Cities That Deserve Championships

Apparently, us could.

So who’s next in line? I’m looking at the Big Four professional sports (baseball, basketball, football, hockey) and factoring in heartbreak and such; my math includes the seasons completed by each team since the last team in the city to win a title won its title.

I also considered past championship history of cities and regions, and that’s why cities like Chicago (Jordan Years), San Francisco (five Super Bowls), and Milwaukee/Green Bay (rich football history including Super Bowl XXXI) are noticeably absent.

Thus, in reverse order:

7. San Diego

Last title: Never. (Closest: Chargers, 1963, AFL.)

Combined seasons sans title: 93 (Chargers 45, Padres 38, Clippers 6, Rockets 4.)

Resume of Futility: It’s a surprisingly short one. The Chargers have never had prolonged abysmal periods, and have the Air Coryell years, the Stan Humphries Super Bowl, and LaDainian Tomlinson to their credit. The Padres have never won the World Series, losing 4-1 to the Tigers in 1984 getting swept by the Yankees in 1998.

Future Prospects: The Chargers appear to have slipped. The Padres had a shot last year, and fell short against the eventual NL champions in the wild-card play-in game. But San Diego’s such a nice place to live that it neutralizes some of the agony involved here. (Though that’s not so, according to one commenter.)

6. Atlanta

Last title: Braves, 1995, MLB.

Combined seasons sans title: 46 (Braves/Falcons/Hawks 13 each, Thrashers 7.)

Resume of Futility: Not quite as bad as you would think, and buoyed by the Braves’ long streak of division titles. The Falcons went to a Super Bowl during the streak, though Eugene Robinson made that a bad memory before the game even began. The Hawks went from laughingstock to semi-respected team with good play down the stretch and took the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round, but that does not erase the pathetic post-Dominique Wilkins years.

Future Prospects: The Hawks are young and talented, but the Eastern Conference has better teams on top right now and coming down the pike. The Falcons have the same youth and talent on tap, but they might not even be the best team in their own division. The Braves are at a low in their time, and though the pipeline is promising, the formerly automatic NL East has gotten frighteningly good in a short time. And the Thrashers aren’t doing anything anytime soon. So there’s probably no title in the near future.

5. Washington, DC

Last title: Redskins, 1991, NFL.

Combined seasons sans title: 53 (Wizards 17, Capitals/Redskins 16 each, Nationals 3.)

Resume of Futility: Since the real Joe Gibbs left the District, Washington has not been a hotbed for sports. The ‘Skins haven’t been to a conference championship since their 1991 Super Bowl, the Bullets/Wizards haven’t made their conference championship over that same time, the Nationals didn’t exist until 2005, and the Capitals, in the city’s only championship round appearance, managed to win a grand total of zero games against the Detroit Red Wings.

Future Prospects: The Capitals have Alexander Ovechkin to lead a strong team that has had some playoff success. The Wizards are exciting, but they may be on the decline. The Nationals are years away from playoff contention. But the Redskins have been one of the best teams in the NFL this year, and despite playing in the loaded NFC East, this year’s squad has a chance to take their city off this list.

4. Minneapolis/Minnesota

Last title: Twins, 1991, MLB.

Combined seasons sans title: 60 (Timberwolves/Twins/Vikings 17 each, Wild 7, North Stars 2.)

Resume of Futility: The only city on this list that has had two of its teams’ futures in the city threatened, Minnesotans also lost Kevin Garnett and Randy Moss, the two greatest talents to play for those teams in the interval, and seem poised to lose Marion Gaborik as well. The Vikings lost two NFC Championship Games, one on a field goal, and the other by 41 points. The T’Wolves went to the Western Conference Finals once. The Twins, perennially the best team in the region, barely escaped Bud Selig’s guillotine.

Future Prospects: The Twins have been competing for the AL Central for the last few years, but that’s about the only bright spot. The Wild have made Western Conference Finals just once, in 2002-03, and are unlikely to repeat the feat this year. The T’Wolves are stuck in the loaded half of the NBA and are led by Al Jefferson, who’s no Garnett. And the Vikings have Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson on their two-deep at quarterback. This streak might last a while longer.

