On Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys humiliated themselves in the first round of the NFL playoffs. Facing the hated Green Bay Packers, the team surrendered a 27–0 first-half lead that, by the fourth quarter, had metastasized into a 48–16 embarrassment. (The team narrowed the margin to 48–32 by the end, once the opposing sideline was secure in the knowledge that the outcome was assured.) There was plenty of accountability to go around for the Cowboys’ collapse. Head coach Mike McCarthy may well have been fired by the time you read this; quarterback Dak Prescott declared after the game that “I sucked tonight”; the entire defense was laughably bad. But one unlikely figure has shouldered a surprising amount of blame on social media for the team’s performance: senator Ted Cruz, who shared a fairly anodyne tweet shortly before kickoff from his official U.S. Senate account.
“Let’s go @dallascowboys!” and the team hashtag (“#SeizeEverything”) should hardly be controversial, but Cruz’s rooting interests have been a subject of great concern to the sporting world of late. In recent weeks, both the Cowboys’ face-plant and a historic choke job from the Texas Longhorns in the Sugar Bowl—at a game Cruz attended—gave renewed rise to the question: Is there such thing as a Ted Cruz curse in sports?
Let’s start by looking at the evidence against him. Cruz attended game seven of the American League Championship Series between his beloved Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers, in October, a game the home team lost. He tweeted a selfie from the 2019 NCAA Division I men’s basketball final between Texas Tech and Virginia with 35 seconds to go and Tech up by a single point—Tech lost in overtime. He posted a photo of himself on the court before his hometown Rockets lost in the NBA’s 2018 Western Conference final to the Golden State Warriors—they were eliminated from the playoffs. Add in the Longhorns’ loss to the Washington Huskies earlier this month and the tweet in support of the Cowboys, and it’s not a great list.
But solely looking at the outcomes of games Cruz attended at which his team lost is a classic case of confirmation bias, in which one seeks out evidence that supports a favored conclusion and ignores any that might contradict it. Cruz himself has addressed this concern, tweeting in October—just hours before his beloved Astros lost the ALCS to the Texas Rangers at a game the junior senator attended—that he has attended nearly every Astros home playoff game, including two World Series wins (fact check: true). He posted a photo of himself and his wife, Heidi, at the 2021 Texas A&M–Alabama game at which the Aggies pulled off a shocking upset. He was mercilessly heckled by Yankees fans in New York at a 2022 playoff game between the home team and the Astros—but the Astros swept the series. Even his Cowboys tweet was preceded the day before by a “Beat Cleveland!” post in advance of the Texans game. Houston dominated the Browns 45–14.
Cruz has claimed that he was in attendance at other high-profile sporting events. After the Longhorns game, he angrily addressed “dishonest press hacks,” tweeting that he was at the Longhorns’ epic 2006 Rose Bowl comeback, in which the long-suffering team claimed its most recent national championship, and that during his time as a student at Harvard Law, he attended the Rockets’ 1994 NBA finals win. Anyone can claim they were at those games! But regardless, a full assessment of the available evidence makes clear that Cruz’s support is hardly a kiss of death for a Texas sports team.
So why does the myth of a Ted Cruz curse persist? First, he’s a polarizing political figure, and fans of the teams Cruz also supports who oppose his politics would prefer to blame the junior senator for their teams’ losses than blame Prescott, or Longhorns QB Quinn Ewers, or the Astros’ bullpen. They like Dak Prescott. Ted Cruz read Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor, took off for Cancún while the rest of Texas froze, and has the air of the kid in class who reminds the teacher that he forgot to assign homework.
The notion that Cruz’s game presence or rooting interest is a hex on the sports teams that the senator supports clearly seems to bother him—when he posts to refute the notion that he’s a human jinx, he doesn’t attempt the good-natured “I’m just a regular guy who likes to take off for Cancún when it gets cold” voice that he uses in other circumstances. He called those at Rolling Stone “lying hacks” for reporting that Astros fans were urging him to stay home for game seven last year; he felt the need to reach back to the mid-1990s when defending his record of attending sporting events after the Longhorns’ loss. Politicians, by the nature of their job, are required to develop a thick skin, and all this talk of a curse is a rare chance to upset one of the most loathed politicians in America. Cruz is obviously a legit sports fan who loves being able to attend his favorite teams’ games in person—for his opponents, the fact that declaring him to be a walking bad luck charm seems to sap some of the joy from the activity is its own reward.
So is there a Ted Cruz curse? The evidence does not support such a thesis. However, there’s an obvious appeal to keeping the myth alive. If Cruz makes the short trip from Washington, D.C., to Baltimore for the Texans-Ravens game on Saturday afternoon, Houston had better pull off an upset, or the blame will only grow louder.