A priest, a witch doctor and Harry Potter walk into a bar...
Sounds like the beginning of a classic joke, right? Well what if I told you this recently happened? No really, it did. Let me explain.
The Iowa State basketball program is desperate. You see, the Cyclones have not won a game in Stillwater against conference rival Oklahoma State since 1988. Many times the Cyclones have come close only to see the Cowboys triumph even under the most unusual set of circumstances. Easy as it may be to chalk this nearly 25-year-old drought up as coincidence, Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg believes there's something else at play.
"We've been cursed," said Hoiberg. "Or hexed or had a spell cast on us or something. Doesn't matter. There are supernatural forces in play and I've had enough of it."
The Mayor, as he's affectionately known to the locals of Ames, Iowa, recently summoned the services of a prominent priest, a documented witch doctor and actor Daniel Radcliffe to assist in reversing the Cyclone's luck in Stillwater. Elizabeth Montgomery, who played Samantha Stephens on the 1960s sitcom Bewitched was also invited, but Hoiberg was devastated to find out she had passed away.
"We really could have used (Montgomery)," said Hoiberg. "I've been twitching my nose all season at Korie Lucious and it hasn't done a darn thing."
The meeting took place on Sunday evening at Applebee's in Ames after the restaurant had closed down, but not before Hoiberg and the witch doctor teamed up on a "2 for $20" combo of Bourbon Street Chicken and Shrimp, Applebee's Riblet Basket and mozzarella sticks.
"Best deal in town," Hoiberg added.
Hoiberg was reluctant to share much of what happened at the actual meeting, but reports have surfaced from several players and assistant coaches who were also in attendance indicating that it was a bizarre evening.
The meeting was reportedly started by the priest blessing the team as well as the Applebee's franchise, followed by a 30-minute inquisition to determine if demonic possession was in fact to blame for the Cyclone's misfortunes in Stillwater.
"His findings were inconclusive and it really led to more questions than answers from a purely biblical sense," said ISU assistant TJ Otzleberger. "He couldn't perform an exorcism because we were unable to determine who or what was in fact possessed by a basketball demon. We thought originally that a demon had just passed from player to player every year and that this year, it had to be Anthony Booker, but we were a little disappointed to discover he wasn't possessed. Would have explained so much."
After it was determined that Satan was not to blame, it was Radcliffe's turn to reflect upon his experience playing Harry Potter and break the spell that Hoiberg believed to be cast by he who must not be named (Lord Voldemort for the uninitiated).
"Yeah, that was stupid," said senior Tyrus McGee. "Everyone knows Hermione was better with spellcasting than Harry."
Radcliffe proved to be of no real help once it was discovered that he is not in fact a wizard in real life and only played one in films, but he did sign a few autographs.
The witch doctor, who was flown in from Haiti, suggested the most drastic measures, proclaiming that a living sacrifice was needed to lift the curse.
"There was some debate about what "living" meant," said Otzleberger. "The witch doctor said it had to be a living thing that was part of the team. Tyler Ellerman was a natural first offering, but the witch doctor said the basketball gods would only be appeased by a scholarship athlete, so we suggested cutting Percy Gibson's right hand off since he doesn't use that anyway, but the witch doctor wasn't sure that would suffice, but said for additional $100 in Applebee's gift cards, he'd have an answer for us in the morning."
Ultimately, it was decided that while supernatural forces may actually be influencing Iowa State's lack of success in Stillwater, turning to counter-witchcraft or exorcism wasn't likely going to solve anything.
After several hours of brainstorming, Hoiberg dialed up his old Cyclone pal and former fellow NBA player, Jeff Grayer. Grayer played on the last team that won in Stillwater in 1988 and the two shared a lengthy and revealing conversation.
"We should have just called Jeff from the beginning," Hoiberg said. "I think I know now what must be done to lift this curse."
According to Hoiberg, he learned that after Grayer and the Cyclones defeated Oklahoma State in 1988, they hit the town and celebrated the victory by drinking Black Velvet Canadian Whiskey. The series of events that followed from there ultimately proved to be foolish in hindsight.
"Well I'm not going to get into specifics, but the gist is that Grayer and a few other guys pissed all over Gallagher-Iba Arena that night and that's probably why we're cursed," Hoiberg said.
So after nearly 25 years, what does the young, handsome head coach have in mind to lift the curse?
"Instead of holding a shoot around before the game, we're going to formally apologize to the spirts of Ed Gallagher and Henry Iba and Jeff Grayer has vowed to make the trip to offer a personal apology for his actions that night," said Hoiberg.
And if that doesn't work?
"Then I'm getting loaded on Black Velvet and pissing all over that place myself. It's not like it's going to get any worse."