3. Buffalo

Last title: Never. (Closest: 1963-64, AFL; 1989-92, AFC.)

Combined seasons sans title: 84 (Bills 39, Sabres 37, Braves 8.)

Resume of Futility: It’s not easy to make the Super Bowl for four straight years, much less lose it that many times in a row, but Buffalo did it. Buffalo also lost the first Stanley Cup Finals determined by a goal that was only sort of a goal. (Well, except for Montreal’s win over Detroit in 1966: thanks, Chris.) So there’s some misery here. And this is the only team on this list without a title.

Future Prospects: The Trent Edwards-led Bills have looked great at times this season, and in a weak AFC, might have a chance at a Super Bowl this year or soon. And the Sabres are getting better, with Ryan Miller backstopping a young team with as much chance as any team in the parity party that is the NHL.

2. Seattle

Last title: SuperSonics, 1978, NBA.

Combined seasons sans title: 83 (Mariners/Seahawks 28, SuperSonics 27.)

Resume of Futility: It’s really not fair at all that this is the only city on this list that lost a team last year. The Mariners have never made the World Series, despite tying the regular-season record for wins in 2001. The Seahawks have made just one Super Bowl, losing to Pittsburgh three seasons ago in a game that you can’t bring up to Seattle fans without getting a harangue about the referees. And the Sonics? Just try not to bring up Clay Bennett’s name, and you might be fine. Sure, the greens of the teams in the Emerald City are pretty, but green eyes aren’t something to be bragging about.

Future Prospects: The Seahawks have swiftly fallen from NFC West champions to competing for second in the division, and the Mariners, a sexy playoff pick entering this year, had Seattleites wondering how soon Felix Hernandez will be traded away to a team that could make the playoffs. And the Sonics? Seattle’s future is bleak indeed.

1. Cleveland

Last title: Browns, 1964, NFL.

Combined seasons sans title: 124 (Indians 44, Browns 40, Cavaliers 38, Barons 2.)

Resume of Futility: Where does one start? The Drive came against Cleveland, and Earnest Byner’s fumble was another dagger. Oh, and the Browns moved out of town and won a title for Baltimore. The Cavs had Michael Jordan’s shot over Craig Ehlo as their defining image until some guy named LeBron came to town. The Indians got beaten by the aforementioned Braves to give Atlanta its only ever title, then were crushed by the upstart Florida Marlins in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the 1997 World Series, then blew a 3-1 series advantage to the Boston Red Sox last year.

Future Prospects: LeBron James still plays for the Cavaliers. That’s enough hope heaped on one person to sustain a city, and it helps that the Cavs have quietly improved around King James in the last few years. And it makes up for how mediocre the Browns continue to be, and for the nosedive the Indians took after last year’s collapse.

The LeBron Window won’t be open for long, though, and if Cleveland can’t clamber through it, the Queen City Forest City may be crying for years to come. It’s a shame: this is a working-class city, one that has been supportive of its teams through it all, flocking back to the Browns after they came back, selling out Cavs games since LeBron’s been around, and filling Jacobs (ahem, Progressive) Field in the last decade. If anyone deserves a title, Clevelanders do, and as the grandson of one of them, I’ll be cheering for LeBron to come out of the East this year and bring Cleveland a championship.

Unless they’re playing the Hornets, that is.

31 Comments

Filed under Columns, MLB

31 responses to “Cities That Deserve Championships

  1. K

    Where’s Boston on this list?

  2. Boston has six championships in the last seven years. Therefore, no play here.

  3. Chris

    “Buffalo also lost the first Stanley Cup Finals determined by a goal that was only sort of a goal.”

    Montreal clinched the Cup in ’66 on a goal that a sprawling Henri Richard, lying face first on the ice, swept past Roger Crozier into the net with his forearm.

  4. Chris

    The methodology for counting “years since last title” seems to be applied pretty capriciously … you’ll recognize the Cleveland Barons, but not the two Washington baseball teams that between them didn’t win a title between 1925 and 1971?

