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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Under the Lights: Curse of the Curse

For 52 years, two generations of Cleveland sports fans all identified with one word: losing. It’s a word that became so entrenched in Cleveland’s culture that, coupled with an economic downswing that hit Northeast Ohio especially hard, it extended into the ethos of the city as a whole, spawning nicknames for the city like “The Mistake by the Lake.”

When you consider its history, nicknames like that make a lot more sense. In the 52 years since 1964, when the Cleveland Browns last won an NFL Championship Game, Cleveland sports teams went a combined 147 seasons without winning a championship. 

So, yes, it’s fair to say Cleveland fans identified with losing. There’s an important word there, though. Identified. For all the complaining and all the torture, Cleveland fans at least had an identity; they had something that could hold them together and keep them somewhat sane.

That disappeared this summer after LeBron James led the Cavaliers to their first NBA Championship with a thrilling comeback victory over the Golden State Warriors. For the first time in most Cleveland residents’ lives, they had a win on their hands.

Predictably, they had absolutely no idea how to react, and the city lost its collective mind. 1.3 million people attended the Cavs’ subsequent championship parade, literally shutting down the city for an entire business day. For reference, the City of Cleveland has a population of just over 390,000. A man in the crowd that day was compelled to actually pick up and eat a piece of horse poop off the street. After living through 147 straight losing seasons and self-identifying as a loser for his entire life, who can blame him?

Viewing Cleveland as a case study is relevant now because of what’s currently unfolding in Chicago, where the hometown Cubs, a team that last won the World Series in 1908have a better chance of ending their infamous drought this October than they have at any point over the last 108 years. It will be far more interesting not to see what happens if they come up short yet again, but what in the world will happen to the City of Chicago if its Cubbies win after a wait almost twice as long as Cleveland’s.

The Cubs are tied 1-1 in their series with the Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. They’re listed as favorites in every major sports book and are seven wins away from winning the World Series. Brace yourself. This could actually be happening.

And if it does, it’s hard to think of a better example of an entire subset of humanity having the identity of its fandom completely and utterly reversed in an instant.

Remember, Cleveland didn’t win a title for 64 years. The Cubs haven't in 108. Eleven decades. There likely isn’t a living human being who remembers a Cubs World Series victory. We’re in uncharted territory.

What would transpire if the Cubs were to win it all in a few weeks? It’s impossible to say, but I’d get ready for anything. Because if the Chicago Cubs can win a World Series, anything truly is possible.