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Drought breakers

It’s been an incredible year in sport.

Leicester won the EPL with a 16 million pound squad, the Cleveland Cavaliers led by LeBron James ended a 52-year drought for the city and the Western Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks completed the most unlikely double in our major winter codes.

Take a look at some of the other great droughts in sport.

I’ll start with a disclaimer. This is my favourite list of drought breakers (and some unbroken) and the reasons why, not the essential list.

10. Liverpool

I know this drought hasn’t been broken yet, but as a fan I’m living it and with them currently sitting two points off top this could be the year! Liverpool haven’t won the league since 1990. As a club that has won 18 league titles – second to only Manchester United – 26 years is a long drought. The Reds won five titles in both the 1980s and 1970s and became accustomed to success, but it hasn’t come easily of late.

9. England cricket team in 2005

Heading into the 2005 Ashes, Australia had held the little urn for 16 years and eight consecutive series. Up against an Australian team that appeared at it’s apex England won the series 2-1.

8. Phil Mickleson

Having won a PGA Tour event as an amateur in 1991 and in the pre-Tiger Woods era, Phil was the next big hope of American golf. Unfortunately it took 47 attempts – including nine top-three finishes and three runner-up finishes – before he broke through at major level at the 2004 Masters. Since then Mickleson has gone on to win four more. There might be hope for Sergio Garcia yet. Sergio Garcia has 22 top-10s from 73 starts in majors. 

7. 2007 Geelong Cats

43 years in the making, Geelong finally broke through in 2007 with Gary Ablett Jnr and co. There were five losing Grand Finals between 1963 and 2007 to add to the heartache. Anyone who has been to Geelong will tell you how footy mad the place is, which added to the mystique.

6. 2005 Sydney Swans

The Swans ended what was the longest Premiership drought in Australian football when they won the first flag for Sydney/South Melbourne since 1933. It was back when we liked the swans before the Bondi Billionaires, their Academy and COLA. The fact they were relocated and rebranded takes away some of the romance.

5. Boston Red Sox

When the Red Sox beat the Yankees in miraculous fashion in the 2004 ADCS they still had to win the World Series to end 86 years of frustration. They did so with a win over St Louis and broke The Curse of the Bambino. The curse was born in 1918 when they had won five World Series – more than any other franchise at the time – but then sold their star player Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees and watched the previously lacklustre Yankees become the most successful franchise in the sport. 

4. Cronulla Sharks

Fans in the Shire had to endure fifty years and three losing Grand Finals before they finally got their moment against the Melbourne Storm. The story was best immortalised by the Godfather of rugby league of Jack Gibson when he said: ‘waiting for Cronulla to win a Premiership is like leaving your porch light on for Harold Holt.’ Last week people in the shire left their porch lights on all week in the lead up to the Grand Final.

3. The Western Bulldogs

It’s hard not to be a prisoner of the moment with the Bulldogs flag. I sat at a 2014 Women in football function with women in their 60s who were born and raised Footscray people, still live there, go to training every week and every game in Melbourne. The club was on its knees then with Brendan McCartney sacked and Ryan Griffin departing. The ladies had never seen their club win a Premiership and any hope of it looked a long way off. In 2016 they got to live it. The Dogs first flag since 1954 in their first Grand Final since 1961.

2. Cleveland

This is the whole city of Cleveland in north-east Ohio. When the Cavs came from 3-1 down in the Finals against the best regular season team of all time, led by a manic LeBron James, two of his biggest playoff performances and iconic Finals moment, The Block, it ended a 52-year drought. Fans in Cleveland were convinced the city was cursed. They even had a list of moments that had gone against them The Catch, The Move, The Drive, The Fumble and The Decision. In the end it was the homecoming king from Akron, Ohio who ended the drought. You could make a case that given if you were an Ohio native who supported the Browns, Cavs and Indians, none of your teams have won for 52 years this should be number one, but I couldn’t go past…

1. The Chicago Cubs

The Cubs haven’t ended this drought yet, but I can feel it. It’s been that kind of year with the Bulldogs, Leicester, Cronulla and the aforementioned Cavs. They’ve been the best team in baseball (the only to win 100 games) all year and are currently 2-0 up in their ALDS against the San Francisco baseball Giants. Whether you care for baseball or not – most won’t and FWIW less and less American’s are caring about their national pastime -108 years is a long, long time for a professional franchise to go without a title. The Cubs last even played in a World Series in 1945 (which they lost), but had they won it would still be the longest drought in professional baseball.

If the Cubs do win this year, they will have to overcome The Curse of the Billygoat, far and away my favourite and the most ridiculous sporting curse. Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was asked to leave game four of the 1945 World Series because his Billy Goat (named Murphy) was bothering other fans. He declared the Cubs were never going to win again. Better than even that story are the attempts to break the curse. My three favourite; 1. Allowing billy goats to graze the outfield all winter, 2. Sacrificing a billy goat and scattering its ashes across the outfield, 3. In 1983 – the year of the Goat – attempting (unsuccessfully) to enter a Cubs game in Houston with a goat.

And then there’s Steve Bartman. For the uninitiated, Bartman was watching the Cubs in 2003 as they made a charge in the playoffs. The Cubs were ahead in their best of seven series against the Florida Marlins 3-2 and leading game six 3-0. Needing only five more outs to win the game and head to the World Series, a number of fans including Bartman reached to catch a foul ball and Bartman knocked it out of outfielder Moises Alou’s glove. Instead of making the out, the Marlins scored eight runs in the innings and won 8-3. Needless to say the Cubs lost the decider. In the aftermath Bartman, a lifelong Cubs fan, had to be escorted out of the stadium under police guard and later placed under witness protection.

He is still in witness protection. Is Bartman watching the current playoffs? Is he cheering for or against the Cubs? Does he want them to win the World Series?

There’s a part of me that wants the Cubs to win with the hope Bartman will talk for the first time about how his life was destroyed. 

There’s no doubt for me if the Cubs win* *when they win, it will be the biggest drought broken in sport.