The Most Cursed Sports Cities in America
While most major American metropolises have at least one consistently successful sports franchise, some cities have been remarkably unlucky with all or most of their teams. Here are my picks for the top five most cursed sports cities in the United States. Minneapolis and Cincinnati were also considered. Seattle would have been as well, if not for the Seahawks’ recent Super Bowl triumph.
To be eligible, a city had to have at least two franchises from what are generally considered the four major pro sports leagues in the U.S. – the National Football League, National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. I’ve also mentioned Major League Soccer and Women’s Basketball Association teams when applicable. The commentaries for each city tend to be football-centric, because that’s my main area of expertise, but I’ve tried to include at least a tidbit of information about each city’s major pro sports squads.
Major Teams: Falcons (NFL), Braves (MLB), Hawks (NBA)
It’s no wonder that Atlanta sports fans have a reputation for pessimism and cynicism. “Hotlanta” has been a major sports city for many decades, but it has only one pro championship – the 1995 Braves’ World Series triumph. After years of excruciating near misses, the Braves had finally given the title-starved city something to cheer about.
Unfortunately, none of its teams have been able to build on that victory. Despite winning an NBA title in St. Louis in 1958, the Hawks have failed to come close to glory since their move to Atlanta a decade later. They have yet to even appear in the NBA Finals. Meanwhile, the Falcons have become known for frustrating postseason flameouts. They were also infamous for having never had two consecutive winning seasons, an embarrassing streak that finally ended five years ago.
Atlanta sports fans did get to experience a magical ride in 1998, as the “Dirty Birds”, led by running back Jamal Anderson shocked Minnesota in the NFC Championship Game to reach the franchise’s only Super Bowl. The Falcons were hammered by the Denver Broncos, but the city was so thrilled by the Super Bowl berth that they threw a parade for the team anyway. Sadly, the’98 squad proved to be a one year wonder. The Falcons seemed poised to return to the Super Bowl during the 2012 season, but they blew a seventeen point lead and lost to San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game.
Other Teams: Atlanta used to have an NHL team called the Thrashers. After struggling for twelve seasons, it moved to Winnipeg in 2012. They also had a hockey team named the Flames in the 1970’s. The city’s WNBA team, the Dream, has become known as the Buffalo Bills of the WNBA after repeatedly losing in the Finals.
4. Kansas City
Major Teams: Chiefs (NFL), Royals (MLB)
Kansas City Chiefs fans watched their team blow a 28 point lead against the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the NFL playoffs in January 2014. It was just the latest in a long history of disappointments for the team’s loyal but snake-bitten followers. Kansas City’s last major pro sports title occurred in 1985, when the Royals won the World Series in controversial fashion. The franchise has failed reach the postseason since.
The 1969 Kansas City Chiefs triumphed over the Vikings in Super Bowl IV, but have never made it back the big game. In fact, the Chiefs have not even won a playoff contest since the 1993 season, when Joe Montana was at quarterback.
The Royals came agonizingly close to ending Kansas City's championship drought in 2014, but fell short in the final game of the World Series against San Francisco.
Other Teams: Sporting Kansas City FC claimed the MLS Cup in 2013. The city once had an NBA team, the Kansas City Kings, but they moved to Sacramento in 1985. They also briefly had an NHL franchise named the Scouts in the mid-1970’s. Neither team ever won a league championship while they were in Kansas City, although the Scouts, now known as the New Jersey Devils, have brought three Stanley Cup titles to the Garden State.
3. San Diego
Major Teams: Chargers (NFL), Padres (MLB)
San Diego is one of the most popular vacation destinations in America. It is known for its beautiful beaches and consistently pleasant weather. Unfortunately, its positive attributes do not include a successful sports history. San Diego has never claimed an NFL, NBA, or MLB championship. The 1994 Chargers are San Diego’s only Super Bowl squad. After a stunning and unforgettable victory over Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship Game, the Chargers were buried by the heavily favored San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX. In the nearly two decades since, an astonishing eight members of the 1994 squad have died, including star linebacker Junior Seau. Meanwhile, the Padres have never won a World Series despite National League pennants in 1984 and 1998. San Diego’s last major championship of any kind occurred in 1963, when the Chargers captured the American Football League title.
Other Teams: Both the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers formerly played in San Diego. Neither won a league title while in the city (or ever, in the Clippers’ case).
