Cleveland sports curse
Cleveland has three major sports teams: the Browns of the National Football League, the Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association, and Major League Baseball's Indians. The city's teams have endured an unprecedented combined 156-season championship drought, having not won a title since 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship Game, two seasons prior to the first Super Bowl.
In addition, the city's lone National Hockey League representative, the Cleveland Barons, lasted only two seasons before being 'merged' with the-then Minnesota North Stars. Cleveland thus also holds the dubious honor of being host of the last franchise of the four major North American sports leagues to cease operations.
Having not won a championship since 1964, the Browns have been at the center of the Cleveland sports curse. In 1981, trailing by 2 points to the Oakland Raiders, and having to only kick a field goal to take the lead with less than one minute remaining, the Browns executed a passing play that was intercepted. The play, called by Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano, would be known as "Red Right 88."
In 1987, the Browns were playing in the AFC Championship Game, one win away from playing in the Super Bowl, and were leading the Denver Broncos 20-13 in the fourth quarter. Then, Broncos' quarterback John Elway led a 98-yard game-tying drive in a span of 5 minutes and 2 seconds. The game went to overtime, and the Broncos kicked a field goal to win 23–20. This final series is known as "The Drive" in NFL lore.
The Browns and Broncos both returned to the AFC Championship Game the next year. With the Browns down 38–31 in the fourth quarter, Browns' running back Earnest Byner was handed the ball. As he was running for the game-tying touchdown, Byner fumbled and the Broncos recovered at their own 2-yard line, and gave the Browns an intentional safety. Denver went on to win 38–33, and Byner's play became known as "The Fumble." The Browns returned to the AFC Championship game in the 1989-1990 season, again losing to the Broncos. As of the end of the 2013 NFL season, the Browns have not returned to the AFC Championship Game and remain one of four teams to never reach the Super Bowl.
The Browns later were at the center of a relocation controversy in 1995. The decision by then-Browns owner, Art Modell to move the team to Baltimore infuriated Browns fans. The Baltimore Ravens were established as a new team in 1996. The Browns returned in 1999, after a three-year period of deactivation. In the 1999 NFL Draft, the Browns selected Tim Couch, hoping he would be a franchise quarterback. Ty Detmer was brought in to usher in the planned "Couch Era", but after being dismal as a starter, Couch was rushed into the starting position. Couch did not return to the Browns after the 2003 season. Although only winning 22 games in 59 starts, Couch led the Browns to their only playoff berth since their return, in 2002. However, he suffered an injury in the final regular season game in 2002, and Kelly Holcomb played in the subsequent playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. As of the end of the 2013 season, the Browns have started 20 different quarterbacks since their 1999 return to the NFL, a league-high in that period. The Browns have not won a playoff game since 1995, and have not won more than 6 games in a season since the 2007 campaign.
Over the franchise's first 16 years, the team produced just three winning seasons, the highlight being the 1975-76 Miracle at Richfield team, whose improbable playoff run was doomed by an injury to Jim Chones. In the decisive Game 5 in 1989 first round, the Cavaliers played the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. Craig Ehlo had given the Cavs the lead with :03 to play. However, Bulls legend Michael Jordan then jumped over Ehlo to make the game-winning shot, and the Bulls won the best-of-five series 3-2. The play, which put the Bulls ahead 101-100, became known as The Shot. Jordan's Bulls would defeat the Cavaliers 5 different times during the Daugherty-Nance-Price era.
In 2007, homegrown superstar LeBron James led the Cavaliers to their sole NBA Finals appearance. They faced the San Antonio Spurs, who swept them 4-0. The Cavaliers, despite winning the most regular season games in the NBA since 2007 (66-16), lost the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals to the Orlando Magic in six games. His teams always possessing a great home-court advantage, the reigning two-time MVP James and the 2009-2010 Cavaliers (61-21) seemed to quit in a mysterious blowout loss to the visiting Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, 120-88. The Cavs would go on to lose the series in Game 6 (4-2), which would be James' final game with the team for more than four years.
During the 2010 NBA free agency period, LeBron James was featured in a television special, dubbed The Decision. Having notified the Cavaliers just moments prior to the television event, James announced that he would be "taking his talents to South Beach," referring to the Miami Heat. The quote was heavily criticized. James eventually announced his return to the Cavaliers for the 2014–15 season.
The Cleveland Indians, like their city-mates, also experience the curse. The Indians' failure to win a World Series since 1948 has led some reporters to dub the team's shortcomings The Curse of Chief Wahoo. Chief Wahoo is a Native American caricature which serves as the Indians' cap insignia. The Chief Wahoo insignia has been controversial. The Indians considered changing it in 1993, but the logo was retained. The Curse of Rocky Colavito is another phenomenon that is supposedly preventing the Indians from winning a Major League Baseball title.
The Indians failed to win the World Series in 1995, losing in six games to the Atlanta Braves. The loss was the Braves' only World Series win in 17 postseason appearances since 1991. Cleveland returned to the World Series in 1997 and led into the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 before José Mesa blew the save, and the team wound up losing to the Miami Marlins, then known as the Florida Marlins. After winning division titles 6 times in 7 seasons from 1995-2001, the Tribe has only appeared in the postseason twice in 14 years under the often frugal Dolan family ownership. In the 2007 American League Championship Series, the Indians were up 3-1 and one win away from advancing to the World Series, but they lost the last three games to the Boston Red Sox, denying their World Series berth.
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