Sports Losers: If at First You Don't Succeed, Failure May Be Your Style

David EisleyCorrespondent IMarch 9, 2009

Winning a championship is portrayed as the best feeling a team can experience. It is portrayed as the ultimate measure of accomplishment to be acknowledged as the best in that sport for that year. 

If you’re really good for a number of years, you may even earn the right to be called a “dynasty” or “team of the decade.”

We will temporarily ignore the Terrell Owens signing with the Buffalo Bills, and pretend that winning a championship in sports is more important than the money.

After all, for an athlete, team, and their fans, achieving this pinnacle is the primary objective for all involved, right? 

Losing franchises are vilified, mocked, and seen as inferior dullards in a sea of sports geniuses.  However, if I may quote the Joker, “Why so serious?”

With the help of, I would like to celebrate the inferior.  I want to recognize the teams that, no matter how many No. 1 draft picks and free agent signings they execute, still have failed time and time again. 

I want to “give props” to the college teams who can’t get an answer when they knock on a recruit’s door, or get their “texts” put on “auto-ignore” by the blue-chipper. 

After all, “it's lonely at the top, but it's comforting to look down upon everyone at the bottom.”


When your best just isn't good enough

The New Orleans “Aints”

In addition to getting their stadium pounded by Hurricane Katrina, they’ve lost more games since joining the NFL in 1967 (367) than the Browns have lost (360) since joining the NFL in 1950, and Cleveland likes to lose a lot of games. 

The Saints have fielded just eight winning teams in 40 seasons, played 20 years in the NFL before posting a first winning record, and have yet to produce a single Hall of Fame performer (Doug Atkins, Earl Campbell, and Jim Taylor did get their final paychecks and concussions with New Orleans though).


And, in one of the greatest examples of consistent futility ever uncovered, the Saints have an all-time losing record against 23 of the other 31 teams in the NFL.


They have a winning record against just one of the 31 other teams in the NFL, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The good news for the Saints is that the Detroit Lions are gaining ground…fast.




At some point, hanging in there just makes you look like an even bigger loser


Los Angeles’ “other” NBA Team

The Los Angeles Clippers got their start in 1970 as the expansion Buffalo Braves. After stints in Buffalo and San Diego, the franchise settled in Los Angeles in 1984.

One of the most unsuccessful professional sports franchises, the Clippers have managed a winning record only five times in their first 30 years of existence.

Off to another horrendous start in 2008-2009, owner Donald Sterling went on a profanity-laced tirade inside the locker room and threatened to trade the entire team. Too bad the trade deadline has passed.

Sterling, according to the sources, blasted players by name, including the team’s second-leading scorer Al Thornton.

In one exchange, Sterling called Thornton the most selfish basketball player he has ever seen. When Thornton asked Coach Mike Dunleavy (who was standing nearby) how he was playing, before he could answer Sterling told Dunleavy to "shut up."

Hmmm…I wonder why Mr. Sterling has a hard time getting free agents to come there?  It may be time to hire Elgin Baylor back.


If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly

The Texas “Strangers”

The Tampa Bay Rays have escaped!  This was still a close one, with the Mariners, Pirates, Brewers, and Cubbies all in contention.  However, aside from George Bush being involved with this organization, consider some other facts.

An expansion franchise, the club was founded in Washington, D.C., in 1961 and was called the Washington Senators (not to be confused with the Washington Senators that left D.C. after 1960 to become the Minnesota Twins).  

For most of their existence, the new Washington Senators were the definition of futility, losing an average of 90 games a season.

The franchise moved to Texas in 1972, but faced attendance problems for a few years after moving there, in part due to the team's uneven performance and the oppressive heat that can overtake the area in the summer.

Until the Florida Marlins arrived in 1993, Arlington Stadium was the hottest stadium in the Majors, with temperatures frequently topping 100 degrees during the day.  Losing and sweaty pits are never a good combo.

The Rangers (when combined with their predecessor the Senators) hold several distinctions for playoff futility:

  • They are one of only three current MLB franchises which have yet to appear in the World Series (the others are the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals), and the oldest active MLB franchise yet to appear
  • Not only are the Rangers the oldest MLB franchise not to appear in the World Series, they are the oldest franchise in all the four major pro sports leagues to have never appeared in the league's championship
  • Not only have the Rangers not appeared in the World Series, they are the only current MLB franchise which has yet to win a playoff series
  • In their history the Rangers have won only one playoff game, on the road at Yankee Stadium in the franchise's first playoff game; they have never won a home playoff game


Quitters never win, winners never quit, but those who never win AND never quit are idiots


The New Jersey Institute of “Turnovers”

There are over 300 NCAA Division 1 Programs, and somebody had to be the worst.  Luckily, there isn’t much doubt here.  The New Jersey Institute of Technology completed an 0-29 season in 2007-2008 with a 76-50 loss to Utah Valley State, setting an NCAA record for futility.

The previous low for an entire season was 0-28, set by Prairie View of Texas in 1992 and matched by Savannah State in 2005. The Highlanders were also the only Division I team that year with more turnovers (577) than field goals (550). 

For reasons that have yet to be explained, NJIT moved up to Division I three years ago and promptly became the worst team imaginable.   However, there could be hope on the horizon. 

Although once again ranked dead last among all NCAA Division I basketball programs,  they did taste victory in 2009 with a 61-51 win over powerhouse Bryant University. 

They had waited 702 days for this moment, a basketball eternity, losing a record 51 straight games along the way.

A word of warning: don’t be too critical of the NJIT, lads.  You’ll probably be working for them one day.

What can we infer from analyzing these failures? These teams are all consistent losers.  However, the beautiful thing about sports is its constant renewal.  Failure is never permanent.

University of South Florida psychologist Joseph Vandello began exploring the reasons we cheer for the long shot.. Rooting for the underdog is about transference, about the transference of possibility. We want the impossible to happen not just for its own sake, but for what it might mean for us.

When hope seems dismal, and your back is up against the wall, also remember these immortal words from Despair Inc., “when you wish upon a falling star, your dreams can come true. Unless it's really a meteorite hurtling to the Earth which will destroy all life. Then you're pretty much hosed no matter what you wish for. Unless it's death by meteor.”


Author Dave Eisley can be heard on the Cheap Seats Show, Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. He also loves to blog, which as we know is a past-time where “never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.”  Thanks Despair I


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