Mark Story: If a Brit can win Wimbledon, there is hope for the Cubs and UK football

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJuly 8, 2013 

At the famed address Number 10 Downing Street Monday, British Prime Minister David Cameron raised a glass to tennis player Andy Murray.

When Murray, who was born in Scotland, won "the gentlemen's singles championship" Sunday at Wimbledon, he became the first citizen of the United Kingdom to do so since Fred Perry in 1936.

The victory salved a gaping wound in England's psyche. In winning, Murray "finally filled the greatest void in British sport's trophy cabinet," wrote The Daily Mail, a London tabloid.

It could be there are locales far removed from London, England, where they ought to lift a glass to Andy Murray. After three score and 17 years of futility, if a British man can win the singles title at Wimbledon then there is hope in every cursed outpost of the sports world.

There's hope now in Cleveland.

Has any locale ever suffered over sports like poor Cleveland? The city has not seen one of its major professional teams capture a championship since ex-University of Kentucky coach Blanton Collier led the Browns to the 1964 NFL title.

The Indians haven't won a World Series since 1948.

The Cavaliers have never won the NBA crown.

Rather than the championship, LeBron James gave the city "The Decision" — and took his talents to South Beach.

The old Browns gave Cleveland "The Drive," "The Fumble" and, most cutting of all, "The Exit" to Baltimore to become the Ravens.

Since their 1999 debut, the New Browns have never won a playoff game.

Just to rub salt into Cleveland's open sore, the city's old football team has gone on to win two Super Bowls while playing in Baltimore. Their old basketball star has gone on to claim two championships while playing for Miami.

Yet, if a British man can finally win Wimbledon after 77 years, all seems possible.

Maybe Kyrie Irving is the Andy Murray of Cleveland pro sports. Maybe it Is Trent Richardson. Heck, it could be Terry Francona with the streak-ending magic he had in Boston.

There's hope now in (and near) Chicago.

In the greater Windy City resides not one but two of America's more dispiriting streaks of sports futility.

The Big Ten's Northwestern University has never sent a team to the men's basketball NCAA Tournament. Some quality basketball coaches — Tex Winter, Bill Foster, Kevin O'Neill, Bill Carmody — have passed through Evanston trying to get Northwestern to the college hoops promised land. None have succeeded.

In Chicago proper, of course, there is the mac-daddy of American sports heartbreak.

The last time the Chicago Cubs won the World Series, Teddy Roosevelt was U.S. president, World War I had not happened and Tinker, Evers and Chance were playing for the Cubs.

Since 1908, the Cubs have given the world the goat curse, the great regular-season collapse of 1969, the great playoff collapse of 1984 and Bartman.

Yet, if a British man can finally win Wimbledon after 77 years, all seems possible.

Maybe new Northwestern coach Chris Collins, the former Duke guard and longtime assistant coach under Mike Krzyzewski, is the Andy Murray of Northwestern basketball.

Could it be that Cubs President Theo Epstein — the baseball executive who built the team that ended the Boston Red Sox' 86 years of world championship futility — is the Andy Murray of Chicago baseball?

There's now even hope in Lexington, Ky.

Even with some recent success in busting negative streaks, the University of Kentucky football program remains a target-rich environment for ugly skids that need to be snapped.

Since the Southeastern Conference split into divisions in 1992, Kentucky has never posted a winning record against East Division foes.

Kentucky has not beaten its intra-division rival Florida since 1986.

UK has not had an overall winning mark in SEC games since 1977.

Kentucky has not won or shared a Southeastern Conference football championship since 1976.

The Wildcats have not played in a major bowl game since Jan. 1, 1952 (Cotton Bowl).

Yet, if a British man can finally win Wimbledon after 77 years, all seems possible.

The new Kentucky Wildcats football coach has a famous last name and abundant recruiting ties into the talent-rich states of Ohio and Florida.

Can Mark Stoops do for UK what Andy Murray did Sunday for the UK?

Mark Story: (859) 231-3230. Email: mstory@herald-leader.com. Twitter: @markcstory. Blog: markstory.bloginky.com

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