We grew up in the 60’s, but weren’t aware of sports until 1965, meaning we missed the last major league championship in this city by a year.
At that time, the Browns were the hallmark franchise, not just in the city, but in the NFL. They had best overall record in league history since entering the NFL in 1950.
They pretty much were a contender every year. They played and lost the NFL title to Green Bay in 1965, but were in the playoffs in 1968 and 1969 when they lost a chance to go to the Super Bowl in both years, losing to Baltimore and Minnesota respectively.
There was no “Cleveland Curse” then, it was only five years since the Browns ruled the football world when they lost to the Vikings in’69.
At that time, there was no professional basketball in town, as the Cavaliers just entered the NBA in 1970. They slowly built the franchise into a winner drafting Austin Carr, Jim Brewer, and Campy Russell, trading for Jimmy Cleamons, Jim Chones, and Nate Thurmond, and soon they were in the playoffs.
The “Miracle of Richfield” was the first taste of playoff basketball here and we loved it, selling out the old Coliseum, with crowd so loud, those players still talk about it today.
The Cavs won their first round series against the Bullets, and lost the Eastern Conference finals in six games to Boston, despite not having Chones, who broke his foot in practice.
We were thrilled the wine and gold made it that far, and heck, it was just 12 years since the Browns won a title. Surely, a championship would come soon.
The Kardiac Kids gave us all a thrill in 1980, 16 years since a professional sports championship, but it was the Browns of the late 80’s, 1985-1990, that felt like our best chance to bring a title to Cleveland.
John Elway got in their way all three times, but it had still been just a little over 20 years since a championship in Cleveland. Still, the most heart breaking loss was “The Drive”, an AFC Championship on our home field.
There was no doubt in our mind when Brian Brennan caught the touchdown pass from Bernie Kosar late in the fourth quarter that the Cleveland Browns were going to their first Super Bowl. But you know what happened.
In the 90’s, the Cavaliers were good again, but the best player in the sport, Michael Jordan, got in their way.
By the mid-90’s, the Indians were finally one of baseball’s best teams, and in 1995, they reached their first World Series since 1954. We were just happy to have that streak end, so it wasn’t too disappointing when they didn’t win.
They got back in 1997, and were leading game seven going into the 9th inning before Jose Mesa couldn’t slam the door. It was now 33 years at that time, and that night, we were angry at the gods for taking that chance away. It had become a curse.
It seemed like a long time until 2007 for our next chance. The Cavs drafted LeBron James, one of us, a northeast Ohioan, and he single handedly won the wine and gold their first Eastern Conference title, their first trip to The NBA Finals.
They were swept, but we were sure there would be more trip to come.
That same year, the Tribe had a 3-1 lead in the American League Championship Series, only to drop the final three to Boston, who won the World Series piloted by Terry Francona.
The curse was now at 43 years and counting. This morning, it is now 52 years since a Cleveland major league team has won a title.
By tonight, it may be over. Or it might not be. But this is the closest any of our teams have been in 19 years, and we have the best player in the sport.
We will be on the edge of our chairs tonight, hoping, imploring, and maybe begging that this curse ends.
We won’t know how to act if it does, although we are sure plenty of tears of joy will be shed.
That’s how much we love our sports teams in northeast Ohio.