We all have hopes, dreams, and goals…some loftier than others. Perhaps it is to be the first female President of the USA or to climb the 10 highest peaks in the world. Or maybe to rule the Planet Mars with an iron fist covered in purple crushed velvet or to own a 1000 ft luxury yacht and force your crew to dress in clown costumes. These all make sense to me – but my hope, my dream, my goal last Sunday, after a night of extended Christmas partying, was to go to KFC and get some chicken. Clearly, I was a quart low.
As I was filling my pores with the Colonel’s best and wondering why we have similar facial hair, suddenly I was reminded of a dark sinister curse involving the Colonel. Not the Red Sox Curse of the Bambino, not the Cubs Curse of the Billy Goat, but the Curse of the Japanese Hanshin Tigers baseball team by the deceased KFC founder and mascot, Colonel Harlan Sanders.
The Curse is said to be on the team because of the Colonel’s well placed anger from the grave (The Colonel called it a day in 1980) over the treatment of one of his storefront statues. Following their teams’s victory in the 1985 Japan Championship Series (they’re only championship ), the Colonel’s statue was thrown into the Dotonbori River by celebrating Hanshin Tiger fans. The Tiger fans are known as the most fanatical and dedicated fans of Japanese baseball. They have a reputation for rough and sometimes violent behavior, which is very rare in Japanese sports yet oddly in keeping with the rough and violent behavior of Colonel Harlan Sanders, who twice lost jobs for brawling with colleagues and ended his legal career after he engaged in a courtroom donnybrook with his own client. Koshien Stadium (where the Tigers play) is the oldest ballpark in Japan; built in 1925 and the Tigers themselves were founded in 1935. The stadium was once visited by the great Babe Ruth in 1934.
After the Tigers won their championship in 1985, fans celebrated by having people who looked like Tiger players jump into the Dotonbori Canal (an odd concept at best…hard to imagine Boston Red Sox fans jumping into the Charles River because they look like Big Papi or Dustin Pedroia.) According to legend, because none of the fans resembled star player Randy Bass (a white American first-baseman playing for the Tigers) fans grabbed a life sized statue of the Kentucky Fried Chicken mascot Colonel Sanders from a local KFC store and threw it into the river. (The only resemblance Bass had with the Colonel was that he had facial hair and was not Japanese.) Since this attack on the plastic American icon the Tigers have not won another championship. They made it to the finals in 2003 only to lose to those spunky Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, but that didn’t stop some 5300 fans from jumping into the canal. This celebration turned to tragedy when Tiger fan Masaya Shitababa drowned after being shoved into the river by revelers.
The Colonel was finally discovered in the Dotonbori River in 2009 and hauled out of the mud – seeing the light of day for the first time since 1985. The right hand and lower body were found the next day, but the left hand and glasses are still missing, and thus the curse continues until all of the Colonel can be found.
Curses are a bitch, especially from the Colonel. He might make some fine artery clogging fried chicken, which is delightful when a hangover the size of a mastodon is sitting on your head, but you chuck the likes of him into a Japanese River and you can kiss your championship season goodbye for a long time. So when you are in the shower singing the Hanshin Tiger’s fight song “Rokko Oroshi” (The Downward Wind of Mount Rokko) “Powerful hits and skillful pitch achieved a thousand times” think of the Colonel and the importance of repressing your need to throw plastic replicas of founders of fried chicken chains who very vaguely resemble an American ballplayer into Japanese rivers. Groove.