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We used to think this couldn't happen.

Sports droughts are running low



Check Wimbledon off the list. The ongoing British quest to claim a first men's -- sorry -- gentlemen's singles title since 1936 at last ended Sunday with Scotsman Andy Murray's victory over top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

I'm not sure I've ever sat down to watch a Wimbledon match for reasons of wondering whether a Brit would win it, but then again I'm not British. Still, it has been a running storyline at Wimbledon for as long as I've been watching it, and I go back to the McEnroe-Borg classic in 1980.

At least it was something to talk about, whether or not Murray, or before him Tim Henman, would end the drought. But now he has so what's next? When was the last time a Frenchman won it? Or a Cuban? Or for that matter, an American?

What will Wimbledon talk about now?

We've seen a lot of famous sports droughts end in the last decade. A lot of teams or players or even people of certain nationalities or ethnicities have done what for a good while we collectively surmised they were incapable of doing: winning a title. And it's either made for a great story or ruined one, one of the two.

** The Boston Red Sox blew apart the so-called "Curse of the Bambino" with their World Series title in 2004, and for good measure added another win in 2007.

** For the first half of his career, Peyton Manning couldn't win the big one. And then he did, in 2006.

** LeBron James just wasn't, you know, "clutch" enough, until he was, winning the last two NBA titles with Miami.

And so on. Europeans don't win golf's U.S. Open, but now they've won three of the last four. European captains can't win the Stanley Cup, and then Nicklas Lidstrom does. Jim Boeheim doesn't know how to win the big one, and then, in 2003, he wins it. (That was 10 years ago already?) We fudged the unwinnable Grand Slams of golf and tennis with Tiger Woods and Serena Williams, but no one could win four straight majors, until they did.

Phil Mickelson, his mettle long questioned in the big events, has won four majors!

Dome teams have won Super Bowls. Wild-card teams have won Super Bowls and World Series. An eight-seed won the Stanley Cup! 

Is there anything left to wonder about?

I suppose there is. The Chicago Cubs haven't won since 1906 and they're not about to win either. The city of Cleveland is still looking for its first major sports title since 1948, and there have been some famous close calls.

And, oh look, there's Buffalo.

I've said it before, I like these droughts. They keep things interesting. You can talk about and wonder whether or not a certain athlete or team is flawed in an irreparable way.

Wimbledon is a good test for me, in a way. I enjoy watching tennis and always have. It's a big sport in my house. Through the 1990s I often watched the big tournaments, but not always.

Then, in 2003, Roger Federer showed up on the scene and changed everything.

The shots Federer could hit were indescribable for their difficulty, yet he pulled them off with style. Yes, Federer has won more Grand Slam tournaments than any other man, but I don't think it's that that lines analysts up to call him the best ever. It's his shot-making. He raised the game.

Djokovic and of course Rafael Nadal have beaten Federer more than their fair share of times. But neither carries the same amount of flair or genius onto the court, and, likewise, neither is as enjoyable to watch.

So now, as Federer gradually disappears from the top ranks, it feels to me and many others that the game has lost something. It's not as fun to watch without him, and I dare say it's also less fun than it was before he showed up because of how the standard changed.

And now this Murray storyline is dead. He can win majors, and has. Even Wimbledon. I guess for that one you don't have to watch anymore.

If you really love a sport, you probably don't need these catchy angles like droughts to draw you in. You'll watch it anyway and imagine what could come next. But the subtractions of these stories test my passion for sports, and often I end up wondering whether I love them much at all.

I've often said, while it's been frustrating to put up with Buffalo's sports inadequacies over time, I'm glad still to have the championship chase to care about. Once we win one, I don't expect to care about it as much. My whole ethos in Buffalo sports is and always has been built on how we've never won a title. Crack that and all bets are off.

Still, you have to root for that.

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