An exclusive study! We determine the fans who’ve had it the roughest based on championship droughts, franchises leaving town and more.
I was watching the Super Bowl earlier this year with a friend from Seattle. After they won the title, I asked if that made up for everything: The Super Bowl loss a few years earlier… the great Mariners teams of the past few decades that never quite made it to the World Series… and most of all, for the Supersonics getting ripped away in such a sadistic way. He unequivocally answered “Yes.” And it was official. Seattle fans had jumped off the list of tortured sports fans and onto the list of gilded ones.
Well, how lovely for them.
I decided to take a shot at figuring out America’s most tortured sports cities and, since this seems to be the “onion in your belt” of 2014, I figured I should do it with numbers rather than emotions.
After toying around with what tortures a city’s sports fans the most, I came up with these five criteria:
(1) Total championships per capita (bigger cities require more championships to be satisfied)
(2) Years since last championship (or, for cities that have never won, years since the oldest current franchise was founded)
(3) Modern success: Championships since 2000 (starting with the St. Louis Rams Super Bowl win in 1/2000)
(4) World Series, Super Bowl/NFL Championship, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Finals losses (since the only moments I’ve ever cried after sporting events are after championship losses, I think it’s fair to say it’s worse to get there and lose than never get there at all)
(5) Franchises that have skipped town in the last 50 years
I ranked the 41 U.S. metro areas (NY/NJ are combined, as are SF/Oakland/San Jose) with at least one MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL team in those five categories, then totaled up their rankings to come up with these, the 11 most tortured sports cities in the U.S.
Update: Corrected an error with Kansas City which moved them from sixth to fifth.
11 | Charlotte
Charlotte has zero championships — but also not that much skin in the game. Since the basketball team left and came back as an expansion team, their drought on their current teams winning titles only goes back to when the Panthers were founded 19 years ago.
Still, zero total championships in city history, a Super Bowl loss and a team skipping town are enough to land them on the list… juuuuust inching out Salt Lake City. On the plus side, the Hornets are back, teal never left and they never have to speak of the Bobcats again.
10 | Cincinnati
Cincinnati won a championship in 1990 which doesn’t seem like that long ago — but the 24-year gap ranks 32nd overall on the drought list. (In other words, 31 cities, or more than 75 percent of U.S. cities with pro sports teams, have won at least one championship since the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series.) They also lost one franchise; Cincinnati is one of four cities that hot potatoed around the basketball franchise that’s now stabilized as the Sacramento Kings. And by “stabilized,” I mean, “constantly trying to leave.”
9 | Houston
I was surprised to see Houston show up here since I still have visions of Hakeem Olajuwon winning those two titles in such dominating fashion. But that was almost 20 years ago and since then, very quietly, Houston sports haven’t done much of anything — other than losing the Oilers and finding themselves elbows deep in the Astros’ adventures in mega-tanking. It’s also a very big city without many titles (just four total championships for a population north of 5.5 million).
8 | Milwaukee
Milwaukee is here because of a fairly anonymous championship game history; two championship wins and three losses means the teams mostly aren’t involved. Milwaukee misses you, Jack Sikma.
7 | Minneapolis
It’s impressive that Minneapolis got here even though this study didn’t factor in things like missed field goals derailing 15-1 NFL seasons, David Kahns per capita or total number of lakes for sex boat rides. The most recent championship was the Twins in 1991, the city lost the North Stars, and Minnesotans have endured eight total championship losses, including four in the NFL.
6 | Buffalo
Can’t make a list like this without Buffalo. Its most recent championship was in 1965; only Cleveland’s drought is longer. They lost their NBA franchise in 1978 as it moved to San Diego to become the Clippers and never got one back. But, as any Buffalo fan will tell you, that’s just window dressing to the four consecutive Super Bowl losses.
Out of curiosity, I decided to re-run the numbers with Buffalo winning one of those four Super Bowls. I had them beat the Cowboys in 1993 and changed all numbers accordingly. And… it only moved Buffalo to the 11th most tortured sports city. Still would’ve made the list. (Dallas moved from 17th most tortured to 16th.) Is it a consolation prize that winning one of those Super Bowls two decades ago would’ve still left everyone miserable today?
5 | Kansas City
Kansas City is the only city on this list to have three franchises skip town in the past half-century (the A’s to Oakland in 1968, the Scouts to Denver in 1976 and the Kings to Sacramento in 1985). I’m telling you — everyone got a shot at the Kings at some point. KC also only has two total championships in its history, the most recent of which was in 1985.
4 | Atlanta
The most glaring number for Atlanta is just one championship — that lone World Series win in 1995. I still have nightmares about that World Series. Glad we could make things so wonderful for you, Atlanta. The city has also had two franchises leave in the past 50 years, most recently the Thrashers. (It also had World Championship Wrestling leave. And Freaknik. And Jermaine Dupri. Tough, tough run for Atlanta.)
3 | Washington, D.C.
This has nothing to do with the Redskins controversy, although it’s a pretty notable coincidence that the four cities with controversial Native American team names are all in the bottom five on this list.
D.C. has seven total championships but none since the Super Bowl in 1991. Meanwhile they’ve lost two franchises and lost in *twelve* championship match-ups.
2 | Cleveland
I guess I’m glad we didn’t finish last, lest I be accused of shenanigans — but anything above second-to-last would’ve rendered this list a farce. The resume is stunning: The longest title drought of any city at 50 years, 11 championship losses, and two franchises skipping town (the Browns, famously, and the NHL’s Barons MUCH less famously). So who could be worse off than that?
1 | San Diego
I didn’t really see it coming, but the numbers are there. Zero championships ever. The Padres started in 1969 and the Chargers in 1970 — no other team with zero championships has had teams for close to that long. (Salt Lake City is closest; it got the Jazz in 1979, a full 10 years after San Diego got the Padres). San Diego had two NBA franchises and lost both (the Rockets and Clippers). No wonder no one wants to move or visit there.
Edit from the future: Check out the 11 least tortured sports cities and the spreadsheet ranking all 41 cities.