Red Right 88

Cleveland sports fan and sports writer

Location: Cleveland, Ohio, United States

quit my job decided to drive west

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

To win just once, that would be enough

To win just once would be enough
For those who’ve lost in life and love
For those who’ve lost thier guile and nerve
Their innocence, their drive and verve
Discriminated, robbed or cheated
To win just once is their desire

Lyrics by L. Moran/Davy Carton

Saturday night, I was watching the undercard of what turned out definitely not to be the fight of year when my intern, Ren, called.
The Indians had just hit three homers and scored eight runs in the third inning and were well on their way to ending a four game slide.
“You have to call Curtis Danburg of the Indians,” she said. “Seriously, you have to talk to him.”
Curtis is the Indians Communications and Creative Services manager and our contact when we need access to the Tribe. See, since Ren’s return from college, the Indians are undefeated when she is at the ballpark and conversely every game I have been to this season the Indians have lost, except the one time I went with… Ren.
Many mock superstitions in sports but that doesn’t stop athletes and fans from believing in them. Some, like Ren, believe they can help their team win. Others, like my brother, believe the opposite.
My brother believes I am responsible for most of the sports heartache in this town. To be fair, the championship drought was already nearing a decade when I was born, but I took away his sports innocence and he has never forgiven me.
My brother is too young to remember the play in that 1981 playoff game that gave this column its name. However, he was a bubbly bright eyed 10-year old just getting into sports in 1986. He, like many of us, had worn out a 45 record copy of “Bernie, Bernie Super Bowl” that season.
In the final minutes of the AFC Championship game, Brian Brennan spilt two defenders to give the Browns the lead. After the kickoff the ball was on the two-yard line, so my brother started to dance and sing.
“Super Bowl! Super Bowl!”
I had to tell him.
I said, “There is a lot of time left. It’s not over. Stop singing.”
He got mad and said I had to have faith. Everyone knows what happened. If you were born in a bubble, just turn on ESPN Classic. I swear every time I turn that channel on there is either that game or the one I am going to talk about next.
Before game seven of the 1997 World Series, I told my brother that the game would be going to extra innings. That day there were over 20 family members at my Uncle’s house and only one had been alive the last time the Indians had won in 1948 and he was a baby. When the Tribe led by one heading into the ninth, it was me, however, my brother directed his passion at.
He called me an expletive and said he hated me. We were still up by a run at that point.
I suppose there are some benefits to my talent. My distaste for the Yankees has previously been expressed in this column. But after 9-11, my father and I both temporarily crossed over. When Jeter, Martinez and Brosius hit those late innings homers, I was transfixed. When the best closer in baseball, Mariano Riveria was on the mound in the ninth inning of the seventh game, I remembered thinking, “This is what it’s like to cheer for a winner.”
Of course, he blew the save, and the Yankees have not won a World Series since.
Last fall, I struck again. My alma mater, Lutheran West, made it to the state finals in volleyball. The Longhorns have never won a state championship in any recognized OHSAA sport. But in Dayton, they had humbled what many thought was the state’s best team in the semifinals.
West cruised through the first game and looked destined to be champions. Then my friend turned to me and said, “Are you crying?”
Of course I wasn’t. I must have just been allergic to something in the Arena’s air. But I did say, “I can’t believe one of my teams is actually going to win a championship.”
Naturally, she slugged me and slumped in her seat. It was all over.
On the long, silent depressing ride home, my brother called.
“Did they win?”
“They won the first game then dropped three in a row.”
“What did you do?” he accused.
“Why would you think I had done something,” I said. “I didn’t play in the game. I was in the stands.”
“What did you do?” he remained firm.
I have heard non-fans and superior sports-journalists mock those who think they are so important that they affect their team’s game.
However, self-fulfilling prophecy and other tales of doom and gloom are still abound. I wonder how many Red Sox fans used to sing full throat with beer in hand “To win just once” by the Saw Doctors just as we do. But even before their win, they had the Patriots and the Celtics. We have had nothing since 1948 and don’t insult me with indoor soccer.
One title, so I can walk away and get on with my life.
I wonder how many of those Red Sox fans are back to griping this year and no longer believe once was enough. Is complaining half the fun?
I have invested so much time into the Indians, Browns and Cavs. It’s a bit silly, but its like the woman who can’t stop playing her lottery numbers because if she does then they will hit the jackpot the next day.
I am no bandwagon jumper. I’ll sit through the bad times and slide over to make more room when we win.
When Tony Pena hit that home run in the rain against the Red Sox to end the first playoff Indians game in 47 years, my brother and I must have high-fived three thousand strangers. Literally, as we drove home on I-90, we were still slapping hands with people in their cars on the interstate.
And that was just one game. I want the big party. Just once.
I used to teach in Detroit and took several of my students to the Red Wings victory parade one year. A million people downtown celebrating together, watching that made it worse. It wasn’t mine and it didn’t count.
When Ohio State won, that was nice but I didn’t go to school there and have never been to a game. It didn’t count.
Championships are earned not deserved. Won on the field and not in the stands. It is all about the players.
Still, I will talk to Curtis Danburg about getting Ren to more games.
Just once, that would be enough.