Cleveland sports curse

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The Cleveland sports curse is an ongoing sports superstition involving the city of Cleveland, and all of its professional sports teams.

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 Minnesota North Stars.

Cleveland Browns[edit]

Much of the discussion of the "curse" is centered on the Browns, who have not won a championship since 1964 and have suffered a series of questionable coaching decisions, disappointing losses and draft busts.

In 1981, trailing two points to the Oakland Raiders and in field goal range with less than one minute remaining in the American Football Conference divisional playoff game, the Browns executed a passing play that was intercepted. The play, called by Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano, has become known as "Red Right 88".[1]

In the 1986–87 NFL playoffs, the Browns were one game away from playing in what would have been the franchise's first Super Bowl when they fell short in one of the most memorable games in NFL history. The Browns were leading the Denver Broncos 20-13 in the fourth quarter when Broncos' quarterback John Elway led a 98-yard game-tying drive in just over 5 minutes. The game went to overtime, and the Broncos kicked a field goal to seal the victory. Elway's fourth quarter march and the game itself became known as "The Drive", a title that both signifies Elway's brilliance in the clutch and the Browns' inability to close out important games.

The Browns and Broncos both returned to the AFC Championship Game the next year. With the Browns down 38–31 late in the fourth quarter, Browns' running back Earnest Byner was handed the ball near the goal line. Byner, who was in the midst of a great performance, was stripped of the ball and the Broncos recovered on their 2-yard line. The Broncos surrendered an intentional safety and went on to win 38–33, while Byner's blunder became known as "The Fumble".[2] The Browns returned to the AFC Championship game in the 1989-90 season, again losing to the Broncos. As of the end of the 2014 NFL season, the Browns have not returned to the AFC Championship Game and remain one of four teams (with the other NFL teams being the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars) to never reach the Super Bowl.

The Browns were at the center of a relocation controversy in 1995.[3] The decision by then-Browns owner, Art Modell, to move what was but one year before an 11-5 team to Baltimore infuriated and confused Browns fans.[4] After protracted negotiations, Modell was allowed to move the team's personnel to Baltimore as a new franchise, the Baltimore Ravens, who won a Super Bowl in only their fifth year of existence. Not only did the Ravens win, they did so with former Browns tight end Ozzie Newsome as their general manager. In addition to Newsome's success, coach Bill Belichick, who was relieved of his head coaching duties upon dissolution of the franchise, returned 3 years later as the head coach of the New England Patriots. With the Patriots, he has coached only one losing season and won six AFC Championships and four Super Bowls. The struggles of the Browns since rejoining the NFL, as well as the success of both Newsome and Belichick, were chronicled in the NFL Films feature A Football Life: 1995 Cleveland Browns.[5]

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 a string of dismal performances, Couch was rushed into the starting position.[6] Couch struggled to perform without a talented roster around him, which led to his eventual departure from 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.

As of the end of the 2014 season, the Browns have started 22 different quarterbacks since their 1999 return to the NFL, a league-high in that period.[7][8] The Browns have not won a playoff game since beating the New England Patriots on January 1, 1995, and have lost nine or more games each season since 2007.

Cleveland Cavaliers[edit]

The Cleveland Cavaliers are a professional basketball team who have played in the National Basketball Association since 1970.

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.[9] In 1989, the Cavaliers faced the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs.[10] In the decisive fifth game, Craig Ehlo had given the Cavs the lead with :03 to play. However, the Bulls' 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 earned the Bulls a 101-100 victory, became known simply as "The Shot."[11][12] Despite six trips to the playoffs between 1988 and 1994, including a 1992 Eastern Conference Finals appearance, the Cavaliers would never proceed to the NBA Finals, as Jordan's Bulls would defeat the Cavaliers in the playoffs five times during the Daugherty-Nance-Price era.[13]

In 2007, Ohio native LeBron James led the Cavaliers to their first ever NBA Finals appearance. They lost, however, to the San Antonio Spurs, who swept them in four games. Two years later, 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.[4] Although his teams always possessed home-court advantage, the reigning two-time MVP James and the 2009-2010 Cavaliers (61-21) were blown out by the visiting Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, 120-88. The Cavaliers 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.[14]

During the 2010 NBA free agency period, LeBron James was featured in a television special, titled The Decision. Having notified the Cavaliers just moments prior to the television event, James announced "In this fall — this is very tough — in this fall I am taking my talents to South Beach and play with the Miami Heat". The quote was heavily criticized.[15][16] Many upset Cavaliers fans were seen burning LeBron James merchandise such as jerseys and posters and heavily booed James in his first game in Cleveland as a member of the Heat. James, along with the help of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, led the Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances, winning twice, while the Cavaliers fell to the bottom of the NBA echelon with their record and attendance.[17] In those four years without LeBron, they acquired three number one picks (Kyrie Irving in 2011, Anthony Bennett in 2013 and Andrew Wiggins in 2014). Despite these windfalls the team struggled to win games, having set a record for most consecutive losses with 26 in the 2010-11 season.

