By Bruce Stambaugh
Maybe this is the end of the strangling fatalism that sports fans of Cleveland’s three professional teams have endured for far too long.
“This” references the recent, glorious victory by the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Golden State Warriors that made the Cavs the National Basketball Association (NBA) Champions for 2016.
I know. In today’s fast-paced era of instant information, this fact is old news. But without that introduction, the rest of what I have to say wouldn’t make much sense.
First of all, I couldn’t bear to watch the game. I don’t follow the NBA much anyhow. I wasn’t about to jinx the Cavs by watching the deciding game.
However, when the alert on my wife’s smartphone reported that the Cavs had won, we bolted out of bed and turned on the TV to watch the post-game celebration. It was worth the missed minutes of sleep.
I was impressed with the genuine tears of joy and relief shed by all the players and the head coach. They clearly understood what that precious moment meant to all Cleveland sports fans everywhere. I teared up, too.
It meant the world to us. It said that after 52 years of hope, frustration, disappointment, and despair that Cleveland had finally broken the infamous, self-induced curse of losing. Of course, such a thing never existed. It just seemed so.
The Cleveland Browns were the last of the three professional sports teams to win a world championship. That was in January 1964. I remember it well because I was at that game as an excited 16-year-old, having had my name drawn in a lottery to purchase tickets.
The Browns won the National Football League Championship with a 27 – 0 win over the Baltimore Colts. They played the game in old, cavernous Municipal Stadium in sub-zero conditions. It was pro football’s super bowl before pro football officially had a Super Bowl.
I couldn’t have imagined then that that victory would be the last championship for a Cleveland sports team until the Cavs’ Father’s Day win. Since 1964, followers of Cleveland’s pro sports have had to endure a lot of disappointments to the point of being fatalistic.
No matter how good any of the three teams were, something silly, even unimaginable, was sure to happen as if the sports Gods had it in for the poor city whose river once caught on fire. I was there for that, too.
During that depressing stretch, fans of the Cavs, the Browns, and the Indians had seen it all. For the Cavs, it was Michael Jordan on far too many occasions.
For the Browns, it was The Drive, The Fumble, and The Move, when Art Model secretly transported the team to Baltimore. The Colts had previously shuffled off to Indianapolis.
For the Indians, it was Jose Mesa in the ninth inning of game seven of the 1997 World Series. They haven’t been close to a championship since.
But the Cavs have permanently corked that bottle of bad luck. Since I froze my nose in 1964, Cleveland finally has another world champion. Thanks to fatalism’s firm grip, I still can’t believe it.
Has this great victory killed the Cleveland sports jinx? Will folks simply get on with life without this fatalistic outlook about never being able to win? I sure hope so.
I do know this. When the Cleveland Indians defeat the Chicago Cubs for the World Series win this fall, I’ll be entirely, positively, wonderfully convinced.
© Bruce Stambaugh 2016