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Colonel Sanders statue in front of KFC in Japan

Curse of the Colonel (カーネルサンダースの呪い Kāneru Sandāsu no noroi ?) refers to an urban legend regarding a reputed curse placed on the Japanese Kansai-based Hanshin Tigers baseball team by deceased KFC founder and mascot Colonel Harland Sanders. The curse was said to be placed on the team because of the Colonel's anger over treatment of one of his store-front statues.[1]

The Hanshin Tigers are located in Kansai, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. They are considered the eternal underdogs of Nippon Professional Baseball, in opposition to the Yomiuri Giants of Tokyo, who are considered the kings of Japanese baseball.[2] The devoted fans flock to the stadium no matter how badly the Tigers play in the league.[3]

As is common with sports-related curses, the Curse of the Colonel is used to explain the Japan Championship Series drought that the Hanshin Tigers have had to endure since their first and only victory in the 1985 Japan Championship.[4] The curse is said to have happened when Hanshin fans, excited over winning the 1985 championship series, tossed the statue of Colonel Sanders into the Dōtonbori River.[4]

Since then, fans have said they would never win another Japan Series until the statue was recovered.[5] Comparisons are often made between the Hanshin Tigers and the Boston Red Sox, who were also said to be under a curse, the Curse of the Bambino, until they won the World Series in 2004.[4] The "Curse of the Colonel" has also been used as a boogeyman threat to those who would divulge the secret recipe of eleven herbs and spices that makes the unique taste of KFC chicken.[6]

Contents

History

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1985 Japan Series

Full view of statue

In 1985, much to Japanese people's surprise,[3] the Hanshin Tigers faced the Seibu Lions and took their first and only victory in the Japan Series, largely due to star slugger Randy Bass,[4][7] a gaijin (foreigner) player for the team.

The rabid fan base went wild, and a riotous celebration gathered at Ebisubashi Bridge in Dōtonbori, Osaka. There, an assemblage of supporters yelled the players names, and with every name a fan resembling a member of the victorious team leapt from the bridge into the waiting canal. However, lacking someone to imitate MVP Randy Bass, the rabid crowd seized a Colonel Sanders (like Bass, the Colonel had a beard and was not Japanese) plastic statue from a nearby KFC and tossed it off the bridge as an effigy.[4]

This impulsive maneuver was to cost the team greatly, beginning the Curse of the Colonel.[1] Urban legend has it that the Tigers will not win the championship again until the statue is recovered.[5] Subsequently, numerous attempts have been made to recover the statue, often as a part of variety TV show. Most of the statue was recovered in March, 2009.[8]

18-year losing streak

After their success in the 1985 series, the Hanshin Tigers began an 18-year losing streak placing last or next-to-last in the league. Brief rallies in 1992 and 1999 brought hope to fans, but they were soon followed with defeat.[9]

During this time attempts were made to recover the statue, including sending divers down and dredging the river, but they all failed. Fans apologized to the store manager, but the statue remained in the canal and the Tigers "cursed".[4]

2002 World Cup

Although the leap into Dōtonbori canal and the Curse of the Colonel is usually associated only with a Hanshin Tigers victory, in 2002 when Japan beat Tunisia in the World Cup, some 500 fans jumped into the canal as a celebration, in spite of heavy police security.[9]

In addition, a Colonel Sanders statue was taken from the storefront of a KFC in nearby Kōbe, and its hands were cut off supposedly in imitation of Sharia law.[9]

2003 Central League

In 2003, the Tigers had an unexpectedly strong season. Their chief rivals, the Yomiuri Giants, lost their star player, Hideki Matsui, while the Tigers gained a pitcher Hideki Irabu, who had returned from playing with the Texas Rangers. The Tigers won the Central League to qualify for the Japan Series, and many newspapers speculated that the Curse of the Colonel had finally been broken.[3] The Tigers lost the Japan Series, this time to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, so the curse is presumably intact.[1]

Fans were enthusiastic about winning the Central League, and repeated the celebratory leap into Dōtonbori Canal. However, instead of the individual leapers representing the players, over 5,300 fans plunged into the canal.[1]

Many KFC outlets in Kōbe and Ōsaka moved their Colonel Sanders statues inside until the series was over to protect them from rabid Tigers fans.[1] The newly replaced Colonel Sanders statue in the Dōtonbori KFC branch was bolted down to prevent a repeat of the incident.[1]

Death in the canal

A "jumping prohibited" sign at Ebisubashi bridge

For 24-year-old Hanshin Tigers fan Masaya Shitababa the 2003 celebration was a tragedy. He drowned in the canal, with all reports being that he had been shoved in by the revelers.[10] To prevent future incidents, the Osaka city council ordered the construction of a new Ebisubashi bridge, beginning in 2004, which will make it more difficult for rabid fans to take the celebratory leap should the Curse of the Colonel be broken and the Tigers win again.[10]

Finally found after 24 years

The Colonel was finally discovered in the Dōtonbori River on March 10, 2009. Divers who recovered the statue at first thought it was only a large barrel, and shortly after a human corpse, but Hanshin fans on the scene were quick to identify it as the upper body of the long-lost Colonel.[8] The right hand and lower body were found next day, but the statue is still missing its glasses and left hand.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Davisson, Zack (2006). Osaka InfoGuide. Japan: Carter Witt Media. pp. 20–23.  
  2. ^ "Tokyo Yomiuri Giants". JapanBall.com. http://www.japanball.com/giants.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-28.  
  3. ^ a b c Iyer, Pico (2003-08-25). "Hanshin's Paper Tigers". Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/article/0,13673,501030901-477975,00.html. Retrieved 2009-05-28.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f White, Paul (2003-08-21). "The Colonel's curse runs deep". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/bbw/2003-08-21-leading-off_x.htm. Retrieved 2009-05-28.  
  5. ^ a b Blair, Gavin (2009-03-27). "The curse of the colonel". GlobalPost. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/japan/090327/the-curse-the-colonel. Retrieved 2009-05-28.  
  6. ^ "Keeping a secret secret for the Colonel". Taipei Times. 2003-07-31. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/bizfocus/archives/2005/07/31/2003265834. Retrieved 2009-05-28.  
  7. ^ "Hanshin Tigers: History". http://www2.gol.com/users/michaelo/History.html. Retrieved 2009-05-28.  
  8. ^ a b Yoshida, Reiji (2009-03-11). "Colonel stages a comeback in Osaka". The Japan Times. http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20090311a3.html. Retrieved 2009-03-11.  
  9. ^ a b c Al-Badri, Dominic (August 2003). "Tigers, Tigers burning bright: can a Kansai institution convert pennants into pennies? - Hanshin Tigers baseball team". Japan, Inc.. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0NTN/is_46/ai_108722585/. Retrieved 2009-05-28.  
  10. ^ a b "Japanese man drowns during baseball pennant celebrations". AP Worldstream. 2003-09-18. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1:80375249/Japanese+man+drowns+during+baseball+pennant+celebrations.html?refid=holomed_1. Retrieved 2009-05-28.   (subscription required)

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