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Coronavirus could prevent Hanshin Tigers from breaking the Curse of the Colonel

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The coronavirus pandemic has had all sorts of unfortunate effects on the world of sports, both in America and around the world. Just as Major League Baseball is on indefinite hold, so too is Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball. Commissioner Atsushi Saito has said that he hopes to pick things up sometime in April, but it’s unclear whether or not that’ll happen. Calls to postpone July’s Tokyo Olympics have already begun.

That’s bad news for everyone involved in NPB, including the Hanshin Tigers. The Tigers haven’t won a title since 1985, and some attribute it to a curse involving not Babe Ruth, but Kentucky Fried Chicken. No baseball in 2020 would mean Hanshin won’t get a chance to break the Curse of the Colonel.

The finger-lickin’ curse was placed on the team following their triumph in the 1985 Japan Series over the Seibu Lions. Revelers took to the streets of Osaka in celebration of their favorite team’s first championship, and many of them gathered on Ebisu Bridge for a familiar ritual.

Japanese baseball fans are like soccer fans. They don’t stoically sit in the grandstand and only make noise when prompted to by organ players or jumbotrons. They have chants and songs for all sorts of occasions and for every player, with brass instrumental accompaniments. Japanese baseball, you see, actually encourages fun.

So there upon the bridge, they sang the songs for each of the victorious players and selected a member of the crowd who most looked like each of the players, and gave them the honor of jumping down into the canal below. This was all well and good until they got to Randy Bass, who had just won the series MVP award for the Tigers. There weren’t any Caucasian guys in the crowd, so the revelers purloined a statue of Colonel Sanders from outside of a nearby KFC and tossed it into the canal.

This has since been regarded as a karmically poor decision, as the Tigers proceeded to finish under .500 for the next 18 years.

The idea that the team had been cursed by making the Colonel sleep with the fishes quickly spread. Numerous attempts were made to recover the statue to no avail, and the proprietor of the KFC outlet was apologized to, but nothing could seem to cure the team’s misfortune. The Tigers didn’t make the Japan Series again until 2003, but were defeated. They also lost in the title round in 2005.

Colonel Sanders (or at least his plastic lookalike) was finally located in 2009. He was pulled from the river looking much worse for wear, and without both his left hand and his glasses. Some thought that the curse may finally have been broken, but the Tigers lost in the Japan Series again in 2014.

Hanshin has not been plagued by the vengeance of the eleven secret herbs and spices for the 86 years that the Red Sox were denied from the promised land, or for the 71 years that the Cubs endured the Curse of the Billy Goat. But losing even one chance to receive the good Colonel’s blessing would be terrible for the Tigers’ rabid fans.

Here’s hoping that the NPB season will be able to take place in some capacity this year. Japanese baseball is exceptionally fun, and what’s more, there’s a curse that needs breaking. The Tigers finished just one game over .500 last year, but all they need is a shot. After all, anything can happen in baseball, including a fast food-related curse.

Do not anger Colonel Sanders, dear reader. He will plague you from beyond the grave.

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Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.