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AMERICAN MORNING WITH PAULA ZAHN

Is Their a "Sports Illustrated" Cover Jinx?

Aired January 25, 2002 - 07:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: For any sports figure gracing the cover of "Sports Illustrated" is a crowning achievement, but can it also be a curse? Over the years many sports fans and many athletes have come to believe in the "Sports Illustrated" jinx, some form of black magic that strikes shorty after the cover pose. Is the jinx for real? Well two intrepid "SI" writers meet the question head on in the latest issue appropriately with a black cat on the cover.

Joining us now are Alexander Wolff and Albert Chen. Thanks very much for being with us this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning.

COOPER: So for those who don't know in the audience, what is this alleged jinx?

ALEXANDER WOLFF, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WRITER: Some people on the cover, and we looked at more than 2,400 covers going back to our first issue in 1954. Something tends to happen to them after the appearance via it an injury, a decline in performance, some bit of bad mojo (ph), and we found 37.2 percent of the time people on the cover, something unhappy happens afterwards.

COOPER: Wow, you guys went through 47 years of covers, and you got a stat like that. You got a lot of time on your hands over there at "Sports Illustrated".

WOLFF: Albert and Tim Smith (ph) did most of it.

ALBERT CHEN, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED WRITER: We - Tim Smith, a fellow researcher and I basically went through all 2,400 covers, and as I was going through hundreds, probably thousands of box scores and mounds of record books, we also talked directly to a number of cover subjects and basically asked them, you know, what was going on in their lives after they were on the cover of the magazine.

COOPER: This started off even with the first cover of "Sports Illustrated", which had Eddie Matthews (ph) on the cover.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right.

WOLFF: Eddie Matthews is on the cover when the Milwaukee Braves are in first place. He comes down with a hand injury and misses seven games and the Braves fall out of first place and do not win the pennant.

COOPER: What really got a lot of people talking about this jinx was after what happened to (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

WOLFF: That's right. Most recently last April, just before the baseball season started, we put him on the cover. You could see he was all buff and cut and mocking the face, and sure enough, a little wrist injury puts him out for most of the season.

COOPER: Alexander, you wrote in the article that the jinx doesn't like Cabress (ph). I guess this was an example of that.

WOLFF: A really good example or when we use the cover billing that calls someone the best this or that. The jinx is arching an eyebrow and taking its revenge.

COOPER: So that's a definite - if they're called to bat, that means they're gone for.

WOLFF: It seems that way. We had Tony Anderson (ph) on the cover, called him the best option (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ever -- no career whatsoever.

COOPER: What about golf? Any tragic examples there?

WOLFF: Well there's one, Andy Norris (ph) is on the cover, goes seven years without winning another tournament after that cover appearance. He's on the cover again when he wins a tournament and then doesn't win another tournament his entire career.

COOPER: Are you worried that no one's going to want to be on the cover of "Sports Illustrated" if people really start to believe this?

WOLFF: But we do have the advantage, unlike a magazine like "People" that has to pose all its covers. We can just show up at an event and take an action shot and put someone on the cover.

COOPER: Yes, but that they could stop you from coming to the event. They don't have to give you that pass.

WOLFF: This is true. Well it's - yes, it's a - thing about sports is these myths and superstitions are so much a part of the fabric of it and it's been just great to chew it over around the water cooler and around the country.

COOPER: Phil Knight, he was on the cover?

WOLFF: He was back in the early '90s. He was on the cover, and within a month of his appearance, the six-year record earnings treat for the company came to an end, and the stock price plummeted after his ...

COOPER: And Michael Jordan, he's been on the cover many times.

WOLFF: Fifty-one times and ...

COOPER: He was really tempting fate there.

WOLFF: Fifty-one, almost a year's worth of covers, and he's probably the best counter example when people say there is no jinx. Look at Jordan. It didn't hurt him at all, although he was on the cover just a few weeks ago, and that was going to the presses just as his wife filed for divorce.

COOPER: Do you really think there is a jinx, and what do you think is going on here?

WOLFF: Well we really did - didn't we Albert? I mean we took it pretty seriously. We looked - we talked to sports psychologists, and we talked to probability and statistic experts.

COOPER: And the sports psychologists are basically telling you that what?

WOLFF: The sports psychologists say that if you're not accustomed to dealing with the attention and raised expectations that come with a cover appearance, if you don't metabolize those higher expectations, it can affect you psychologically. So Jim Lair (ph), sports psychologist, really does believe that there is some truth to it.

COOPER: All right, just 10 seconds left. One word Alexander, is there a jinx?

WOLFF: I think there - I think there is.

COOPER: Albert?

CHEN: I think there is. I think a reader put it best when he said you know how could you believe in something that as ridiculous that -- by the way never put my Red Sox on the cover again.

COOPER: All right, thanks very much for coming in, and you probably will no longer will be working at "Sports Illustrated" (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Alexander Wolff and Albert Chen, thanks very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks.

COOPER: Paula.

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