The Sock 'Em, Bust 'Em Board Because that's our custom

Cleveland: The new West Virginia? Or vice versa?

Today was not a good day in that it involved waking up knowing my Cleveland Indians were done and that since the “Major League” DVD would be put away for a few more months the giddy, random viewings of Rick Vaughn’s entrance would have to stop.

(Excuse me for a moment … )

Anyhow, I’ve been completely demoralized once again by the Indians. It’s a pattern and, to be completely honest, I’ve learned to know better than look forward to something good happening. It is the most unsettling feeling imaginable to lead the American League Championship Series 3-games-1 and not only fear the absolute worst case scenario, but to expect it and not allow yourself to embrace compliments for how well your team has played or to even wonder what might happen if, for once, you got a break.

And then when that worst case scenario arrives … well, let’s just say I went to the dentist today and actually enjoyed myself. 

I’m pretty much a fan of everything Cleveland, to the point I tout the medical virtues of the Cleveland Clinic when someone will listen (first successful larynx transplant!). Because of this, though, I’m a total pessimist. It’s sad, but it’s true, much the same way it’s sad, but true that absolutely nothing has gone our way in 69 years. Really, LeBron James is perhaps the best thing to happen to us in far too long and we were delighted to see him show up to support the Indians in the division series against the New York Yankees.

Well, until we learned he was an unabashed Yankees fan!

That’s what it’s like. And so for a day, at least, I can sympathize with what I’ve witnessed and called the “WVU syndrome” the past few years.

We all remember The Curse of  the Bambino, which allegedly kept the Boston Red Sox from winning the World Series for 86 years. The Curse of the Billy Goat has kept the Chicago Cubs from winning one since 1908. We’ll, we’re working on 59 years here with two (is it three now?) oh-so-close calls in the past 12 years that make this latest meltdown all the more painful.

Yet no one has heard of The Curse of Rocky Calavito. The worst part is that it covers just baseball. Our relationships to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Cleveland Browns have been as rewarding as Pam Anderson’s to Tommy Lee.

The Drive. The Shot. The Fumble. The Sweep.

The hell?

My work has sometimes put me in an awkward position with my wife and my friends who are fans and/or graduates of WVU. When something bad happens to their Mountaineers, something bad happens to them. I’ve had a hard time seeing where they’re coming from in their suffering, basically because of a professional stance, but also because I refuse to believe I’m so close to two … is it two cursed establishments?

Are the Mountaineers cursed? Do their fans expect the worse and celebrate when they get anything else? Did it begin with Major Harris’ injury early in the Fiesta Bowl? Was it before then, when Jerry West’s half-court heave at the buzzer nearly went in, but couldn’t save WVU from losing the national championship game in 1959.

And remember, West was pretty good at that shot.

Or maybe this is The Curse of the Dead Fish. In January 1970, a Pitt fan threw a dead fish onto the court in a game WVU would win 67-66 in overtime. That March, Pitt beat WVU in the final game at the Mountaineer Fieldhouse.

Since then, you had not only the Harris injury, but the unraveling of another unbeaten season in a  41-7 loss to Florida in the 1993 Sugar Bowl. There was the South Florida loss this year and the Louisville loss last year. There was the blocked punt against Miami in 1996, Kellen Winslow’s catch against Miami in 2003 and John Pennington’s uncharacteristic drop at the goal line against Virginia Tech in 2004. Oh, and the bowl losses, eight in a row and 11 of 12 between 1987 and 2004.

Basketball hasn’t had a much kinder fate and in just the past few years there was Kenton Paulino’s shot to win it for Texas in the 2006 Sweet 16 and Louisville’s wild comeback to advance to the Final Four in 2005. Notre Dame won at the buzzer in the 2004 Big East Tournament as WVU lost its seventh straight game in the event.

It’s spooky and probably the best reason not to believe in curses. Yet it’s there and that helpless feeling you have as you exist unprotected beneath a roof that’s about to collapse just never goes away. They say there’s always next year, but what does it matter when the next year is like all the ones before it?