With his plans for health care reform stalled, President Obama should return his attention to stabilizing the financial markets. At this point, the administration has provided public money to keep failing industries afloat. Examples include the investment banks of New York and the automakers of Detroit. In contrast, the administration has spent little money restarting once prosperous industries. Should it look to take advantage of these opportunities, I would urge President Obama to pressure the commissioner of baseball, Bug Selig, to revoke Boston’s two World Series championships, thus reviving the Curse of the Bambino.
From 1918 until 2004, the Curse of the Bambino provided jobs and economic growth to the greater Boston area. Dan Shaughnessy was likely the most famous beneficiary of the curse — his 1990 book “Curse of the Bambino” launched his career from little-known sports writer to national pundit. But his is just one example. Playwrights, sportswriters, bloggers, documentary filmmakers, songwriters, priests, button and decal makers, restaurateurs, and mountain climbers parlayed a city’s disaster into personal dinero. Spiritually, the Curse may have devastated an entire fan base. But economically, the myth was a boon to entrepreneurs willing to take advantage of a city’s heartache. As the Red Sox continued to lose, Boston continued to thrive.
In 2004, the Red Sox ended the Curse in dramatic fashion. Down three games to zero against the Yankees in the American League Championship Series, the Red Sox came back to win the next four games en route to a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
Following victory, the industry enjoyed some last moments of success. The most famous book of the period — Bill Simmons’ “Now I Can Die In Piece” — was a commercial hit. Those who had once earned money reveling in Red Sox futility now banked on generations of relieved fans, individuals who thought they would go their entire lives without victory. Business boomed one final time. But as Doug Mientkiewicz touched first and ended the series, Boston lost its money ball.
In 2007, the Boston Red Sox won their second World Series since 1918 and the Bambino was rarely mentioned. This was a respected team celebrating a significant accomplishment. While this normalcy may have been worth celebrating at the time, the recession that began in 2008 changed those sentiments. Something needs to be done, and fast.
The easiest way to revive the economic prospects of the city is to revive the Curse of the Bambino by stripping the Red Sox of its two World Series championships. But how?
The inclusion of Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz on the Mitchell Report’s infamous 2003 list of steroid users provides the necessary pretext. Ortiz and Ramirez were the team’s two most important sluggers, and steroids gave each player an unfair and illegal advantage.
There is precedent in professional sport to revoke a championship from a team with players found to have cheated.
This is the decision of the commissioner of baseball, but he is unlikely to act without pressure from President Obama. Fortunately for the commander in chief, the decision is more sensible and politically advantageous than it may first appear.
First, congressional oversight over baseball would not expand the powers of the federal government. Baseball has been exempt from antitrust laws since 1922. This exemption provides for congressional oversight of baseball. Unlike, say, the federal takeover of General Motors, overseeing professional baseball would not further extend the government’s influence in the private sphere.
Second, reviving the Curse would come at no taxpayer expense. A simple edict by the commissioner under direct pressure from the president would solve this problem. There would be no issues with overcompensated executives dining on the dole of the American worker.
Third, the Curse industry is one of the few industries likely to prove more productive than it had once been. The more it seems like a Curse exists, the more profitable the industry will become. And what better proof that the Red Sox are cursed than to be the first Major League team in history to see its championship banners taken down? The empty spaces on the Green Monster would match those in the hearts of Red Sox fans.
Fourth, and aside from any economic benefit, the president would gain political capital. The only Major League city with an industry comparable to that of Boston is Chicago. The Curse of the Billy Goat has kept the Cubs out of the World Series since 1945 and without a championship since 1908. Chicago is, of course, Obama’s hometown. By protecting its right to such a lucrative industry, he opens himself up to accusations of patronage.
A long line of American heroes have kept the Curse of the Bambino alive. From Bob Gibson’s pitching to Bucky Dent’s hitting to Bill Buckner’s fielding, each generation has taken its turn to ensure Beantown’s economic well-being. It’s time Barack Obama’s politicking contributed to this noble cause.
Adam Lior Hirst, an Opinion columnist for the News, is a junior in Branford College.