You’ve probably already heard about the fact that the Indians are on the upcoming Sports Illustrated cover, and the subsequent freak-out to this news. Just in case you’ve been in a cave today (or just managed to avoid particularly neurotic Indians fans, like me) here’s the situation. Sports Illustrated announced that they will have four different covers nationally for their MLB preview issue. The four teams featured are the Indians, the Washington Nationals, the Kansas City Royals, and the Seattle Mariners. While all four teams are portrayed in an (obviously) positive light, only the Indians were crowned the 2015 World Champs. The line: “Wait Til This Year – Why Cleveland? Why not Cleveland? Why the Tribe will win its first series since 1948.”
While most fans would be pleased, or even proud, to see their team featured like this, Indians fans know better. When I first saw the cover, before I saw any Indians fans freaking out on social media, or before I read inevitable comparisons, I muttered “Oh crap…Indian Uprising.” That’s because the Indians (represented by Joe Carter and Cory Snyder) were famously portrayed on the SI cover in 1987 under the heading “Indian Uprising – Believe It! Cleveland Is the Best Team in the American League.” The Indians ended up losing a major league-leading 101 games that year. Carter and Snyder had good, but not great, seasons.
Let’s face it – it’s not just Indians fans who think there is some kind of a Sports Illustrated cover jinx. There’s an entire Wikipedia entry dedicated to the topic, with dozens of supposed “incidents” connected to a team or player’s portrayal on the cover of SI. The magazine actually poked fun at it themselves back in 2002, as they put a black cat on the cover of the magazine asking “Is the SI Jinx for Real?”
Predictably, Indians fans freaked out this afternoon. To the point that SI actually wrote a second story, featuring comments on social media from fans panicking that the 2015 season was already over (before it started). Maybe it’s just me and the people I know, but I never once saw anyone say “calm down, it’s just a magazine.” Everyone freaked out, and continued to amp the outrage and panic higher and higher. A lot of it was in jest, and sarcastic, but fans were still making the comments. The Indians were prominently featured on the cover on other occasions…the outcome wasn’t great, but wasn’t quite as disastrous as 1987. They were featured in 1996, predicted to win it all (at least they made the playoffs), and Grady Sizemore was on the cover in May of 2007 (“Why Sizemore Matters”) and was referred to as “one of the greatest players of our generation” by Mark Shapiro in the accompanying article. Not long after that, he was injured and he has yet to come anywhere close to his pre-injury numbers.
For fun, let’s look at how some normal, less tortured fans would view the new SI cover if it featured their team, and how Indians fans view the cover:
Normal fan: Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley were incredible last year! They’re going to be the backbone of the team this upcoming season!
Indians fan: Oh lord, Kluber and Brantley are going to get hurt, aren’t they? They’re both going to end up missing half of the season, THANKS A LOT SI!
Normal fan: Just look at Kluber and Brantley smiling/laughing and enjoying themselves! This is a team that has great chemistry and has a lot of fun together!
Indians fans: They’re laughing at me, aren’t they? They’ve seen into the future, they feel my misery and angst, and now they’re laughing at me! Brantley thinks my pain is freaking hilarious!
Normal fan: We’re likely to see other stars emerge this season, but it makes sense to feature two of the best from 2014.
Indians fan: They’re only showing those two, because the rest of the players are either hurt, batting under .100 or have an ERA over 7.00.
Normal fan: I got a chill down my spine when I read “they’ll win their first series since 1948.” Could this really happen!?
Indians fan: Thanks SI, for reminding me that not only have there been no World Series wins during my lifetime, but there haven’t been any since the Truman administration. There will be flying cars by the time we actually see one.
Normal fan: That headline, “Wait Till This Year” – it’s finally our turn.
Indians fan: The “Indian Uprising” headline said they were the best team in the American League in 1987. They were the worst. In all of baseball.
Normal fan: The starting pitching is fronted by three solid, young starters and the offense could have some real pop with Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Carlos Santana, and Brandon Moss. Who cares about some magazine cover when the talent is there?
Indians fan: THE SEASON IS ALREADY RUINED THANKS FOR NOTHING SI!!!