Saturday, June 6, 2009

Sports Illustrated Curse or the Cleveland Curse?

The sports illustrated curse. Is it true? Well, a lot of Cleveland sports fans are probably holding on to this mystery as a way to cope with the horror of lasts week’s final defeat. I’ve had some time to think about it and I still don’t know how I feel. Surely it’s a weak excuse but there is simply no other town in America that has more reason to make excuse than Cleveland.

It took me a few days to even go online and look at what the Cle press was saying about the Cavaliers loss to Orlando in game six. I come from a devout Cavs family; my mother used to work for the organization during the miracle at Richfield era, I’ve spent countless nights at both the Coliseum and Q where I either cheered or stifled tears and many an obscenity. Maybe all of those years of heartbreak should have knolled the pain I would eventually feel time and time again. But, no, there is no way to express the disappointment.

I wanted to call my mom right away and hear her side of things but it took me days to do so. I just could not handle her inevitable response of pure heartbreak. When people in California gave me their deepest sympathies, I recoiled from them or offered weak rebuttals to the extent of “I’m trying not to think too much about it”, which was bullshit: it’s all I could think about.

The most powerful thing I could find to say to my Cleveland friends was/is “I am so sick of having a ‘there’s always next season’ season.”

The article in question was by an ex-Clevelander such as myself, Joe Posnanski. He seems like a genuine guy: I’ve been on his website and he has a true love for sports and Cleveland (he goes as far as to call it beautiful), he’s a fellow journalist and his name sounds Polish or German enough to be a regular at Slyman’s on Saint Claire. If you don’t own a copy I feel bad for you as it’s a collector’s item of Cleveland sports history. And that is what our Cavaliers season of 2008/2009 has sadly become, curse or not.

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Time for an honest gut check: I had to stifle those familiar tears as I read the article. It was written from the point of view of a fan… a Cleveland sports fan that has seen and felt all the trials and tribulations that you and I have witnessed (even before that word became a trademark for our most impressive superstar). Throughout the piece local working man after local working man pleads their case for Posnanski to make sure that his work would not land on the cover of SI; it’s an omen, bad luck, KARMA MAN! It’s a plead he understands but ultimately uses to bookend his piece with an editors note to go ahead and put Cleveland on the cover of the legendary sports magazine because, as we all truly know, that is where these athletes have always deserved to be (the shot, the drive, the sweep and all).

Since the 5.25.09 issue hit the newsstands and was delivered to homes and business across the world the number one team in the National Basketball Association went on to lose four of six games to the third seated team in the eastern conference. Many in Cleveland have let the stifled tears fall, others lost hope altogether and, elsewhere, Posnanski has received an endless tirade of hate mail from the ever blood thirsty Cleveland sports fanatics. Can I blame them? Oh, absolutely not… as a once Cleveland native and an admitted admirer of the city, he should have known better.

Now that all is said and done, Lebrons magnificent finish in game two becoming a lost memory, it’s hard to really place blame on a writer who was only trying to let the rest of the world know how powerful a part of day-to-day life professional sports are to the average Clevelander. Maybe there is a curse but I don’t think it has anything to do with, arguably, the greatest athlete alive getting another cover in the most coveted sports rag of all time.

The curse may lie in our hands as we, the fans, have always been turncoats at best. It is true that no one has ever thrown bottles on the court after Lebron and company lost a game but the chorus of boo’s that I have heard after simply missed free-throws (and not game clinchers by any means) on our own home court are easily part of any long term ills that have befallen our franchise teams.

I’m not shedding any light or forecasting a brighter future. I’m simply upset and hopefully forgivably so. I wish the best for all Cleveland athletes and hopefully, one day, seeing one of our beloved stars on the cover of Sports Illustrated will be just another good omen of an appending championship won.

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