The story of the Pottsville Maroons was once again revisited on Wednesday during an episode of the ESPN Daily podcast.
Host Pablo Torre invited author David Flemming onto the pod to talk about the Maroons and specifically, Pottsville’s curse on the Arizona Cardinals.
The half-hour program details everything about the Maroons and the city’s connection to the team over the years and its pursuit of restoring the 1925 NFL Championship we claim was stolen by the league.
More people learn about the Maroons story every day and the team is resurfacing now because the Cardinals own the best record in the NFL this season and are a Super Bowl contender.
In 1925, the Maroons were making their first appearance in the NFL and finished with a 10-2 record, defeating every team in the league at least once.
Pottsville Maroons Subject of ESPN Daily Podcast
Flemming says he’s now dedicated his life to getting the Maroons championship restored. His book “Breaker Boys” helped vault the Maroons story into the national spotlight back in 2007 when it was published.
And as he told Torre on the podcast, he continues to research the team and the controversy surrounding the 1925 NFL season.
“Of all the amazing stories I’ve uncovered, this may be my favorite,” Flemming tells Torre. “The way the NFL has treated this pioneering, important town, and these fans, it’s disgraceful.”
The podcast episode is filled with re-creations of game announcements from the biggest moments in NFL history, like the time they were presumed to have won the NFL Championship and then another segment when the team upset the fabled Notre Dame Four Horsemen in Philadelphia. It’s that game and Pottsville’s victory that many believe legitimized the NFL. At that time, college football was considered to be a far superior sport.
Flemming also details some of the controversies that led to Pottsville being stripped of the title in 1925 after the owner of the Frankford Yellow Jackets, now the Philadelphia Eagles, complained to the league about the Maroons playing the Notre Dame game on their territory.
In the podcast, Flemming says the Yellow Jackets claim of Pottsville infringing upon their territorial rights is bunk because there was no such rule in place at the time.
“This was Philadelphia getting back at the Maroons for, in one year, literally taking over the NFL,” Flemming says. “The whole thing from the beginning is just bogus. This is the establishment of the NFL trying to get back at this little coal mining town and team that basically kicked everyone’s ass up and down the NFL.”
The Curse of the Pottsville Maroons and the Arizona Cardinals
Right now, it seems like a longshot the NFL would restore the NFL Championship to its rightful owner, the Maroons. But as the Cardinals inch closer to the playoffs, Flemming believes the Cardinals ownership, the Bidwill family, could possibly be convinced to vacate the 1925 Championship and give it back to Pottsville.
That is, of course, if the Cardinals want to remove the curse against them.
Flemming places blame for the curse squarely on the Bidwill family, which bought the Cardinals in 1932.
According to Flemming’s story, the Cardinals owner at the time in 1925 refused to accept the season’s championship when the NFL tried to award it to them after taking it away from the Maroons.
“Technically, the 1925 NFL Championship was never awarded,” Flemming says.
But that didn’t stop the Bidwill family from accepting it when they bought the team from O’Brien.
“When they assumed ownership, they assumed ownership of the bogus 1925 NFL title,” Flemming adds.
In 2003, Flemming says Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill squashed an agenda item at the NFL owners meeting that would have possibly given the Maroons their title back, or at least started the conversation. And the Bidwill family hasn’t budged before that or since on the issue.
“What Pottsville has done to this franchise … they have gotten their revenge a hundred times over.”
So, we’re now in 2021 and with a few exceptions, the Cardinals have dabbled in everything from mediocrity to irrelevance in the NFL. And the team’s one shining moment, a Super Bowl XLIII appearance against the Pittsburgh Steelers, was tragically dashed in the final seconds with a miraculous touchdown catch to propel the Steelers to the win.
That proves the Maroons curse on the Cardinals is alive and well, Flemming believes.
“We’re talking about a toe-tap touchdown in the Super Bowl,” he says. “But Cardinals fans have suffered decades of bad karma, bad results, and missed field goals, and first-round flops, and just disgraceful seasons all because they won’t get right with this Pottsville Maroons team.”
But this year looks different for the Cardinals. They’re 10-2 and have the best record in the NFL. It’s got a lot of their fans thinking another trip to the Super Bowl is likely.
“It’s great that they’re doing well, but that’s not going to happen,” Flemming says of the Cardinals chances. “They will never win a championship until they do right by Pottsville, Pennsylvania.”
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