Cleveland sports fans have suffered for 51 years. It is well-documented, even on this site, and the many near-misses over the years have done nothing to alleviate the anguish. Cubs fans feel sorry for Cleveland faithful, because at least they have the Bears, Blackhawks and Bulls in the Windy City. Cleveland’s best claim to a winner lay two and a half hours southwest in Columbus, where THE Ohio State University has returned to national prominence courtesy of its football team.
Desperation in the Bay Area does not nearly reach Cleveland’s feverish pitch, thanks in part to the San Francisco 49ers, the defending World Series Champion Giants and a perennially competitive A’s team. The Golden State Warriors, however, have not won a title since Rick Barry was tossing underhanded free throws while averaging thirty points a game in 1975.
I couldn’t believe it. I stared at my television screen trying to digest what just happened as the ESPN generated scoreboard displayed ’20 Patriots 24 Panthers Final’. I watched as Luke Kuechly pumped his fist and Cam Newton flashed his signature smile. My mouth gaped open as Tom Brady yelled at an official and then proceeded to head to the locker room. I could hear all of Bank of America Stadium scream jubilantly in a moment of much needed catharsis.
I have not seen Charlotte like this since 2008 when John Fox was still the head coach. There was electricity in the city again. I could hear it two doors down as my neighbors entered into the night to vocalize their joy with bursts of “WHEWWWWWWWW” and “YESSSSSSSS.” Their gleeful expressions soundtracked the immediate press conference that followed where a frustrated Bill Belichick had to describe what went wrong in New England’s loss to the Carolina Panthers in the year 2013.
For many, it was redemption for the loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVIII. For me, it was a point of great civic pride in a city that has been plagued by the perception that it is an unexceptional town with unexceptional sports teams.