On the afternoon of January 11, 1998, my 16-year-old self was eating lunch. If I had to guess, I'd say I was probably eating my traditional Sunday lunch of Portuguese bread & baloney sandwiches with the buns supplied by Angelo's (a.k.a. London's greatest market chain). The meal itself isn't as important as the drink that accompanied it, which was namely a big ol' glass of milk. And, specifically, it was milk in a very old glass that had strained under years of usage. So on this afternoon, when I went to pour milk into said glass, the thing just split apart under the pressure. Milk flowed like a lactation gone amok, spilling over the table and onto my shirt.
And not just any shirt. It was a Brett Favre jersey, one of the most-worn garments of my life. You see, I had the Favre jersey on since I was just about to head over to my pal Dave's place to watch my beloved Green Bay Packers face the 49ers in that year's NFC Championship Game. (You might wonder why I was eating before heading out to a football party, but again, I cannot stress enough how good those Angelo's sandwiches are.) With just minutes until kickoff, my Favre jersey was sopping wet, and obviously changing shirts was out of the question given the symbolic importance. Fortunately, I had no reason to literally cry over spilt milk. NFL jerseys are built for much rougher stuff than a bit of liquid, and the jersey proved lactose-tolerant enough to dry rather easily after a paper towel wipe. So with my Favre shirt a bit damp but overall in good shape, I headed to Dave's and rejoiced as the Packers indeed ended up beating San Francisco to advance to the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
You might wonder why I remember this minor anecdote so vividly. It's because I've pinpointed this day as the beginning of an ongoing curse placed upon my family by NFL apparel. Now, I'm not directly blaming the NFL or their clothing line itself, since I doubt charges of witchcraft could stand up in a modern court of law. But still, the fact remains that ever since that fateful dairy spillage, any contact my family has had with NFL clothing has resulted in heartbreak.
* First, the Packers. You might notice that since Green Bay won that NFC title game directly after I soaked myself, that might serve as an immediate counter-point to all this curse talk. But curses, like an older computer, take some time to boot up. The curse didn't kick in until the Super Bowl itself, when the favoured Packers were upset by John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Given that Denver was 0-4 in Super Bowls before Super Bowl XXXII, I think most Broncos fans would agree that some kind of supernatural assistance was needed on that day. Green Bay hasn't been back to a Super Bowl since.
* Several years ago, I was in a local mall having a key copied at a key-cutting booth. The place sold various knick-knacks, including keychains shaped like various sports team logos and helmets. Seeing a Cleveland Browns helmet keychain, I bought one for my dad, a longtime Browns fan who gets eye-rollingly haughty when it is suggested that someone besides Jim Brown was the best football player ever. (Though this isn't exactly a controversial stance for a Browns fan. It's not like my dad is claiming that, like, Bernie Kosar was the best quarterback ever or something really outlandish.) My pops loved the little gift and it's currently hanging from the mirror of his truck to this very day. Now, like I mentioned, I'm not totally sure when I got this keychain, but it was definitely close to a decade ago. If I had to guess, I'd say it was probably after 2002, a.k.a. the last year the Browns actually made the playoffs. Though really, almost any date in the last decade will do given Cleveland's near-total mediocrity since the franchise returned in 1999. Even an object as small as a keychain carries with it the curse.
* My brother started really following the Baltimore Ravens about six or seven years ago, and thus has bought several pieces of Ravens paraphernalia. Hats, gloves, a Ray Lewis jersey, etc. It's no surprise that Baltimore hasn't won a Super Bowl in that stretch despite having one of the great defense of all time.
* Even my mother's own bit of flirtation with NFL gear has led to disaster. My mom is, at best, a casual fan whose enjoyment of the game was almost totally by osmosis given that she's married to an old football coach and has raised two football-mad sons. She cheered more for certain players than teams on the logic that players who seemed more likable deserved to win. For instance, she rooted for Joe Montana when he moved to Kansas City since 'Joe seems nice' and she felt he got a bit of a raw deal in San Francisco. (Hard to argue the 49ers' logic since they had Steve Young waiting in the wings, but I digress.) Anyway, in recent years, my mother had turned her football affection to, you guessed it, Tom Brady. That's right, a female football fan who likes Tom Brady. How unusual. My mother's admiration of the Patriots grew during their 18-0 season when she thought the team was being picked on for the so-called cheating scandal, and thus she jumped right onto the New England bandwagon on their march to perfection. As such, I decided to get my mother a Brady jersey for Christmas. Due to an online ordering snafu, the jersey didn't actually arrive until January...right before the Super Bowl. I think you all see where this is going. That's right --- the very first time my mother wears her Brady jersey during a game, the Patriots' perfect season was ended by the Giants in one of the biggest upsets in NFL history. If that wasn't enough, the next time my mother donned the New England blue was for the Patriots' first game of the 2008 NFL season. In that game, Brady had his knee blown out in the first quarter and he ended up missing the entire season. Presumably if my mother ever wears that jersey more than once every few months, the stadium will be hit by a meteor.
* The curse even extends to teams that my family don't even support. Years ago, my ex-aunt returned from a trip to Jacksonville with a gift of a Jaguars t-shirt for me. The Jags haven't won a thing and the franchise is in danger of moving. My brother has an old Buffalo Bills toque that he wears during really cold days, and lord knows the Bills haven't done jack-all in over a decade. In perhaps the most prominent example, my uncle accidentally bought my brother a Vikings toque last Christmas since he got confused between the Vikings and Ravens' similar purple-and-yellow colour schemes. The toque wasn't exchanged until after Minnesota had already lost the NFC Championship Game to New Orleans.
So as you can see, this is turning into a real problem. There's no reason for half of a league to be cursed just because of a faulty milk glass in 1998. I've been doing loads of Hermione-esque research into the magical world to investigate how such a curse can be lifted, and I think I've discovered the answer. As you recall, the jersey in question was a Brett Favre jersey, and of course now Favre has turned heel on the Packers and plays for the hated Vikings. What did I spill on the jersey? Milk. You can't spell 'Minnesota Vikings' without M-I-L-K. (The L is provided by the Vikings' yearly playoff result.) What produces milk? A cow. What's a popular breed of dairy cattle? The Jersey cow.
Where am I going with this? Simple. To break the curse, I have to travel to Minnesota and challenge a herd of Jersey cattle to a flag football game. If my team wins the game, the curse is lifted and fans of the Packers, Browns, Patriots, Ravens, Jaguars, Bills and Vikings will be freed. If my team loses, then the curse continues for another 12 years until I can challenge the cows to a rematch. Or, a rematch could occur when Favre actually retires, but that's not likely to occur for another 12 years anyway.
Applications to be part of my cow-challenging team can be found in this pdf file. All applicants will be considered as long as you have either flag football experience (a plus) or experience at playing cattle in games of skill (a near-must). I caution you that during the game itself, wearing any NFL gear may result in that particular team being cursed in the case of a loss, so be warned. Also, wear thick boots, since there's bound to be piles of cow shit on the field. It's a sad inevitability, folks, I can't do anything about it.