The five most miserable sports cities in America
And for some cities, unfortunately, this has been the norm for years. There are places where the prospect of rooting for a contender is foreign. Many of these locations have multiple professional franchises to root for or enjoy certain economic and geographic advantages but just can't seem to win, leaving their populations starving for a taste of success on the big stage. These are their stories:
Ten years ago things were great for Seattle sports fans. Ichiro had just taken the MLB by storm, the Sonics recovered well during the post-Gary Payton era, and Mike Holdmgren's Seahawks were a force to be reckoned with. During this run of competitiveness across three major sports, it looked like the city's title drought might actually come to an end. The only championship in Seattle history came in 1978-79 when the Sonics won the title, but Ichiro's Mariners or Shaun Alexander's Seahawks were sure to change that, right?
A lot can change in a decade. The Sonics are long gone now and the fact that the Thunder are an elite young team is salt in an open wound. And just this year, the Mariners literally had to move the fences in just hit like a major league team. The Emerald city has gone from a sports town on the cusp of greatness to just another city waiting for a ring.
Seattle would be higher on the list but they have hope. In the next few days, there's a real chance that sports fans in Seattle will forget about their problems if the NBA decides to permit the sale and relocation of the Sacramento Kings to Seattle. And the Seahawks have more momentum going into this season than any team in football with the way they finished 2012 and the moves they've made this offseason.
Additionally, the MLS has a massive presence in Seattle. The Sounders pack Century Link with fans and a Sounders game is as exciting a sporting event to attend as you're likely to find. So despite the turbulent sports decade they've had, there are definitely signs of life in Seattle.
In what is undoubtedly Basketball Country, Charlotte hoops fans have had a rough go of it. Located about 150 miles away from Tobacco road, they're left with the NBA to soothe their basketball cravings. And for a little while there it was going ok. Unfortunately that was more than a decade ago. In the 14 seasons that the Charlotte Hornets were in existence, they only had four losing seasons and from 1996 to 2002, they went to playoffs five times. And then, poof!, they're in New Orleans.
And since the NBA has returned to Charlotte in 2004, it's been ugly. They've had one winning season (where they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs) and have been a model of ineptitude since their formation. With the greatest basketball player ever at the helm and in such a basketball crazy part region, this franchise initially had promise but has done absolutely nothing to encourage their fan base since then.
The bright spot, it's sad to say, has been their NFL team. The Panthers made a trip to the Super Bowl in recent memory and even now have an iconic franchise player in Cam Newton. Too bad that hasn't resulted in many wins.
The "Rock and Roll Capital of the World" gets a lot of attention for being a depressed sports city, in part because the Cavs were victimized by Michael Jordan during his ascension. Then the city was embarassed on national television by the player that was responsible for the only on-court success that they had seen in years. Now, with the emergence of Kyrie Iriving, hope is returning but the squad is very much still in rebuilding mode.
The Indians have made the playoffs twice in the last 13 years and one of those times is remembered more for the 10 Plagues-esque sworm of insects than the for fact that the Tribe won the series.
And then there's the Browns. Is Phil Dawson the best player the new version of the Browns has ever had? Well, even if he was, he's a 49er now, so Browns fan are going to have to hope Trent Richardson is the real deal.
For Cleveland sports fans, recent history has been unkind. For this reason, they often top lists of worst sports cities, but they have something that dozens of other sports cities want: historical significance. Jim Brown is considered one of the greatest athletes of all time and Bob Feller is an American hero as well as a legendary pitcher. Lebron and Eric "Mangenius" Mangini may represent recent Cleveland sports history, but the city has other, albeit historic, reasons for sports pride.
2. Kansas City
Most of the cities on this list have something to fall back on. Maybe it's a franchise player to build around or historic successes to take pride in. Kansas City has neither. Sure, George Brett led them to a World Series title in 1985 and they got to watch the tail end of Joe Montana's career, but the rest has been pretty gruesome.
