On Friday, May 13, I was having dinner with friends and the subject turned to superstitions. When my turn came I fessed up: I am a sports jinx. Or at least I feel like one. Tonight is one of the biggest games in recent Cleveland sports history: Game 6 of the NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals and I am not watching.
I have gone so far as to check the score: Cleveland is up 37-29 with just under 9 minutes left in the 2nd Quarter.
Now I realize the utter ridiculousness of my feeling. It’s not really me. But it sure feels like it sometimes.
I also realize that a big part of the problem is being a Cleveland sports fan: Cavs, Browns, Indians. But I’ve never been one to give up on the teams I grew up with.
ESPN recently did a documentary called Believeland about the long history of sports disappointment in Cleveland. I went to the premiere during the Cleveland International Film Festival. The filmmakers almost got it right–and like the Browns they left the story on the one yard line.
They documented they disappointments, athletic, economic, and social. They had a father and son at a diner counter as the narrative element. But it just missed explaining why in the world Cleveland sports fans keep coming back. They missed the threads about place, and migration and tradition and identity.
The flip side to missing that is that you can take the gloom and doom too seriously. Which I sometimes do. The Cavs went 10-0 in the playoffs and then lost two straight to the Toronto Raptors. I went to work on Tuesday thinking, “Is this how it ends? Is this it?”
Then the Cavs came back and beat Toronto by 38 points on Wednesday: that’s more like it.
No, I did not watch that game. I was riding home from the airport and checking the score on my phone. That felt pretty risky.
So tonight I’ve decided to wait until the second half. If we’re still up by double digits, I might tune in.
That feels pretty risky, too.
A couple of years ago Budweiser did a commercial which is remembered as the “Basement Commercial.” It’s part of the “Whatever it takes” series of ads about sports superstitions. In the “Basement,” a guy’s friends banish him to the basement because whenever he goes there the team scores.
I know how he feels.
If things go badly after I start watching, I can always turn the game off and hope they recover.
Wish me–and Cleveland–luck.