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Published: Thursday, 10/25/2007

Analysis: Forget the pain, Ohio sports rock

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Indians David Dellucci, left, and Jake Westbrook have a tough time watching the developments in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Red Sox in Fenway Park - part of The Collapse. Indians David Dellucci, left, and Jake Westbrook have a tough time watching the developments in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Red Sox in Fenway Park - part of The Collapse.
ELISE AMENDOLA / AP Enlarge

It hurts. I know it does.

The World Series is here, and once again the Cleveland Indians will not win it.

That's a familiar feeling for die-hard Tribe fans, who still burn with the pain of the disappointing end to this year's season and the nearly six decades of failure preceding it.

It could be a while before they're ready to appreciate the remarkable - even historic - year that this has been for Ohio sports, Cleveland in particular. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

For sports fans haunted by a history of painful loss (The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, and now, The Collapse) this was arguably the most successful year ever.

The Cleveland Cavaliers made it to the NBA Finals. Ohio State reached the national championship game in both football and basketball. And, of course, the Tribe was one win from the World Series.

That's domination, and Buckeye sports buffs have reason to be proud. It's a rare level of success in one year that any group of fans would envy. Try and find any that has matched it in the last decade. I couldn't.

The last time anything close to this happened in Ohio was more than 50 years ago in 1954.

In that year, Woody Hayes' Ohio State squad won a national title by going undefeated, helped by future Heisman winner Howard "Hopalong" Cassady. The Browns won a title thanks to the arm of Otto Graham. Not to be left out, the Indians won a 111 games and appeared in the World Series.

To most fans, that's all ancient history. They look at those days as a long-lost Golden Age. But here's the good news: We're living in a Golden Age right now.

Ohio State is a perennial contender in football and currently ranked No. 1 in the country. The basketball program continues to load up on talent. The Indians are a young, promising team, and as long as the Cavs have LeBron James they will be a force in the league. Even the Browns are on the upswing and talking about making the playoffs.

Any true Cleveland fan will be quick to point out that only their teams could manage to be in three finals in the same year and lose them all - by huge margins. The Cavs were swept by the Spurs, and Ohio State lost big to Florida in both football and basketball. You know what happened to the Tribe after being up 3 games to 1 over Boston.

Enough of that kind of talk. Time will dull those memories. It's time to appreciate the good ones from the past year, and there have been plenty. Here are five games from the last year to remember. If these once-in-a-lifetime moments don't bring a smile to your face, then you weren't paying attention.

1. Cavaliers 109, Pistons 107, 2OT. Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. James puts in a superhuman performance at the Palace of Auburn Hills, scoring 48 points, including 29 of the Cavaliers' last 30. James has two huge dunks in the last 32 seconds of regulation, the final one sending the game into overtime.

2. Indians 2, Yankees 1, 11 innings. Game 2 of the American League Division Series (Attack of the Midges). Millions of tiny bugs swarm Jacobs Field and rattle Yankees reliever Joba Chamberlain, who gives up the tying run in the eighth inning on a wild pitch. Travis Hafner ends the night with a bases-loaded, two-out RBI single.

3. Ohio State 78, Xavier 71, OT. Round 2 of the NCAA tournament. A Xavier player misses a free throw that would have iced the game, setting the stage for Ron Lewis to hit a 3-point bomb to tie it in the final seconds. Mike Conley Jr. scores 11 points in overtime to lead OSU to victory without star Greg Oden, who fouled out in regulation.

4. Ohio State 42, Michigan 39. Week 12. Meeting for the first time ever as No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, the rivals duke it out to the end. Troy Smith wraps up the Heisman Trophy when he throws for four touchdowns, and OSU running backs twice make touchdown sprints of more than 50 yards.

And because there's always hope in Cleveland, and the year isn't over yet:

5. Browns 51, Bengals 45. Week 2. A week after being humiliated against Pittsburgh, Cleveland has a 300-yard passer, a 200-yard rusher, and two 100-yard receivers for the first time since joining the NFL in 1950. Who knows? Maybe every major Cleveland team will make the playoffs this year.

Contact Ryan E. Smith at: ryansmith@theblade.com or 419-724-6103.



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