New England Patriots on Paper: The Curse of Devon Loch


It’s called “Pulling a Devon Loch”, and it’s never a good thing.

So after suffering through three different episodes with the demoralizing feat, the Patriots have to feel pretty good about how things turned out for them on Sunday evening.

And not a second too soon, as it turns out.

Oct 21, 2012; Foxboro, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) makes a pass while pressured by New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace (97) during the first quarter at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

One could look at the New England Patriots’ 2012 season thus far, and remark that this team that many were predicting to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl this coming February are under the curse of Devon Loch, the centerpiece of perhaps the most bizarre  incident ever to happen in British sports history.

In the spring of 1956, a gelding by the name of Devon Loch was participating in the Grand National, the longest and richest steeplechase horse race in the British Isles.  At over four miles long and with 16 fences for the horses to clear, twice, the course has a reputation as the ultimate test of horse and jockey, most starters failing to complete the two circuits.

The thing is absolutely nuts.  It’s like watching a NASCAR race using horses instead of cars – horses spilling over fences, throwing thier riders – who are subsequently trampled – It’s a free-for-all that is so decadent and depraved that it makes the Kentucky Derby look like amateur hour at a church social.

The gelding, owned by the Queen Mother,  had won two races earlier in the year and was one of the favorites to take the Grand National – and his fortune had taken another turn for the better once his major competition had fallen off early in the race.  Devon Loch was sprinting easily after clearing the last fence and was on the final stretch with a five length lead and just 40 yards to the post when he suddenly jumped in the air and landed on his belly (Watch here) , allowing a long-shot to overtake him and win the race.

The Queen Mother was so amused at the finish that she quipped, famously: “Oh, that’s racing.”.

American football fans typically tend to be a little more emotional about their teams blowing late leads – and very few understand the mentality that it takes to blow off such a disappointment.

So, metaphorically speaking, “To pull a Devon Loch” means that a sports team has suffered a sudden, last-minute failure to complete an expected victory…and in the first six weeks of this NFL season, the Patriots had been Devon Loch-ing everywhere, giving up last second narrow victories to Arizona, Baltimore and Seattle….and blowing a late lead to the New York Jets Sunday before rallying for an overtime victory.

And for them to rally and break the curse seems particularly relevent since Patriots visit the United Kingdom this Sunday to take on the resurgent St. Louis Rams, mere miles from where perhaps this strangest incident in the history British Sports took place over 60 years ago.

Had they not been able to reverse their fortunes against the Jets, the British media would probably have been all over them concerning the curse – but as it is now, I’m probably the only person on the planet that thinks the curse has any journalistic merit…me and possibly Peter Griffin, but for entirely different reasons…

It remains a mystery to this day as to why Devon Loch jumped.   Some muse that he was cramping, causing the collapse.  More likely,  a shadow thrown by an adjacent water-jump fence may have confused Devon Loch into thinking a jump was required and he half-jumped and collapsed, and it seems possible that such confusion caused him to fail to continue.

His jockey later claimed that a loud cheer from the crowd startled the horse and caused him to break stride…but the truth is that no one really knows for sure why Devon Lock took a digger, nor why the Patriots have had trouble finishing off their opponents.

All we know for sure is that New England has finally rid itself of the dreaded curse, and can now concentrate on game planning for Peter Griffin and his Sillynannies – er – Sam Bradford and the Rams this coming Sunday in London…