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Three’s company: The 3-1 lead is officially sports’ latest hex

The Thunder, the Warriors and the Indians are all too familiar with the pain of being on the wrong side of history in 2016

Just like that, in the year of the Lord in 2016 — the same year that has given us the most frustrating election in history, took Muhammad Ali and Prince from us, gave us incredible Arthur memes and read Vine its last rites — we now have sports’ newest and most fascinating curse: the 3-1 series lead.

Let’s backtrack first, though. Kudos to the Chicago Cubs for winning their first World Series since 1908. New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii hadn’t even become states yet! But we were this close from shirtless J.R. Smith becoming the new rally cap.

At approximately 10:40 p.m. on Wednesday, the Cleveland cult hero appeared from the abyss — think Sting from the WCW days — at Cleveland’s Progressive Field during Game 7 of the World Series. His presence alone sent Twitter into pandemonium, gave Cleveland Indians and Cubs fans heart palpitations louder than Questlove’s drum set and helped force the game into extra innings. Only months earlier did Smith’s near nudity unite a city celebrating its first professional championship since the days of Jim Brown, Sam Cooke and the civil rights movement. The Cleveland Cavaliers, of course, defeated the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. All summer long, social media (and LeBron James) refused to let anyone forget “The Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals.” The city, once known as a “factory of sadness,” had exorcised its demons and was on the verge of the impossible: two championships in less than six months.

Only Cleveland had no way of predicting that as sweet as that moment was in June, karma would be that much more bitter in November. The Indians blew a 3-1 lead in the World Series. And with the Cubs’ final out in the bottom of the 10th inning, a coincidence instantly graduated into a full-time curse.

As the city of Chicago celebrates and Cleveland focuses its attention solely on the Cavaliers — sorry, Cleveland Browns — an examination is in order. Here’s what we know for sure about the sports world’s latest hex.


  1. Somewhere Drake is breathing a sigh of relief. Between Johnny Manziel, a good-natured (but ill-advised) shot at James in the 2016 Eastern Conference finals and tonguing down Serena Williams last year — followed by her failing to complete the calendar Grand Slam with the 6ix God in attendance — our neighbor from the north had become a walking black cloud in sports. Not anymore, though! Well, actually, Drake was riding for the Warriors heavy last season, so maybe he’s not totally off the hook just yet.
  2. Speaking of the Warriors, they should feel free to crack on Cleveland. I’m 100 percent here for the astronomical levels of pettiness. I’m willing to bet Draymond Green and/or Klay Thompson wears a Cubs fitted to Oracle Arena Thursday night before their highly anticipated showdown with Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder. You know, the other team that blew a 3-1 lead this year. Trust and believe, though, the Warriors are still going to get these jokes. If Michael Jordan can simultaneously be the greatest player and meme of all time, the Warriors can surely be the greatest regular season team and punchline of all time.
  3. The Indians really missed out on a prime opportunity not bringing Kyrie Irving in to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth.
  4. Here’s a part of the 3-1 saga that hasn’t been discussed: Warriors fans can find sick pleasure in the Indians’ misfortune Wednesday night. They absolutely should. But as my boy David Dennis told me this morning, “I don’t feel any joy from that World Series. If anything, it just made me madder. Imagine the crippling sadness of Cleveland losing two Game 7s in the same year.”
  5. Perhaps James should’ve had a belated Halloween party. For as hilarious as the “3-1 Lead” drum and tombstone cookies for Stephen Curry and Thompson were, you have to believe that wasn’t great for karma.
  6. The Cleveland Indians, up 3-1 at the time, are responsible for the biggest fashion faux pas since Hilary Duff’s boyfriend had the brilliant, foolproof idea of dressing up as a Native American last weekend. The Indians wore the hats with the controversial Chief Wahoo logo. In Games 6 and 7, no less. Ask their brothers in bigotry to the east, The Washington Racial Slurs, you don’t need that type of juju! Not in the World Series.
  7. For all the jokes and newfound curses about 3-1 leads, let’s get one thing clear: I’d much rather my team have a 3-1 lead. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be more nervous than America on election night if they do.

Justin Tinsley is a culture and sports writer for The Undefeated. He firmly believes “Cash Money Records takin’ ova for da ’99 and da 2000” is the single-most impactful statement of his generation.