Shortly after, the presumptive Pottsville champions agreed to play an exhibition in Philadelphia against an all-star team of college players. Pottsville won that one too, 9-7, in a disturbance that helped legitimize the NFL. Unfortunately for the Maroons, it also cost them their title because the local NFL team, the Frankford Yellow Jackets, claimed the exhibition infringed on their territorial rights. (Pottsville had humiliated the Yellow Jackets, 49-0, in the regular season.)
While the league’s territorial rights were little more than a gentlemen’s agreement—and despite Pottsville receiving official clearance to play the game—the NFL suspended the Maroons. But when the league offered to name the Cardinals the champions, Chicago admirably declined the “honour.” For the next few years, ownership of the 1925 NFL title remained a bit sketchy. Then the Bidwill family bought the Cardinals in 1932 and promptly claimed it.
The Cardinals declined to comment on this article.
Three years after their victory was stolen, the Maroons moved to Boston; the team retired in 1929. However, in 1963, Maroons fans petitioned the NFL to give them their title back. By this time, the Cardinals had moved to St. Louis and President Charles Bidwill Jr. (grandfather of current team owner Michael) publicly rejected the idea — and contemptuously.
Forty years passed before the issue came up again. At the owners’ meeting in Philadelphia in 2003, it was proposed that the two teams would share the title, a solution that Paul Tagliabue, the then commissioner, would support. Again, the Cardinals have reportedly crushed the initiative, ignoring a lobby group including Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney, Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Pottsville Mayor John DW Reiley. Despite a few minor punches along the way — a Pennsylvania legislative resolution here, an online petition there — no significant progress has been made since then.
As for the jinx, it’s difficult to determine exactly when the curse of the Maroons befell the cardinals and exactly who placed it there. “It probably started in the early 1960s,” said Fleming, a senior writer for ESPN, who noted that Bidwill had turned down the title claim just as the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which opened in 1963, was asking former Maroons for memorabilia. . “Here was this important team from this small town and nobody in the football establishment seemed to care about righting the wrong. It was hard for the Maroons supporters to understand.”