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Sport's most enduring hoodoos

by Gareth Roberts

A Boston Red Sox fan's banner tells the story of their 2004 World Series baseball win
A Red Sox fan's banner tells the story of their 2004 World Series win

England's cricketers have done it, American baseball team Boston Red Sox have experienced it and even Will Carling enjoyed a dose of it back in the day.

But can Wales' rugby stars end one of world sport's enduring hoodoos and beat New Zealand any time soon? With their fans preferring that moment to come on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium of course.

And if Wales do manage to break their nation's 56-year losing streak against the All Blacks, they would be part of an elite group of teams from around the globe and various disciplines who have celebrated overcoming a sporting jinx.

Not that any self-respecting Welsh rugby fan would not know how to enjoy the aftermath - but if Wales did want any hints on how to celebrate, they could call on any of those below...

BASEBALL

In the case of the Boston Red Sox, their ending of an 86-year drought without victory in the World Series - the pinnacle of the sport - in 2004 sparked celebrations that launched a myriad methods of enjoying the moment. Who did they beat??

The management of the team certainly did not miss the opportunity to market the Red Sox brand, taking the trophy on a joyous tour to every town in Massachusetts and a few more in its aftermath.

The response from such a well-taken commercial opportunity has meant 100% attendances at home games ever since.

606: DEBATE

Some fans also had some poignant means of marking the event - placing celebratory pennants on the graves of loved ones who had lived and died an entire lifetime in the vain hope of seeing such a day.

The 86-year wait was blamed on "The Curse of the Bambino", the Bambino in question being the legendary Babe Ruth, who was sold to the New York Yankees in the summer after the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918.

It was a controversial decision at the time and lingered in the hearts and minds of generations of officials, players and fans that his enforced departure had prompted a long-lasting bout of spite from the sporting gods.

RUGBY UNION

When the English rugby team of 1991 beat Wales in Cardiff for the first time in 27 years - the players, with the notable exception of prop Phil Blakeway - refused to speak to the media in its aftermath.

It was not that any particular anger was aimed at the media; England's players were simply in a dispute with the Rugby Football Union over how they might be rewarded while the game remained officially amateur.

Captain Will Carling, of course, was one of the main players in that particular drama, but it is impossible to imagine any Welsh player or member of the management entourage actively seeking to avoid the media in the event of winning on Saturday.

FOOTBALL

As for how Spain and its people would react were they ever to fulfil their footballing potential and actually win a World Cup is anyone's guess. But I think it's fair to say such places as Madrid, Seville and Barcelona would be half-tidy options for a late break by a few party-loving gatecrashers if it ever happened.

CRICKET

Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff celebrates England's 2005 Ashes win
Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff celebrates England's 2005 Ashes win

After England ended their 18-year wait for an Ashes victory over Australia in 2005 Andrew Flintoff's and his team's partying became almost as celebrated as the win itself.

But by the time England ended another hoodoo - not beating the Aussies at Lord's for 75 years - in the summer of 2009, such excess seemed rather out of fashion. A quick wave to the crowds from the balcony by those at the heart of the matter and the moment was gone.

YACHTING

But Wales v New Zealand, the Red Sox' 86-year slump and England's cricketing troubles have nothing on sport's most enduring failure, the pursuit of the world's oldest international trophy.

The America's Cup was first fought over around the Isle of Wight and waters of the Solent in 1857. It became known as the America's Cup because in more than a century of trying, no-one from the host nation, the United Kingdom, could wrest it away from them.

Australia (1987), New Zealand and even land-locked Switzerland - via current holders Alinghi - have since taken possession of the title.

But 56 years of Welsh rugby hurt compared to 166 years enduring failure on the water rather puts it all into context. It even makes Wales' 96-year wait from 1906 to 1999 to register their sole victory against South Africa look puny.

*By late on Saturday, all will be revealed - and win or lose, when your eyes are back in focus, do send us pictures of your celebrations or commiserations via our Flickr feed



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see also
Triumphant England reclaim Ashes
12 Sep 05 |  England
Red Sox claim World Series glory
29 Oct 07 |  Baseball
Mills floats America's Cup challenge
22 Sep 09 |  Business


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