Now, here me out before you roll your eyes and hit the "back" button on your laptop. The last time the Browns won a championship was the year of my birth, 1964. Coincidence? Perhaps. But consider this: I've been a serious Browns fan since the early 80's. Many of those years, particularly in the 80's, the Browns actually had some good seasons. They even won enough games to make it to the play-offs a few times. Those were ALL the years when I wasn't living in Cleveland and was unable to watch the games live. Guess what happened when I went home for Christmas and was able to catch those play-offs? You guessed it...HEART-ACHE!!! Same goes for my college team. Syracuse actually had a decent football program the years before I attended there. They've been dreadful ever since. But my talent for certain doom is not limited to football alone. Alan and I were enormous fans and season ticket holders for the Orlando Magic, the city's professional basketball team. They were historically pretty bad, making it to the play-offs only once or twice, always being eliminated in the first round. Always, that is, until just three short months after I moved out of town. What happened then, you ask? THEY WENT TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP!! See a pattern forming here?
So, as I wallow in self-pity today, I've been thinking a lot about luck and superstition. You always hear in show business that success has very little to do with talent and everything to do with chance. Right place, right time equals fame and fortune. Whenever I actually booked a gig, I'd always wear the same outfit and go through the same routine in preparation for the next audition, trying to recreate the magic that had allowed the previous achievement. It never worked the second time. The theater world is dripping with superstition. Whistling in the dressing room is completely forbidden, as is mentioning the name "Macbeth" in any area of the theater. If you make the mistake of committing either one of these offenses, you must immediately run outside, twirl around three times, spit through your fingers, curse, and ask for permission to re-enter. Everybody knows it's bad luck to wish someone good luck before a show, instead we say, "Break a leg," apparently hoping we will somehow confuse the Theater Gods and success will prevail! Weird, huh?
The sporting world has it's own idiosyncrasies when it comes to reversing luck. Baseball players frequently don "rally caps" when they are attempting a come-from-behind victory. This is when the players on the bench turn their caps inside out, wear them backwards, wear them so the bill sticks up like a shark fin, and even stick their gum (with blown-bubble still intact!) on the outside of them. They'll do whatever works to ensure runs on the board!!
I decided to look on-line at some other sport superstitions. Here's some real doozies I found: In fishing, the fish may not bite if a barefoot woman passes you on the way to the dock. In golf, you should start only with odd-numbered clubs. Players in ice-hockey must put their pads and skates on in exactly the same order every day, otherwise bad luck will follow. Participants in tennis must avoid wearing the color yellow, and in the rodeo, you must always put your right foot into the stirrup first. Otherwise you are doomed.
Superstition has actually produced belief in some pretty juicy curses in the sporting world. Everyone with a television set has heard of the Boston Red Sox's "Curse of the Bambino." It all began in 1919 when the five-time championship-winning Red Sox traded all-star Babe Ruth (aka The Bambino) to a hapless, losing New York Yankees team. The Red Sox never won another championship, but The Babe led the Yankees to dozens of World Series victories, thereby making fan attendance multiply so greatly that a new stadium was erected and quickly nicknamed "The House That Ruth Built." Poor Boston tried everything to "Reverse the Curse" over the years, but the elusive championship was never a reality. Not, that is, until 2004, when Boston finally won their first World Series in eight-six years. How did they do it? Many site the appearance of the lunar eclipse that evening, something that had never happened before in the championship's history. Others say it was because Edgar Renteria, the Cardinals player who hit into the final out of the game, wore the #3 jersey, same as The Bambino. Most people believe that it was because 2004 was the year the Yankee organization announced plans to tear down "The House That Ruth Built" and erect a brand new stadium, thus angering the Baseball Gods.
Chicago Cubs fans have never witnessed a championship. They are convinced that this is all because in 1945, Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave a World Series game at Wrigley Field because his pet goat's odor was bothering other fans. Outraged, Billy left, but on the way out he declared, "Them Cubs, they aren't gonna win no more." They've been terrible ever since. The fans have tried everything, from bringing live goats into the stadium to leaving the corpses of dead goats hanging from statues outside the stadium (not sure how that last one is supposed to help!) to help remove the jinx, all to no avail.
I'm willing to believe that in addition to my own bad luck, there may also be a curse that the Cleveland Browns are enduring. In 1962, new owner Art Modell (see afore-mentioned Satan reference) fired coach Paul Brown, the frigging NAMESAKE of the team. Paul was more popular in Cleveland than Art was, and he couldn't have this. Paul left heartbroken and drove a little ways south to form the Cincinnati Bengals, who later participated in two Super Bowls. Ask me how many Cleveland's been to...
Cleveland's dripping in bad luck. Our players are plagued with injuries while other teams seem to thrive. A few years back Pittsburgh's awesome QB Ben Roethlisberger was in a horrific motorcycle accident when he crashed while not wearing a helmet. He was terribly hurt, but managed a full recovery and never missed a game of the upcoming season. That same year, on the first play of the first day of training camp, Cleveland's all-pro star center, LeCharles Bentley, stepped into a small hole in the field, tore his patellar tendon and was placed on the disabled list for two seasons. All the sports doctors agreed it was an extremely rare, freak injury, but a devastating one nonetheless. The Browns eventually dropped Bentley from the roster.
Everybody loves to talk about the brilliant coach Bill Belichick, the multiple Super Bowl-winning coach of the New England Patriots. He's been called a genius, the best coach of the decade, possibly our lifetime. Everyone forgets that before he signed with New England, Belichick coached the Cleveland Browns. He was terrible. We won very few games and was just an overall unpleasant, surly man. We eventually fired him. What happened? I believe it's solely because Joan Donnelly-Emery is not a New England fan, she roots for the Browns. Bill never stood a chance in Cleveland.
So, as I was ruminating about all of this during half time of that depressing game yesterday, Alan sat down next to me on the couch. He grabbed my hand, looked into my eyes and told me that he didn't know about the Browns, but that I had been a tremendous good luck charm for HIM. He told me that since he's been with me, he's acquired jobs that have allowed him to pursue his dream of traveling the world and he's been the recipient of several promotions that have earned him more money than he ever thought he'd make. He told me that because of the luck I've brought him, he's been able to share his days with the love of his life and the girl of his dreams, and he wouldn't trade any of it for anything. (Sigh!)
With that, I grasped my sweet husband's head between both my hands and placed a soft kiss on his handsome face. Then, in a gentle, tender voice, I said to my Beloved, "Knock it off with the luck-siphoning, already!! My team needs me!!"
So, what do YOU think? I've decided I honestly don't know. Is our fate wrapped-up in some kind of unseen force that can control who succeeds and who fails? Was I simply not talented enough to fulfill my dream of performing on Broadway, or did I completely jinx myself for life that day I accidentally whistled in my college dressing room? Is Babe Ruth and an odiferous goat really responsible for a team's multi-decade long losing streak, or were the players just not skilled enough to get the job done?
As a Christian, I'm told to believe that fate is in God's hands, and that He controls the outcome. But, I'm not so sure this belief can be applied in sports. I mean, players on both sides of the ball are kneeling down in the locker room before each game praying for their team to reign victorious that day. I figure it's a wash. Except, of course in the case of my team. I don't know why, but for some reason, God, Babe Ruth, a goat, Macbeth, a black cat, spilled salt, and broken mirrors all REALLY hate the Cleveland Browns.
Thanks for reading!!