelphia sports franchises.

In a calendar year when a president has been sworn into office, Philadelphia franchises in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, National Football League and the National Hockey League have played for a title a combined 11 times. Their record is a woeful 3-8.

Currently, dating back to Jimmy Carter, Philly teams are riding a string of seven straight championship losses in inauguration years.

Carter was sworn in on Jan. 20, 1977, and later that summer, the 76ers lost to the Portland Trail Blazers in six games.

The Eagles lost both of their Super Bowls shortly after inauguration speeches, the Flyers and Sixers are both 0-2 in their finals during inauguration years, and the Phillies took no inspiration from an inauguration ceremony, losing a World Series to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Even the professional franchise that is no longer here, the Philadelphia Athletics, lost a championship series in the same year that a man took the oath to the highest office in the land.

In fact, the old Philadelphia Athletics started this "Inauguration Humiliation" way back in 1905. Major League Baseball played its first World Series in 1903, but the first to come during an inauguration year was in 1905.

On March 4, 1905, Teddy Roosevelt took the oath for his second term as president. That fall, the A's played the New York Giants in the World Series.

The A's didn't carry any big sticks and Christy Mathewson pitched three shutouts and allowed just 14 hits as the Giants won the series, four games to one. Philadelphia was shut out four times and totaled just three runs.

To the Athletics' credit, however, they did beat the Giants, four games to one, in the 1913 World Series after Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated.

And in 1929, the A's followed the inauguration of Herbert Hoover by beating the Chicago Cubs, also in a five-game World Series.

Of course, that was also the year the Great Depression started.

The Eagles provided the city with its other success during an inauguration year.

In 1949, the Birds celebrated the swearing in of Harry Truman to his first full term by beating the Los Angeles Rams, 14-0, for the NFL championship.

Other than that, it's been a string of inaugural losses.

President Obama was inaugurated yesterday. Philadelphia fans should thank the Cardinals for sparing them another dose of championship anguish. *

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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