MADISON — A black cat wandered onto the field at MetLife Stadium last week, briefly delaying the Dallas Cowboys-New York Giants game in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
The Giants were leading by six points when the unidentified feline came out of a tunnel and onto the field with 5:32 to go in the second quarter. The black cat (a traditional symbol of bad luck) strolled near the Cowboys bench and gave the visitors an unpleasant stare. Later, the cat ran into the end zone, evading stadium workers and state troopers before fleeing the field.
“The cat runs into the end zone! That’s a touchdown!” Westwood One radio announcer Kevin Harlan shouted.
The Cowboys went on to take the lead before halftime and won the game, 37-18.
After the game, some wanted to blame the Giants’ bad luck on the wandering black cat.
First, I’d say the three turnovers by the Giants’ offense and the three touchdown passes the defense surrendered played bigger roles in the loss than the cat. The Giants are simply one of the NFL’s worst teams.
Second, animals have a history of appearing on sports fields. The last time a black cat caused this much commotion was on Sept. 9, 1969. The Chicago Cubs, who had seen their lead in the National League East shrink to just a game and a half, were in New York for a crucial series with the second-place Mets at Shea Stadium.
While the Cubs were batting in the top of the fourth inning, a black cat appeared in front of the Cubs dugout. The cat pranced back and forth before disappearing under the stands, apparently unnerving some of the Cubs and their manager, Leo Durocher. Baseball players are the most superstitious in sports.
The Mets went on to win the game, the NL and the World Series. And the Cubs were stuck with another of their curses that wouldn’t go away until they won the World Series for the first time in more than a century in 2016.
Black cats aren’t universal symbols of bad luck. In England and Japan, they are considered symbols of prosperity. But in Europe, cats were considered companions or spies for witches. The same thing happened in colonial Massachusetts.
In America and Britain, sailors preferred to adopt black cats as ship’s cats to bring the vessel good luck. Sailors’ wives also kept black cats to bring their husbands good luck at sea.
In modern America, there is clear discrimination against adopting black cats. Some animal shelters won’t allow black cats to be adopted around Halloween because of fears for their safety.
The current Corder black cat, Max, spent more than a year in an animal shelter before he was adopted. He was in a no-kill shelter, which makes him a very lucky cat.
As of Monday, the black cat that halted the Cowboys-Giants game was still at large, despite efforts to capture him. A no-kill shelter is assisting with the hunt.
MetLife Stadium has denied reports that the now-famous feline is one of 300 feral cats that live at the Meadowlands Complex.
A stadium employee who identified himself as “The Cat Man” told the New York Post that stadium workers feed the cats and the complex pays for up to 200 pounds of dry cat food per week.
“But I chip in 18 to 24 cans of wet food each week,” said The Cat Man, who claimed to recognize the star feline. “They love the wet food.”
Even more than football fame, it seems.
• Charles Corder has owned at least six black cats. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.