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Are the Cardinals cursed over a century-old NFL dispute?

The Cardinals have not won an NFL championship title since 1947. Is it because of a curse that dates to a game they lost in 1925?

PHOENIX — You've probably never heard of the Pottsville (Pennsylvania) Maroons. You've probably never heard of Pottsville, Pennsylvania. But that's where this story starts. 

It's where the curse starts. The curse that, according to some -- and especially the people living in Pottsville --  will forever deprive the Arizona Cardinals of a Super Bowl victory. 

It starts in 1925. The Maroons were a team from Pennsylvania coal country. Big, tough boys who worked hard in the mines. They hit harder: Red Grange, arguably the best professional football player in the country, was knocked out twice in a game against the Maroons and walked off the field saying "The hell with (the $500 he was to be paid for the game). It ain't worth it."

The Maroons surprised many sports fans by rising quickly through the ranks of the NFL during the team's first season competing in the league. 

The Maroons played their games about 100 miles from the Frankford section of Philadelphia - home of another NFL team, the Frankford Yellow Jackets. They had lost to the Yellowjackets once that season -- the team's only loss -- and beaten them 49-0 in a rematch. 

Our Cardinals were the Chicago Cardinals in 1925, and they were one of the best teams in a league that could be charitably called "organized." So when the 9-2 Maroons met the Cardinals, most fans of professional football considered it the championship game. 

The Maroons easily defeated the Cardinals in a final score of 21-7 and the team's fans began to celebrate their presumed championship victory. 

But the revelry didn't last long. The Yellow Jackets objected.

According to an article written by Stephen Couch in the Journal of Sport History, the Yellow Jackets complained that their neighboring team had violated their territorial rights by playing an exhibition game in Philadelphia one week after the Cardinals match.   

An NFL commissioner ruled in favor of the Yellow Jackets and penalized the Maroons by suspending the team. 

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In the meantime, the Cardinals' owner, Chris O'Brien had hastily scheduled two more games. They won both, allowing the team to improve their record enough to claim the championship title. 

According to Couch's article, Maroons' supporters attempted to revise the NFL record but the team never quite recovered from the Cardinals controversy, and the Maroons would dissolve by end of the 1920s.

"One of the greatest injustices in NFL history had been perpetrated," Couch wrote. "Residents of the Pottsville area, led by sporting goods store owner, Joe Zacko, protested for years—in vain."

David Fleming, who's written books and articles on the Maroons, has called the 1925 territorial claim made against the team "bogus" and has asked for Pottsville's victory to be recognized by the league.  

An NFL committee investigated the Maroons-Cardinals debacle in the 1960s and the league's executive board ruled in favor of the Cardinals, despite finding some validity to claims made by the Maroons.  

The Maroons deserved their own championship trophy, surviving members of the Maroons decided in the 1960s, so they made one.  They carved it out of coal. 

By taking a title that some believe should have gone to another team, Fleming thinks the Cardinals have been punished for the last 74 years by not winning another NFL championship since 1947.  

"They have paid dearly," Fleming recently said on the "ESPN Daily" podcast. "What Pottsville has done to this Cardinals franchise, they have gotten their revenge 100 times over."

The Cardinals have only gotten to play in one Super Bowl match since the first championship game was held in 1967. And some believe the team will never get to claim the league's top prize until they correct history. 

"They will never win a championship until they do right by Pottsville, Pennsylvania," Fleming added. "This curse has teeth."

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