Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why, Sports Gods, Why?

The Sports Gods are mighty and all powerful. That may sound funny coming from an atheist, but my religious beliefs do not necessarily apply to sports. For the Sports Gods are real. I have felt them. I feel their wrath every day. Yes, I call it wrath. The Sports Gods are cruel. Every day they seek to punish fans from Northeast Ohio.

Allow me to illustrate:

Which are the teams most despised by Cleveland fans?

The New York Yankees - 26 championships, 39 pennants
The Boston Celtics - 17 championships
The Pittsburgh Steelers - 6 championships

These loathsome franchises have won a combined 49 titles. Now let's look at a bit of Cleveland lore:

The Cleveland Indians - 2 championships, 5 pennants
The Cleveland Cavaliers - 0 championships
The Cleveland Browns - 4 AAFC championships, 4 NFL championships

That's 10 titles. Ten. The Cleveland Indians were founded in 1901. The Browns have existed since 1946. Even the new kids on the block, the Cavaliers, have been around for almost 40 years. Add it all up and that equals 10 championships in 210 seasons of Cleveland sports. And you know what? That's not even the worst of it. Here's some even more depressing 'recent' history.

1964 was the last year a Cleveland team won a major championship (no, the dynasty the now-defunct Cleveland Crunch enjoyed in the '90s does NOT count). So, in the 45 years that lay between then and now, here's how those other rotten teams have fared:

Yankees - 6 championships, 10 pennants since 1964.

When the Cleveland Indians finally shed the status of laughingstock, which they carried in shame for 35 seasons of horrible baseball, when they finally emerged as one of baseball's elite team, reaching the World Series in 1995 and 1997, and when it was really looking like the 90s would be the Decade of the Indians, it was the god-damned Yankees who won 4 titles. None of this would matter if the Indians had managed to close out a ninth-inning lead with one out in game seven of the '97 series. They didn't, and so it's 61 years and counting for the the Tribe.

Celtics - 10 championships since 1964.

We are currently experiencing the golden era of Cavaliers basketball. When the Cavs won the rights to draft native son LeBron James in 2003, we knew the tides had turned. The Celtics had been horrible for years. The Cavs reached the finals in just the 4th season of the James era, only to be swept in 4 games. Even so, 2007-08 looked even more promising. The team was older, more mature, and so what happened? The Celtics acquired two Hall-of-Famers in the offseason. The Cavs saw two of their best players hold out for larger contracts and then get injured during the season. Naturally the Celtics beat the Cavs in seven games in the second round of the playoffs before going on to win the NBA finals and, most nauseatingly, their 17th title. And so it's 39 years and counting for the Cavaliers.

Steelers - 6 championships since 1964.

The Browns were a huge underdog when they beat the Colts to win the 1964 NFL championship, their eighth title. Since then? Zip. While Browns fan continue to hype the vaunted history of the franchise, those glory years are buried somewhere deep in the 1950s. And of course we continue to ignore the fact that this history doesn't even really belong to the Browns, but to that team in Baltimore (which, incidentally, won a championship in 2000). Anyhow, 2007 was supposedly a renaissance for the Browns, a season in which they won 10 games behind a dynamic and high-powered offense. Browns fans are among the most loyal of any in professional sports. They are also among the most desperate. Those ten wins (without a playoff appearance or a win against Pittsburgh) turned into wild offseason expectations, with some even making Super Bowl predictions. Well, here I am trying to think back, and I'm not sure I can remember the Browns winning a single game in 2008. In the meantime the Steelers have won 6 Super Bowls, including their most recent contest last week against the Cardinals. For the Browns? Try 45 years and counting.

So, Sports Gods, I humbly ask: what have we done to upset you? Cleveland is as hard-working a town as you'll find, and we have a lot to be proud of. We have a world-class symphony orchestra, an incredible art museum, the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame. But let's face it: above all we love our sports. We treat our players like heroes and we pay through the nose to watch them lose year after year after year. Why, though, even in the best of times, must we finish no better than second place? All we want is a winner, so we can slough off this loser mentality that, having little else to boast of, we wear like a badge of honor. I'm sick of our suffering ways, and I'm ready for them to end right now.

I know you work in mysterious ways, and I know its presumptuous, and even dangerous, to ask. I know that at a whim, you'll twist an ankle or cause a franchise to move to Baltimore. But on behalf of all Clevelanders, I'm pleading for a sign, one sign. What is it you demand of us? We'll gladly pray, meditate, genuflect, wander the desert, flagellate ourselves, even sacrifice a small (or large) animal. Name the price and we'll pay without complaint. Just give us a winner, Sports Gods. Please end this unbearable 45-year drought.



Kid Shay said...

The curse extends to Oberlin football: ranked as one of the worst football teams of all time by ESPN, they had a 6 year losing streak (1994-2000).

Nate and Jeff Bowler, Co-Captains said...

Hmm, sounds slightly like Ohio Bobcat football, whose only win of the season while I was there resulted in a fan riot.