The Royals haven't even made the playoffs since that '85 season and have had only two winning seasons since joining the AL Central in 1994 (one of which was shortened due to the strike). The team has been stocked with top prospects for a few years now but cannot find a way to put the pieces together. They are one of several teams that follow the model of trying to compete with cheap, young talent, but for whatever reason, they are always the worst at it. And when their players do pan out - Carlos Beltran and Zach Greinke, for example - they don't even try to seize the moment, opting instead to save some cash and rebuild some more.
The Chiefs have been slightly more exciting, making the playoffs a whopping two times in the last ten years. They haven't won a playoff game since 1993 but they have seen some interesting and competetive teams in recent history. In 2003, the team started 9-0 and finished the year 13-3 behind the incredible play of Priest Holmes. Every few years since then, the Chiefs will have a season where they win nine or ten games and mislead the city into thinking that they have a chance to change their luck, only to falter again the next year. Now, two years after a 10-win season, the Chiefs are about to pick first in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Stay strong, Kansa City. Eventually these two franchises will put a consistent product out there. Until then, Sporting Kansas City and barbecue will have to suffice.
1. San Diego
It's hard to feel bad for people that live in San Diego with their perfect weather all year long, beaches, and world famous zoo. But with the annual disappointment that is the Chargers and the Padres being a perennial non-factor in the NL West, sports fans in San Diego have reasons to be upset.
The best thing you can say about the Chargers is that their powder blue jerseys are probably the best alternate jerseys in sports. Congratulations. The Chargers have had their chances, which makes being one of their fans that much more frustrating. They've had talented players like Ladanian Tomlinson, Junior Seau, and Antonio Gates as well as big-name coaches but have never reached the elite level. The closest they've gotten to the Super Bowl since '94 was hosting it in their stadium twice.
In the Padres 45 year history, they've made the playoffs exactly one time without Bruce Bochy as their manager. Bochy took the Dads to the postseason four times, including a World Series run in '98, but he's managing for a division rival now and has won two out of the last three World Series with his new team.
San Diego tops this list because of the potential of this city to succeed as a sports town. This west coast paradise is the largest city in the country to never win a major professional championship (8th largest population in the US) and with their current rosters, I wouldn't expect much to change over the next couple of years.
Buffalo: It's a city that is often at or near the top of this sort of list. Buffalo has suffered a lot but they did make it to three straight Super Bowls. Not a whole lot of teams can say that. And Buffalo is the 72nd largest city in the country, so it's not like we're talking about huge market potential here. That is not to diminish the agony that Bills fans have experienced, but sports fans in Buffalo might want to count their blessings while fans in Lincoln, Nebraska (#71 on the list of US cities by population) and Henderson, Nevada (#73) are team-less.
Portland: Some one-team cities have all the luck. Green Bay and San Antonio fans probably skip around and sing all day while Portland residents day dream about what could have been. Greg Oden and Brandon Roy were supposed to be the cornerstones of a perennial contender, if not a dynasty, before each suffering repeated unlucky and career threatening injuries and setbacks.
The bad luck goes back even further. Had they drafted MJ instead of Sam Bowie or if Bill Walton hadn't also been struck by the injury bug, the Rose Garden would have a lot more than one Championship banner hanging from the rafters. Portland didn't make the list of most miserable sports cities, but they would certainly top the list of Unluckiest Sports Cities.
Atlanta: Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. Well except in 1995. For a city that's had very competitive teams for the last two decades, they've accomplished very little. The Braves won a million NL East championships in a row, the Falcons dirty birded all the way to the Super Bowl, and the Hawks have made the playoffs six years in a row, but the city only has one championship to show for it. I feel sorry for the fans that have had high hopes only to see their teams fall short, but to be a miserable sports city your sports fans need to be MISERABLE not just disappointed.
What do you think about these rankings? Any cities out there that I forgot?