Major Teams: Bills (NFL), Sabres (NHL)
Buffalo is a blue collar city known for its chicken wings and hot dogs. It has a reputation for toughness, which is fortunate because it takes plenty of resilience to be a sports fan there. In the early ‘90s, the Bills became the only team in NFL history to appear in four consecutive Super Bowls. There was only one problem – they lost all four. Buffalo suffered one of the most heartbreaking losses imaginable in Super Bowl XXV against the Giants, when kicker Scott Norwood missed a field goal that would have won the game. Buffalo’s other Super Bowl appearances were lopsided affairs characterized by lost helmets, turnovers, and costly mistakes. The Bills remained a playoff contender throughout the rest of the ‘90s, but failed to earn another shot at the Lombardi Trophy. The 1999 season ended in notorious fashion when the Bills suffered a last second defeat in a Wild Card playoff game against the Tennessee Titans. Tennessee pulled off a stunning victory with the legendary “Music City Miracle” – one of the most iconic and controversial plays in NFL history. Since then, Buffalo has failed to reach the postseason for fourteen consecutive seasons, saddling the franchise with the longest active postseason drought in the league. The Bills have also been rocked by recent tragedies, including the death of owner and founder Ralph Wilson and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s cancer diagnosis. Buffalo did manage to have their first winning season in a decade in 2014, finishing 9-7. They were also purchased by new ownership that will keep the team in Buffalo.
The Buffalo Sabres first reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975. They fell to the Philadelphia Flyers in six games. The Sabres returned to the championship round in 1999, but lost to Dallas in six games after a controversial goal clinched the title for the Stars in triple overtime. In 2002, the franchise was temporarily taken over by the NHL after its owners were convicted of embezzlement.
Other Teams: Buffalo had an NBA franchise named the Braves during the 1970’s. They never advanced further than the conference semifinals.
Major Teams: Browns (NFL), Cavaliers (NBA), Indians (MLB)
Cleveland is known for its incredibly loyal and passionate fans. Like Buffalo, it is a blue collar city that appreciates hard-nosed athletes who bring their lunch pails to work every day. Despite ineptitude on the field and massive turmoil and dysfunction off of it, the Cleveland Browns play in front of a packed stadium during every home game.
Sadly, Cleveland sports fans have not been rewarded for their loyalty. The list of infamous Cleveland sports moments is staggeringly extensive. It includes “The Drive”, “The Fumble”, “Red Right 88”, “The Decision”, “The Move”, and “The Shot”. Cleveland's last title occurred in 1964, when the Browns won the NFL Championship Game.
The Browns built a fantastic tradition under brilliant head coach Paul Brown. Cleveland played in an incredible ten consecutive championship games, winning seven of them, from 1946-1955 (although the first four were in the All American Football Conference, a short-lived rival of the NFL). However, the franchise’s last major run of success occurred in the late ‘80s, when the Browns reached the AFC Championship Game three times in four years. Unfortunately, their Super Bowl hopes were derailed by the hated Denver Broncos each time. In 1995, Browns owner Art Modell shocked Cleveland by announcing that he was moving the franchise to Baltimore. Although the NFL granted Cleveland an expansion team in 1999, Browns fans were forced to watch in horror as Modell’s newly christened Baltimore Ravens captured two Super Bowl titles. Meanwhile, the new Browns were floundering. An endless carousel of hirings and firings at the head coach and front office levels robbed the Browns of coherency and credibility. Cleveland finished 7-9 in 2014, their best record in seven years, but rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel proved to be a huge disappointment.
The history of the Cleveland Cavaliers is filled with frustration as well. The 2007 Cavs reached the franchise’s first NBA Finals, but were swept by San Antonio. The star of that team was Ohio native Lebron James, who became one of the NBA’s top players as a member of the Cavaliers from 2003-2010. In the 2010 offseason, James announced on television that he would play for the Miami Heat the following season, shocking and enraging many Cleveland fans. The Cavs suffered a record 26 game losing streak in 2011. James won NBA titles with the Heat in 2012 and 2013. Cleveland has had reason for excitement recently, thanks to Lebron James returning home to play for the Cavaliers. In the 2015 NBA playoffs, James led the Cavs all the way to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, they fell short against Golden State, and Cleveland's championship drought continues.
The Cleveland Indians came excruciatingly close to glory in 1997. Cleveland held a 2-1 lead over the Florida Marlins in the ninth inning of the seventh and final game of the World Series, but ultimately fell short 3-2. The Indians also lost the World Series two years earlier, falling to Atlanta in six games. Their last World Series triumph was in 1948.
Other Teams: Cleveland had an NHL team, the Barons, from 1976-1978. They never reached the postseason. They also had a WNBA team named the Rockers from 1997-2003.
Cleveland Browns "Factory of Sadness" Rant
Wait ‘Til Next Year?
Although their histories are filled with disappointment, hope is not entirely lost for sports fans in these cities. If previously beleaguered sports towns like Seattle and New Orleans can finally win championships, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one or more of these cities could be next. Heck, even Boston went through a rough period during the ‘90s. There’s always next year!
Which of These Cities Has the Best Chance to Win a Championship in the Near Future?
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