Until a few days ago, it had been 52 years since the city of Cleveland had celebrated a professional sports championship. Between the Browns, Indians and Cavs, it totaled 146 seasons! (And you thought California has had a terrible drought.)
LeBron and the Cavs won the NBA title in historic fashion. They’re the first team in Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit. After the victory, a tearful LeBron shouted to the rafters, “This is for you, Cleveland!” Sure enough, 1 million fans jammed the downtown victory parade route. (Remember when the Lakers used to have parades? Sniff.)
Fittingly, LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated. And yet, if Cleveland had lost any of the last three games, King James’ critics were preparing to trash him royally. (Pun intended.) LeBron would have been 2-5 in NBA Finals series and likely labeled a loser. Instead, he’s now in the discussion of the greatest player of all time. Go figure.
James became the first player ever in the Finals to lead both teams in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and assists. (The only thing he didn’t do was take tickets at the door.) Almost single-handedly, James has revived the spirits of Cleveland, now affectionately called “Believeland.”
If any city can relate to sports droughts, it’s Chicago and the beloved Cubs, who are in their 108th year. While Chitown has enjoyed glory via the Bears in the NFL and the six championships with the NBA’s Bulls, the Cubs’ last victorious World Series was in 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt was president! (1945 was the last time the Cubs were even in the World Series.)
In the ’45 World Series, due to wartime travel restrictions, the first three games were in Detroit, where the Cubs won two, and the final four were at Wrigley Field. In Game 4, the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat was allegedly laid upon the Cubs by Billy Sianis, who had come to the game with two tickets, one for him and one for his goat, Murphy. When ushers demanded Murphy leave due to his offending odor, Sianis predicted, “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” The Cubs lost the series and haven’t been back since. (Ba-aah!)
According to Sam Sianis, William Sianis’ nephew, the Curse of the Billy Goat can be dispelled only by the Chicago Cubs organization’s allowing goats into Wrigley because they genuinely want to and not for publicity reasons. (I couldn’t make this stuff up, folks.)
This year, despite a recent slump, the Cubs may be the best team in baseball. They have the best record, best nucleus of young stars, many think the best manager, Joe Madden, and the best GM, Theo Epstein. So LeBron ended Cleveland’s 52-year drought and the Cubs may end their 108-year drought, which brings us to our beloved but often heartbreaking Los Angeles Dodgers, who, sadly, are in a prolonged drought of their own, this being the 28th year. (Reagan was president!)
The Dodger World Series drought is the worst in franchise history, even going back to Brooklyn. The Arizona Diamondbacks came into the league in 1998, and they won a World Series in 2001. The Miami Marlins began in 1993, and they’ve won the World Series — twice! In almost three decades, the Dodgers have basically won bupkis, pardon my French. (Unrelated question: If a Frenchman curses, does he say, “Pardon my English?”)
The ’88 Dodgers, who many contend were among the least-talented teams to ever win the series, were led by pitcher Orel Hershiser and slugger Kirk Gibson, and not many other stars. (Google “1988 Dodgers roster” and you’ll see what I mean.)
This year the Dodgers are led by all-world hurler Clayton Kershaw, RBI-machine first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and all-time Dodger saves record holder, Kenley Jansen. (I’m assuming the guy who had Jansen start out as a catcher is no longer in baseball.)
As I write this, the Dodgers just swept the first-place Washington Nationals and have won six straight and eight of their last nine. (Superstitious, I hesitate even mentioning the streak for fear of jinxing it.)
As contrasted by the dark days (2004-2012) of former owner, Frank McCourt — the tightwad still owns the parking and the land! — the owners since, Guggenheim Baseball Management, (including Magic Johnson) have been committed to winning. At $227 million, L.A. has the largest annual payroll in baseball. (The Yankees are second at $214 million and going nowhere, so much so George Steinbrenner must be spinning in his grave.)
Even though the Dodgers have Kershaw et al., a promising young core and money, realistically, the odds of their winning the World Series this year aren’t that great. On the bright side, as opposed to the Cubs, in order to win the Fall Classic, at least we don’t have to be nice to a smelly goat.