Pharos-Tribune

Z_CNHI News Service

July 15, 2014

James bears the weight of Cleveland's championship dreams

LeBron James has done it all on a basketball court. He's a great scorer, rugged defender, proven big-play leader and champion. But that might not be enough in Cleveland, where he'll also need the powers of Merlin the Magician.

In returning to his hometown, James will face the Curse that has haunted the city known for generations as "The Mistake on the Lake."  Whether by spell or bad luck, Cleveland might rock but it doesn’t win championships.

When GQ Magazine compiled a list of the 20 worst sports franchises of all time, Cleveland topped the list. Not the Browns, not the Cavaliers, not the Indians. All of them.

The city’s major sports franchises have gone an amazing 156 seasons without a championship. The last time a Cleveland team claimed a title was in 1964 when the Browns became NFL champions. Of course, that was two years before the Super Bowl was first played.

In returning to Cleveland, James assumes the burden of trying to end a long, sad story and writing a new narrative that leads to brighter days, not only athletically but also economically and socially for the sprawling community along Lake Erie. James knows the fan base has high hopes and even bigger dreams. In his announcement on Sports Illustrated's website that he was returning home to northeast Ohio from Miami, James addressed the challenge: “Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time.”

That assessment is both accurate and noble.

Playing for the Heat had advantages. During his reign, Miami reached the NBA finals four times, winning twice. Plus, South Beach is not a bad spot to be, especially  during the winter, when Cleveland features lake-effect snowstorms.

James said his decision transcended sports: “I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously.”

Those words alone must give Cleveland fans much-needed encouragement and hope for better days ahead. If anyone can get it done, James will.

Fortunately for him, and all of those who consider themselves Cleveland sports fans, he might not have to save a city’s reputation by himself. The area already was on a sugar high when the Browns drafted former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winner known for dramatic plays.

The Browns have been involved in numerous big-play scenarios over the years, but the biggest seemingly  have all gone against Cleveland.  The superstition gained footing in 1981 when Cleveland only needed a field goal to take the lead against Oakland late in an AFC playoff game. But Coach Sam Rutigliano called a pass play that was intercepted. Incredible.

Cleveland again looked to be in good shape against Denver in 1987’s AFC Championship, but John Elway led the Broncos on a 98-yard, game-tying drive in the last 5 minutes. Denver won in overtime, and “The Drive” became part of pro  football lore.

A rematch with Denver the next year was just as crushing when Earnest Byner appeared headed for a game-tying touchdown until he lost the ball at the 2-yard line. The play has long since been referred to as “The Fumble.”

The list of disappointments is long. The Indians won 111 baseball games in 1954 only to be swept by the Giants in the World Series.  Remember the over-the-shoulder catch by Willie Mays? Yep, against Cleveland.

The Cavaliers appeared to have Chicago down for the count in the first round of the 1989 NBA playoffs, but Michael Jordan hit a game-winner as time expired and misery reigned in Cleveland once again.

That’s the challenge – and the curse, if you believe in such things – that James has accepted. Maybe this run of incredibly bad luck will finally end. Having the best player in the world is a plus.

If not, Cleveland can count on another hard-to-believe chapter in a book about how things continually go wrong.

Tom Lindley is a CNHI sports columnist. Reach him at tlindley@cnhi.com.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Z_CNHI News Service
  • Lindley, Tom.jpg Grandstands feel a little empty at NASCAR races

    Two decades after NASCAR started running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the crowds have thinned considerably. It's probably no reflection on the sport's massive following, which stretches from coast to coast, but it surely doesn't NASCAR's image help when the cameras pan across all of those empty seats.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why a see-through mouse is a big deal for scientists

    A group of Caltech researchers announced in Cell Thursday their success in making an entire organism transparent. Unfortunately, this isn't any kind of "Invisible Man" scenario: The organism in question is a mouse, and the mouse in question is quite dead.

    July 31, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 2.12.55 PM.png VIDEO: Five-year-old doesn't want her brother to grow up

    Sadie, an adorable 5-year-old from Phoenix, wants her brother to stay young forever, so much so that her emotional reaction to the thought of him getting older has drawn more than 10 million views on YouTube.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • The virtues of lying

    Two computational scientists set out recently to simulate the effects of lying in a virtual human population. Their results, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, show that lying is essential for the growth of a cohesive social network.

    July 31, 2014

  • Sunburn isn't the only sign of summer that can leave you itchy and blistered

    You've got a rash. You quickly rule out the usual suspects: You haven't been gardening or hiking or even picnicking, so it's probably not a plant irritant such as poison ivy or wild parsnip; likewise, it's probably not chiggers or ticks carrying Lyme disease; and you haven't been swimming in a pond, which can harbor the parasite that causes swimmer's itch.

    July 30, 2014

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • Rodden, Danny.jpg Sheriff accused of lying about relationship with prostitute

    The sheriff of Clark County, Ind., faces an eight-count federal indictment that accuses him of lying about paying a prostitute for a sex act and giving her a badge so that she could claim a discount rate at a hotel.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • Sharknado.jpg Sharknado 2 set to attack viewers tonight

    In the face of another "Sharknado" TV movie (the even-more-inane "Sharknado 2: The Second One," premiering Wednesday night on Syfy), there isn't much for a critic to say except to echo what the characters themselves so frequently scream when confronted by a great white shark spinning toward them in a funnel cloud:
    "LOOK OUT!!"

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should the U.S. impose a travel ban on three West African nations in response to a growing Ebola virus outbreak?

Yes
No
Not sure
     View Results
Featured Ads
AP Video
Netanyahu Vows to Destroy Hamas Tunnels Obama Slams Republicans Over Lawsuit House Leaders Trade Blame for Inaction Malaysian PM: Stop Fighting in Ukraine Cantor Warns of Instability, Terror in Farewell Ravens' Ray Rice: 'I Made a Huge Mistake' Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Busy Franco's Not Afraid of Overexposure Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.