  5. Chris

    I take back my last comment — I see how you are calculating things now. You should add the Braves to Buffalo’s total though.

  6. Tony

    What about Chicago?

    Remember most Chicagoans are Cubs fans, and not only don’t count the White Sox as a title, but they actually took pain from it, as if a rival won a title and celebrated on their turf.

    Cubs – 100 years since World Series (longest in MLB)
    Blackhawks – 45 years since Stanley Cup (longest in NHL)
    Bears – 23 years since Super Bowl
    Bulls – 10 years since NBA championship

  7. Tony

    BTW, thats 178 seasons without a title. I think that should put us at 3rd on the list. Obviously the Bulls took a lot of the “misery” away from us, but outside of that we have had nothing for many years, and hold the longest droughts in 2 of the 4 major sports, and have had 1 championship in 45 years in another of the sports.

  8. Ben

    Cincinnati’s nickname is “the Queen City.” Please do not refer to Cleveland to that shit-hole* again.

    *Note: Cleveland is a shit-hole too.

  9. Toledo

    Nice post, Rock. One more Cleveland correction (sorry): 1964 championship is NFL, not AFL. They (along with Baltimore and Pittsburgh) flipped to the AFC when the leagues merged.

  10. Piston Honda

    The Wild went to the Western Conference Finals in the 2002-03 season. They lost to the Ducks.

  11. Anonymous

    “But San Diego’s such a nice place to live that it neutralizes some of the agony involved here.”

    Uh, yeah, not really.

    And as a San Diego native, it isn’t that nice of a place to live – most of it is actually a shit-hole, just with good weather. It’s just a nice place to visit.

  12. elle

    “But San Diego’s such a nice place to live that it neutralizes some of the agony involved here.”

    Uh, yeah, not really.

    And as a San Diego native, it isn’t that nice of a place to live – most of it is actually a shit-hole, just with good weather. It’s merely a nice place to visit.

  13. Steve

    San Francisco Bay Area:

    49ers: 1995 Superbowl
    Raiders: 1981 Superbowl as Oakland (1984 as LA Raiders)
    Giants: Never in SF (Came to SF in 1958, won WS in 1954 as NY Giants)
    Athletics: 1989 World Series
    Warriors: 1975

    That would be 142 total years. 65 total years if you only count the 49ers, Warriors, and A’s.

    Last championship is 1995 no matter which way you look at it, which is the same as Atlanta!!

    Why isn’t SF on this list!

  14. Steve

    Plus Sharks – no titles and in existence since 1992, so that is another 16 years!

  15. @all: Consideration was given to certain other parts of a city’s history. For example, San Francisco and the Bay Area lose some momentum because the Niners have five Super Bowls; Chicago, despite being divided into White Sox and Cubs fans, had the entirety of the good Jordan Years. There are good-to-great memories for those fans during even my lifetime, not decades of anguish.

    @Ben: I’m sorry. I’ll change it.

    @Piston: Thanks for the correction.

    @Chris: Also, thanks for the correction.

    And, again, @all: Thanks so much for the input and the opinions; you make this a better blog.

  16. Smoove

    “And as a San Diego native, it isn’t that nice of a place to live – most of it is actually a shit-hole, just with good weather. It’s merely a nice place to visit”

    Elle,
    You must be thinking of LA.

    (unless you’re trying to get people to stop moving here in which case I’m in 100% agreement)

  17. Scotty

    Milwaukee needs some lovable loser love.

    The Bucks last won an NBA championship in 1971. The Brewers have never won a title and have only made the playoffs twice in 38 seasons.

    With 74 combined seasons (37 each) between titles that should put them solidly into the list of futility.

  18. @Scott: See the above bit. Milwaukee loses something in having Green Bay nearby on one side and Chicago close on the other.

    @all: It wouldn’t be too much to ask for you fine folks to take some looks at other posts, would it? (I promise you’ll have something to discuss there, too.)

  19. Wiggles

    @Tony:
    I realize you’re probably rich and only associate with rich ahole cubs fans, but there are more white sox fans than you seem to think in the city. Having lived on both the South and North side in my 6 years here, I’d guess the city’s about 60-40 cubs-white sox. Plus, at least the Bears have come close recently.

