Ian Hunter’s tune “Cleveland Rocks” was made famous when it was played nightly across American TV screens as the upbeat introduction to the Drew Carey show. Now, as of the year 2016, thanks to the Cleveland Cavaliers those words have merit and meaning. LeBron James’ inspirational playoff performance steered the Cavaliers to their first ever National Basketball Association title and snapped a 52-year Cleveland sports team dry spell in the process. The curse had finally broken. Had the Governor of Ohio added something new to the water in Cleveland? What was going on over there?
For the superstitious folk, their prayers were further answered when in November, the Cleveland Indians had a chance to win Major League Baseball’s World Series for the first time in 68 years. I’m sure the good citizens of Cleveland thought it was a miracle, a certainty the curse that had crippled their sporting success for decades had finally been broken. Standing in the way of a 68-year drought were the improbable Chicago Cubs. The Cubs were a team even more plagued with a debilitating curse that had prevented them from winning a World Series. The Chicago Cubs hadn’t won the MLB World Series in 108 years – the longest drought in North American pro sport.
North American pro sport has this alluring charm and idiosyncratic romance that is so remarkably different to any other professional sport in the world. It is as if the playoff games have been written as a Hollywood script. And I am not a betting man, but needless to say, in the not too distant future the world can expect a Hollywood film of the Chicago Cubs fairy tale to be screening in a cinema near you. The decisive match in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series was no exception. By the bottom of the seventh innings, after experiencing an emotional game riddled with spills and thrills, it became apparent that the game would only be decided by an extra inning. Staying true to the status quo of a Hollywood script, the fairy tale was complete. The Chicago Cubs overcame the enervating 108-year curse to win the 2016 World Series.
The triumph of the Cubs instigated a significant change of the old guard; in the process of their win they had shifted the dubious honour of the longest drought in Major League Baseball to the Cleveland Indians – if Donald Trump cannot Make America Great Again, the fairy tales offered by American pro sport in 2016 certainly will. It has given people good reason to dare to dream again!
Turning my mind to the longest active droughts in professional sport, there are some notable ones that are worth pointing out. If it’s any consolation to the Cleveland Indians, and without sounding too cliché, there’s always next year. Hmmm … I know what you’re thinking. But these comments are not as cliché as they may seem, because the Indians have a lot to play for. You see, their 68-year drought is one year shy of equalling the record of the longest active drought between championships in North American pro sports. That momentous achievement is currently held by the Arizona Cardinals in the National Football League, who won their last championship a whopping 69 years ago in 1947.
Holding this particular overall record doesn’t come without drama and heartbreak. Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald came within a minute of ending that streak in 2007, but a six-yard Santonio Holmes touchdown off a Ben Roethlisberger pass with 35 seconds remaining in Super Bowl XLIII broke the hearts of Cardinals fans – perhaps, it was written in the script all along?
With the Cavaliers’ 2016 season playing to script to overcome the Golden State Warriors (with a 73-9 regular season record mind you), the Sacramento Kings now claim the overall title for longest drought between championships in the NBA. Their last win came 65 years ago in 1951 when they were the Rochester Royals.
Diehard Toronto Maple Leaf fans must recoil when they see the number 67. The last time the Maple Leafs hoisted the coveted Stanley Cup was all the way back in 1967. Like their sporting cousins the Arizona Cardinals, they’ve taken their fans along the hard road of defeat. The Maple Leafs have come close to reaching the Cup final a handful of times since their last championship, losing in the conference finals in 1993, 1994, 1999 and 2002. This 49-year stretch is the longest of any current NHL franchise – Oh Canada!
By the year’s end, 2016 will be synonymous with sporting accomplishments. Sporting achievement wasn’t just limited to the USA, but was experienced across the entire globe. The Land Down Under featured its very own fairy tale when the Western Bulldogs, an AFL club from the Melbourne suburb of Footscray, beat powerhouse club the Sydney Swans in the Grand Final to capture the heart of a nation. Before 2016 the Bulldogs held the longest current drought in any major Australian competition. It had been 62 years since the Bulldogs hoisted the trophy all the way back in 1954. However, as it now stands, the longest active streak is claimed by the St Kilda Football Club who have been waiting for 50 years since 1966 to claim the bragging rights of the AFL premiership.
On that same weekend another fairy tale was realised in Australia. After the Western Bulldogs made history just the day before, the stage was set for the National Rugby League Grand Final and the Cronulla Sharks had their chance to write themselves into the history books. No professional Australian rugby league team has been forced to wait until their 50th year for their first premiership. Being custodian of this record doesn’t come without heartbreak; they lost the 1973 and 1997 deciders, and even took the 1978 Grand Final to a replay after drawing with Manly. This dubious honour was bestowed on the Parramatta Eels after Cronulla’s memorable victory. It has now been 30 years since Parramatta won a premiership. In 1986, the Eels defeated their archrivals Canterbury-Bankstown 4-2 in the only try-less Grand Final.
In the English Premier League, Newcastle hold the overall record for longest time between drinks. The Magpies won the English title 89 years ago back in 1927 and the men from Gordy won’t be holding their breath any time soon after being relegated from Division 1 after a dismal 2015-16 season. Of course this streak could have ended on two occasions when The Magpies finished second in the league in consecutive years (1996 and 1997).
Leicester City has the greatest Cinderella story in the history of sport. On the planet. Period. They overcame extraordinary odds to claim their maiden English Premiership title in the 2015-16 season. This astronomical achievement took them 132 years to achieve, dating back to their inception as a football club in 1884.
The mighty All Blacks looked to extend their record breaking 18-match winning streak when they clashed with the fighting Irish at Chicago’s Soldier Field on 5 November 2016. There had been a century old hoodoo hanging over Ireland as they had never beaten New Zealand, dating all the way back to their inaugural test match in 1905. In a breathtaking upset, Ireland outscored the All Blacks to seal their win in a clash between the nations for the first time in 111 years. The Chicago crowd erupted in delight at the whistle as the Windy City, remarkably, celebrated the end of a second century-old hoodoo in the space of a few days, when the Chicago Cubs broke their 108-year World Series MLB curse – “luck of the Irish”.
This is worthy of mention: Scotland has never beaten the New Zealand All Blacks in an international Test Match. This drought spans 111 years, dating back to their inaugural match in the year 1905.