Sports miracles do happen. Proof positive came Sunday night in Oakland, when the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Golden State Warriors 93-89 in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to end the city of Cleveland’s 52-year absence from championship celebrations.
No longer can you chide your pals from Northeast Ohio with comments about 1964 and all of the near-miss could’ve-beens that have wreaked havoc on their collective sports psyche.
Now those attentions can be further turned inward to ourselves.
It’s been since 1990 — when the Reds swept the Oakland A’s in the World Series — that Cincinnati has been able to lay claim to a championship at the top levels of professional sports. That 26-year span may seem like an eternity, but it’s not the longest current championship drought for a city in North America.
There are four leagues (MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL) that are considered “major” in term of professional sports across the United States and Canada — although with the growth of soccer and this being the 20-year anniversary of the birth of MLS, that consideration could be changed to five.
Before the Cavaliers’ victory, a team from Cleveland hadn’t won one of these titles since the Browns won the 1964 NFL championship with a 27-0 victory against the Baltimore Colts.
With the Reds in rebooting mode, the Bengals offer the best chance for a Fountain Square celebration. They’ve had their opportunities, but there have been eight straight losses in the postseason — including the current streak of five straight years in the first round — since the Bengals beat the Houston Oilers, 41-14 on Jan. 6, 1991 in an AFC wild card game.
As Cleveland fans can now attest, it’s the heartache that makes a championship all that much sweeter.
Here’s a list of cities that, like Cincinnati, have a team in at least two of the four major sports that have gone longer than Cincinnati without celebrating a title:
San Diego (1963): Chargers won the AFL title… The Chargers were blown out in the one Super Bowl (1994) they reached, while the Padres have lost twice in the World Series (1984, 1998).
Buffalo (1965): Bills won the AFL title… The Bills most famously lost four consecutive Super Bowls (1990-93) but the NHL’s Sabres also have lost twice in the Stanley Cup Final (1975, 1999) since coming into existence in 1970.
Milwaukee (1971): Bucks win the NBA title behind Oscar Robertson… They’ve only been back to the Finals once since, while the Brewers lost the one World Series (1982) they reached. (Sorry, not counting the Green Bay Packers, even though a regional favorite.)
Other cities aren’t far behind Cincinnati in terms of fan frustration. Given the fact they’ve got teams in three or all four leagues, their headaches may be hurt more than Cincinnatians.
- It’s been since 1993 that the Toronto Blue Jays won the second of two straight World Series titles.
- The twin cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul have been waiting since 1991 when the Twins beat the Braves for the World Series championship.
- Speaking of the Braves, they won Atlanta’s lone major sports title in 1995, adding to Cleveland’s agony with a World Series win in six games.
- Washington hasn’t had anything but presidential parades since the Redskins won the Super Bowl on Jan. 26, 1992.
The end of Cleveland’s drought continues a trend that’s gone on the past few years. Kansas City saw its 30-year streak end last fall when the Royals won the World Series. The Seattle SuperSonics won the NBA title in 1979. It wasn’t until 35 years later, when the Seahawks beat Denver in the Super Bowl in February 2014, that Seattle again celebrated a sports championship.
The Cavaliers’ victory on Sunday came against the defending NBA champs, a Golden State team that the season prior had won the city of Oakland’s first championship in 26 years.
There is hope for Cincinnati.