After the 2014 season, James opted out of his contract early and rejoined the Cavaliers.[18] After signing James, the Cavaliers traded their two most recent number one draft picks, Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, for Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love to form their own "Big 3", which was rounded out by Kyrie Irving. They also signed Mike Miller and James Jones to replicate the Miami Heat's formula and eventually made it to the 2015 Finals. However, several Cavaliers players were injured during the season, including Anderson Varejão with a ruptured Achilles tendon during the regular season, Love with a dislocated shoulder during the first round of the playoffs and Irving with a fractured patella in Game 1 of the Finals.[19] Though losing nearly all of James' supporting cast, the Cavaliers won Games 2 and 3 to take a 2-1 series lead before falling to the Golden State Warriors, 4-2, in six games.[20]

Cleveland Indians[edit]

The Cleveland Indians, like their city-mates, also experience the curse. The Indians' failure to win a World Series since 1948 as well as The Catch (baseball) by Willie Mays in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series has led some reporters to dub the team's shortcomings The Curse of Chief Wahoo.[21] 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.[22] The Curse of Rocky Colavito is another phenomenon that is supposedly preventing the Indians from winning a Major League Baseball title.[23]

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 Florida Marlins.[24][25] After winning division titles 6 times in 7 seasons from 1995-2001, the Indians have 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.[26] The Red Sox went on to sweep the Colorado Rockies to win the World Series.[27] In 2013, the Indians won their final ten games of the season to make the playoffs again, but lost the play-in Wild Card game at home to Tampa Bay.[28]


  1. ^ Tioseco, Raymond J. (January 4, 2014). "Greatest Moments: 1980 AFC Divisional Playoff". Oakland Raiders. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  2. ^ Simmons, Bill (January 29, 2010). "Consider these teams officially tortured". ESPN. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  3. ^ Dyer, Bob (2007). The Top 20 Moments in Cleveland Sports History: Tremendous Tales of Heroes and Heartbreaks. Gray & Company. pp. 277–291. ISBN 9781598510300. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Folsom, Jim (May 15, 2010). "The Ultimate Sports Curse: The City of Cleveland". Bleacher Report. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Wassink, Zac (September 18, 2013). "The Cleveland Browns Have Had 19 Starting Quarterbacks Since 1999". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  7. ^ Friedman, Matt (January 14, 2014). "Ranking The 20 Cleveland Browns Starting Quarterbacks Since 1999". Return of Cleveland. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  8. ^ Sprow, Chris (February 23, 2014). "Browns can win with a rookie QB". ESPN. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  9. ^ Schmitt Boyer, Mary (24 November 2012). "Cleveland Cavaliers have seen their share of season-crippling injuries: NBA Insider". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Larry Nance". Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Jordan Hits "The Shot"". National Basketball Association. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  12. ^ Hyduk, John (May 13, 2013). "Cleveland: Disappointing Fans Since ’64". New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  13. ^ Swartz, Greg (Sep 17, 2014). "Cleveland Cavaliers Can Learn from Franchise's Only Other Big Three". Bleacher Report. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  14. ^ "LeBron's triple-double not enough as Celtics move on to face Magic". ESPN. June 14, 2010. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  15. ^ D'Angelo, Tom (July 9, 2010). "The King of South Beach: LeBron James will sign with Miami Heat". The Palm Beach Post. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  16. ^ Kerasotis, Peter (December 24, 2011). "For Miami Heat, High Hopes but Lower Volume". New York Times. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  17. ^ Gaines, Cork (February 14, 2012). "The Cavaliers Capitalized Off Of LeBron For An Entire Year After He Left, But Are Now Feeling The Sting". Business Insider. Retrieved June 6, 2015. 
  18. ^ Broussard, Chris (June 25, 2014). "Agent to Heat: LeBron opting out". ESPN. Retrieved June 16, 2015. 
  19. ^ Haynes, Chris (5 June 2015). "Kyrie Irving fractured his left kneecap and will miss remainder of playoffs". Northeast Ohio Media Group. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Moore, Matt (June 5, 2015). "2015 NBA Finals: Warriors win NBA title by beating Cavs 4-2 in NBA Finals". CBS Sports. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  21. ^ Pattakos, Peter (April 25, 2012). "The Curse of Chief Wahoo". The Cleveland Scene. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  22. ^ Sheeran, Thomas J. (July 2, 1993). "Indians Will Keep Logo, Despite Objections". Desert News. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  23. ^ Pluto, Terry (April 16, 2010). "50 years later, the Cleveland Indians' trade of Rocky Colavito still stinks: Terry Pluto". Cleveland. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  24. ^ Miles, Scott (June 11, 2008). "Open Mic: 11 Years Later, Indians' World Series Loss to Marlins Still Hurts". Bleacher Report. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  25. ^ Blocks, Starting (October 19, 2011). "Cleveland Indians World Series teams: Won it in 1920 and 1948; lost it in 1954, 1995 and 1997". Cleveland. Retrieved March 2, 2014. 
  26. ^ Curry, Jack (October 22, 2007). "Red Sox’ Comeback Lands Them in World Series". New York Times. Retrieved 22 June 2015. 
  27. ^ "2007 World Series". Baseball-Reference. Retrieved June 22, 2015. 
  28. ^ "Still Playing on Road, the Rays Send Another Team Home for Good". New York Times. October 2, 2013. Retrieved October 3, 2013. 

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