In 1987, the Cleveland Browns had a seven point lead on the Broncos with five minutes left in the AFC Championship Game. After the Browns scored the go-ahead touchdown, the Broncos mishandled the ensuing kickoff, giving them a first down at their own two yard line. During the commercial break that followed, my phone rang. It was my dad.
“We’re going to the Super Bowl!” Even though the streak of non-championship seasons in Cleveland was less than half what it would become, I had already become paranoid about getting too giddy, so I did the only sensible thing. I hung up on him. It was too late. Elway led the Broncos on a 98 yard drive, tying the game and sending it into overtime, where the Broncos won, giving ESPN another page for their montage of Cleveland heartbreak that they can shove up their ass because we won the NBA title.
In 1997, the Cleveland Indians had a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning of Game 5 of the World Series against the Marlins. The series was tied 2-2, so the winner of this game would be on the verge of a championship. My phone rang. It was my sister.
“You want to come over to watch them clinch Saturday night?” My sister was a marvelous human being with a heart of gold, but common sense was never a strong point. This, though, was just flat out stupid. A two-run lead in the bottom of the fifth is about as safe as investing your retirement savings in Twitter. And this was Cleveland. At that point, the Indians had already gone 49 years without a championship. Pretty much everything the franchise had touched during that time had been cursed. Whatever mojo was favoring the Indians at that moment needed to be respected, and my sister had violated the code by talking about what would happen after they won a game that they hadn’t won. I let loose with a few profanities, told her that if they lost I would see her in hell, and hung up.
The next inning Orel Hershiser lost his command, and the Marlins scored four runs. They won the game, 8-7. The Indians came back and won game six, which set up the whole Jose Mesa thing, but Jose Mesa would have never taken the mound if my sister had just kept her mouth shut.
You just don’t mess with karma, or mojo, or whatever you want to call it. There’s a force in the universe that slaps you down when you get arrogant, and it has a special disdain for sports fans. It’s hard enough to be a fan from Cleveland without having relatives who don’t respect these things.
I watched game seven of the NBA Finals with my daughter, and at the start of the third quarter she went to the kitchen to get a snack. As soon as she left the room, the Cavs went on an 8-0 run. She was not allowed to leave the kitchen for the rest of the game. You may think that the Cavs won because of LeBron’s block or Kyrie’s three, but none of those would have happened if my daughter had come back into the living room.
I have watched the entire American League championship series and the World Series from the same chair. My wife has spent every game in the bedroom watching Project Runway reruns. I have worn my Indians sweatshirt for all three wins in the World Series and I wore my Cory Kluber jersey underneath it during both of his starts. The only time I deviated from that routine was game two, when I had a meeting. You saw what happened then.
Last night in the ninth inning, when game four was in the bag and the Indians were within one game of clinching their first World Series victory in 68 years, my cell phone buzzed. I had been texting with my younger daughter throughout the game about strategies and other things, so I assumed it was her with another question. But it was my older daughter, sending a text to the entire family, asking who was going to run around the house naked Sunday night. It’s a family legend that my sister in law ran through her yard naked after Ohio State won the National Championship in 2002, so whenever one of our teams wins we joke about doing that. My daughter never came out and said the Indians would win the Series, but…
Shit. Here we go again.