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Of course we don't believe in curses. We're intelligent and educated and living in the 21st century. Even our phones are smart.

But if we're baseball fans, well, we might not believe in curses, not deep down, but we do like to tell and listen to stories about curses. We do like to perpetuate the sport's legends and myths and, yes, the curses, because it's all good clean, harmless fun, that's why.

You know about the Curse of the Bambino. The Boston Red Sox had won the World Series three times in a five-year span with Babe Ruth, then sold him to the New York Yankees and waited 85 years for another Series title.

The Cleveland Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948 and I call that the Curse of Chief Wahoo, the team's embarrassing mascot and wildly politically incorrect logo of an insanely grinning Native American.

The Chicago Cubs have the Black Cat Curse of 1969 and the Steve Bartman Curse of 2003, although neither fully accounts for the fact they haven't won a World Series since 1908. Still, the Cubbies sure do seem cursed.

The Giants went more than five decades and transplanted themselves 3,000 miles between World Series titles and I call that the Curse of the Staten Island Scot. The Giants traded Bobby Thomson just two seasons after he hit one of the most famous homers in baseball history to win the 1951 National League pennant. Yeah, they went on to win the Series in 1954, the season immediately following the trade, but then had to wait 56 years for another, and only after Thomson, at 86, had died that summer.

And the Pittsburgh Pirates, wrapping up a four-game series in San Francisco today, are under a spell of their own, one that has a direct connection to the Giants.

It's the curse of Barry Bonds.

It's got nothing to do with a World Series championship drought, although the Pirates have one of those, too, their last title coming in 1979. The Curse of Barry Bonds goes deeper, in a profound, elemental way. It goes not to the glory of a championship but to the basic dignity of a winning season.

The Pirates haven't had one of those since 1992, the last year Bonds donned a Pittsburgh uniform before signing as a free agent with the Giants. Twenty consecutive losing seasons is more than bad luck or bad baseball or bad front-office decisions, more than the random indifference of the universe.

Come on, admit it. Embrace the mysticism. It's a curse.

And it looks like the curse is about to end. With the defending World Series-champion Giants struggling to avoid last place in their division, the Pirates are suddenly among the National League's elite.

Sure, strange things, unpredictable things, can happen. Exactly a year ago, the Pirates were 10 games over .500, but their ship sank quickly and quietly and they finished 79-83. Still, all signs point to smoother sailing for this season's Bucs.

And, yes, there is a modest sign at the Giants' home ballpark with the words "Remember '51," a rallying cry harking back to their heroic charge from 13 games out of first place in mid-August to win the pennant on Thomson's aforementioned homer. So some faithful fans might stubbornly stick to the hope that the Giants aren't out of it.

But they are. When they were 13 games out of first place in 1951 they were still a good team with a winning record. They were in second place. Only the Dodgers were ahead of them. Today, they are far below .500, buried beneath a whole division.

Longtime Pirates fans might believe the Curse of Barry Bonds started in 1990, the first of Pittsburgh's three consecutive defeats in the National League Championship Series, where he batted .167, followed by his .148 in the '91 playoffs, followed by his weak throw from shallow left field that allowed Atlanta's slow-footed Sid Bream to score from second with the '92 playoffs' winning run.

But, to be fair, Bonds had helped lead the Pirates to the postseason all three times. So, those defeats notwithstanding, the curse really started when he left Pittsburgh, and 20 consecutive losing seasons followed.

Well, what goes around the diamond comes around, even if it comes around slower than Sid Bream, and why not in a season in which the defending-champion Giants are being cut down to size?

For those drawn to superstition, it clearly looks like the Curse of Barry Bonds is about to end for the Pirates and their fans.

Or did I just jinx it?

Robert Rubino can be reached at RobertoRubino@comcast.net.