    Then again, maybe I’m just bitter because I’m a cleveland fan.

  20. The Wild have indeed made the Western Conference Finals. In 2003 they lost to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

    But Minnesota has gone roughly 140 seasons and won only 2 championships.

  21. @Tim: I just changed that.

  22. Aaron

    @Steve – you can’t group all the Oakland teams into San Francisco.

    By that logic, you could combine Buffalo and Cleveland.

  23. Nice list and props for recognizing CLE’s suffering. But as Ben mentioned, please never equate Cleveland with Cincinnati. He may think both are shitholes, but having lived in both places, I can say unequivocally that Cincinasty is the worst city on the planet.

  24. @Turk: I got it. I wrote this late at night and didn’t fact-check that because I was playing with the numbers of championships; I’m quite sorry to the legion of Clevelanders.

  25. Adam

    @Aaron – You can drive across a bridge to Oakland from San Francisco in five minutes. It takes about two hours to get from Buffalo to Cleveland, and you travel through three states.

  26. Houston, baby. We haven’t had a title since Hakeem’s prime. Before that, the last time Houston saw a championship was when George Blanda played for the AFL Oilers. The Rockets have had years of postseason futility ever since 1995. The Astros finally reached the World Series in 2005 after years of futility in the postseason, only to get swept. The Oilers were taken from us and replaced with an even more awful franchise. It sucks pretty hard – we just don’t complain about it the way Cleveland, Buffalo, or Seattle does.

  27. Pgh Mike

    No city can compare to the agony of Cleveland. Sorry Chicago, but you won 6 NBA titles in 8 years. Cleveland LOST THEIR FAVORITE TEAM. Nothing compares to that. I know they got the Browns back, but they had to sit and watch as the Ravens went and won the Super Bowl.

    PS Cleveland sucks.

    Go Steelers.

  28. whatgloom

    Pgh Mike couldn’t be any more correct. If Chicago”ans” were not cheering during the Bulls 6 championships then they are idiots.

    Also “Black and Gold forever”… Steelers D looked God like last night

  29. excatcher

    New Orleans had it’s last championship, um, never. The Saints did win the NFC South in 06, but that’s about it. Oh, and we lost a team to Utah, nearly lost another to OK City and I expect the Saints’ asshat owner to threaten to move again in a couple of years.

  30. You counted the Chargers’ 1963 AFL title, why not the Bills’ 1964 and 1965 AFL titles?

  31. Todd

    I was born in 1967, 3 years too late. I have seen, Wayne Garland, Mike Phipps, Nate Thurmond, Cory Snyder, Brian Sipe, Brad Daugherty, Albert Belle, Bernie Kosar, Mark Price: What do all these name have in common? They all gave us Cleveland Fans that extra glimmer of HOPE that THIS would finally be our “Next Year” yet each and every time we were let down without a World Championship.

    2008 is almost over; the Tribe had so many positives going into ‘08 season. While were coming off a deflating ALCS defeat, we did have the best starting pitching in baseball and some bats to back it up…But they fell out of contention early and again; another slap in the face for us Cleveland fans. The Browns were the national media’s “darling pick” for 2008, 10-6 in ’07 a great offence line, some nice pick ups on the D-Line in the off season, and what happens?!? Let’s just say it’s almost embarrassing knowing the Nation still has a couple more Browns game to watch. We are out of the playoff picture, but as any true Cleveland fan will tell you, we can still win-out and have a shot!! I am just waiting for that stab in the heart to be completely at the hopeless part of the season.

    Now I have been watching the Cavs this early part of the NBA season. And all I am thinking in WOW we have major HOPE….again?!? Do we finally have all the pieces in place for that all elusive Championship Ring? I mean the Cavs have the best all around player on the planet in Lebron James, right? Did we finally find the “Robin” to our “Batman” in Mo Williams? Is Ben Wallace back to his defensive player of the year form? There are so many what-ifs in Cleveland sports. Someone PLEASE tell me this is finally our “next year”!!!

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