In Chicago, it's a goat. In Boston, it was Babe Ruth. In Osaka, Japan, it's something entirely weirder and therefore more entertaining: Colonel Sanders, Kentucky Fried Chicken's ubiquitous mascot.
Through an odd turn of events, the folks in Japan think they've broken their curse, and KFC now wants to share the luck with the Windy City.
First, a little much-needed background. Ever since rowdy fans of the Hanshin Tigers celebrated their team's championship in 1985 by throwing the Colonel into the Dotonbori River, the Colonel has been "cursed," and the Tigers haven't won since. For 24 years, people attempted to find the Colonel and pull him out of the water, thereby lifting the curse, but no one ever found him. Until Tuesday night:
The upper body of the statue was discovered at around 4 p.m. about 200 meters away from where it plunged into the water in 1985. When the figure was being pulled up by the crane on a salvage barge, construction workers could be heard to say, "It looks like a corpse." However, when Tigers fans such as the riverside project foreman saw the statue, they exclaimed, "It's the Colonel!"
Yes, yes, the Colonel is back, ready to give us delicious, brutally unhealthy chicken. In the meantime, if his recovery lifts the curse and helps the Hanshin Tigers win a league championship again, well, that's just a pleasant side effect. Why did Tigers fans throw the statue in the river in the first place? Apparently, they thought it bore a resemblance to then-Tigers slugger Randy Bass, and after doing a little Googling, we have to disagree: Randy Bass did not look like the Colonel in 1985. All those years of needless curse -- at least pick a better lookalike, right?
KFC sees this as an opportunity to help the greasy-chicken loving fans back home. On Thursday, the chicken king wrote an open letter to the new owners of the Cubs offering up the Colonel statue for Opening Day. But their choice of words makes this a bittersweet curse-breaking offer.
"Dear new owners of the 100-plus year championship drought," the letter begins. Ouch.
"Seeing as your 'recent acquisition' is in the midst of the longest championship drought in U.S. professional sports history ... we – at Kentucky Fried Chicken – want to help.
"We are working desperately with our Japanese colleagues to bring the curse-breaking Colonel Sanders statue to your field by opening day. While we can’t promise the statue will snap curses of billy goats, black cats or even a foul-ball-interfering fan, we figure it can’t hurt."
Never was an invitation so sweetly offered. Whether the Ricketts family or the Tribune Co. will take the king of fried chicken up on its offer remains to be seen -- we reached out to the Cubs, but they didn't want to comment.
Eamonn Brennan is a writer, editor and blogger who is suddenly hungry for greasy chicken. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.