The Associated Press
CLEVELAND — Strange things are happening to the pro teams in this city.
The Cavaliers are in the NBA finals. The Indians are tied for first place. And the Browns drafted an offensive lineman — in the first round.
Could they be signs that the curse blamed for Cleveland’s decades of sports woes is close to lifting?
LeBron James and the Cavaliers have a chance to end the city’s 43-year championship drought, although that now seems improbable considering their deficit in the NBA finals.
San Antonio won 75-72 Tuesday night, taking a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series. The Spurs only need one more win to secure their fourth championship. No team has ever won the title after losing the first three games.
The Cavaliers are testing the widely held belief in town that a curse is responsible for all the heartbreak fans have suffered over the years.
The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. Art Modell moving the Browns to Baltimore. Jose Mesa’s blown save in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series. The list goes on and on.
Boston and Chicago’s curses are at least selective, picking on only the Red Sox — who ended their 86-year title drought when they won the World Series in 2004 — or the Cubs while allowing the Celtics, Patriots and Bulls to win title after title.
Cleveland’s curse has hovered over all three teams.
More recently the jinx has struck individual players such as the Browns’ Kellen Winslow on his ill-fated motorcycle ride and top free agent center LeCharles Bentley, who tore up his knee on the first full-contact play of training camp.
Only James has appeared to be jinx proof. He’s lived up to the enormous hype that followed him from high school in nearby Akron and has led his team to the finals in just his fourth season.
“This will be the biggest thing that happened here since Bill Veeck and the 1948 World Series winners, if they can win this thing,” said Hall of Famer Bob Feller, a member of that last Indians championship team.
Some blame the curse on Rocky Colavito, the Indians popular right fielder traded to the Tigers for Harvey Kuenn in 1960. But Colavito has said he never cursed anyone.
Some say Jim Brown, who retired abruptly after the 1965 NFL season, is responsible. Others point to former Browns owner Art Modell, who never took the team to the Super Bowl then moved the franchise to Baltimore and won it all.
Feller doesn’t believe in any of it.
“I’m not superstitious,” he said. “I don’t believe anything is a curse. I don’t believe in goblins or ghosts. It’s nonsense.”
Feller has another explanation.
“They haven’t had the good athletes,” he said. “Isn’t that the reason you usually win or lose a game? Whoever has got the best athletes over a period of time.”
Former Browns coach Sam Rutigliano thinks fretting about a curse is foolish and does nothing but make fans miserable.
“I don’t believe in that, not for one second,” Rutigliano said. “I think people just feed on it and it’s really a negative way of looking at things.”
Rutigliano was part of one of Cleveland’s legendary losses — a Brian Sipe interception while the Browns were in position to kick the game-winning field goal on a play called Red Right 88, which became the nickname for the team’s playoff defeat to Oakland following its improbable 1980 season.
Fans need to let go of their frustration, Rutigliano said as he did after the game on Jan. 4, 1981.
The Cavaliers surprising run to the finals has seemed to defy the curse. But if they lose in the finals is it really the curse destroying another dream season or just the fact that Cavaliers have had no answer for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli?
“If they don’t win it, they’ll say the same as they always say, ‘We’ll get ‘em next year,’ ” Feller said.
James, Cavaliers battling history, too