20 Teams You Absolutely Have to Like
From an early age in our lives we align ourselves with sports teams. These allegiances are intense, and they are permanent. When our team is booted from the playoffs, we may project our fanaticism on another team still in the running, but that is a secondary, minor and temporary loyalty.
Once or twice in a generation though, a team catches our collective fancy. We find ourselves cheering—and cheering ferociously—for this squad from a city we've never been to, never cared about, maybe never heard of. These are the princesses risen from ashes. The underdogs. The lovable losers. The outliers.
Click on to see 20 teams, that try as you might, you just can't help but like.
Buffalo Bills: Loveable Losers
Buffalo, a frozen rust-belt town with not a championship title to its name in any sport. Ever. The Bills came close. Four times. In a row. (You knew that BILLS is an acronyms for "Boy, I Like Losing Super Bowls," didn't you?)
Green Bay Packers: Fan Owned
While the fans of most sports teams try to make the cheering culture menacing, Packers fans wear giant wedges of coagulated milk products on their heads.
And best yet, the Packers are not owned by some crotchety old billionaire geezer who sits up in a booth and frowns all the time.
It's the cheeseheads themselves that own the Pack.
1988 Jamaican Bobsled Team: Tropical Country Takes on Winter
In truth the Jamaican Bobsled Team story has little in common with the highly-romanticized story told in the famous Disney film Cool Runnings.
But what is true is that the world watched, and the world cheered for these unlikely heroes.
Early 2000's Sacramento Kings: Thorn in the Lakers' Side
The original small market warriors.
They were the rivals to the evil empire that was the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. They loved to pass and run and dunk. They were as fun as this year's FGCU "Dunk City" team.
They even were the victims of one of the most controversial NBA playoff games ever.
If you weren't in LA you loved those Kings, right?
Oklahoma City Thunder: Small and Humble
What's not to like? A small-market team. A humble star. Folksy fans.
Sam Anderson of The New York Times put it best:
"Led by Durant, the Thunder has become one of the N.B.A.’s best and youngest and most popular teams, an international icon of brotherhood and good will that has helped to usher in golden ages in both Oklahoma City and the N.B.A., an electric blue Trojan horse inside of which Oklahoma has managed to smuggle its ethos to the rest of the world: good folksy folks humbly helping other folksy folks stay humble and helpful."
Florida Gulf Coast University: Cinderella Doesn't Cut It
The entirety of the United States except for (understandably) Kansas and Michigan were behind FGCU in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
After upsetting No. 2-seed Georgetown and No. 7-seed San Diego State, No. 15-seed FGCU became the country's sweetheart.
Cinderella isn't even the right Disney character for this team. These guys were Marlin (Nemo's dad)—the little fish that went on a harrowing journey in a sea full of bigger, nastier creatures.
While they ultimately didn't find Nemo, they got farther than anyone would have imagined.
Wood Brothers Racing: All in the Family
The still-family-owned team boasts 14 Sprint Cup Series race wins at Daytona International Speedway, more than any other NASCAR team. Now and always, Ford is their car company, and No. 21 is their number.
Twenty of NASCAR’S greatest drivers have driven for Wood Brothers Racing including A.J. Foyt, Junior Johnson and Cale Yarborough.
2013 Denver Nuggets
The Nuggets are just oozing charm this season. If you haven't been won over, watch a clip of the faux-Italian gesturing by teammates after Danilo makes a big play.
1980 US Olympic Hockey Team: Miracle Makers
Cleveland Cavaliers: Life After LeBron
The person who doesn't want good things for the Cavs in their post Lebron-calyptic existence has a cold, cold heart.
2002 Anaheim Angels: Rally Monkey!
Rally Monkey is just too weird and cute and random not to love. And it's rallying powers really did work as the 2002 World Series comeback proved.
All people became Rally Monkey fans... and that made them Angels fans whether they wanted to be or not.
1996 Nigerian Olympic Soccer Team: Bringing Home the Gold
So these guys took out Brazil in the semi-finals and Argentina in the finals. And if you're not from one of those countries, that alone has to bring a smirk to your face.
Reportedly heads of state from all over Africa telephoned their congratulations to the Nigerian government. General Abacha, leader of the country declared the following Monday a national holiday.
Chicago Cubs: Century-Long Drought
The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Roosevelt was president (no, not Franklin D., the other Roosevelt). Some of the fans were veterans of the American Civil War. The building of the Titanic had yet to begin. Babe Ruth was still six years away from making his MLB debut. Kyuji Fujikawa wouldn't be born for another 72 years.
You get the picture.
2013 San Antonio Spurs: Old Timers
Tampa Bay Rays: Underdogs No Longer
1954 Milan High School Indians: The Real Hoosiers
This was the team that was featured (and fictionalized) in the classic sports film Hoosiers.
The small-town high school basketball team did the improbable and won the Indiana state title. Much credit is given to Coach Wood and some of his creative tactics.
At one point in the championship game, he ordered a stall. Star player Bobby Plump "held on to the ball, without moving, for 4 minutes, 13 seconds."
2012 San Francisco 49ers: Super Bowl XLVII
Facebook haters take note: the social media aspects may not be all you hoped for, but you can sure glean some cool data from all those FB "likes."
A data-science intern noted that, "some 35 million U.S.-based Facebook users—more than one in 10 Americans—have declared their support for at least one team."
And unlike the 2012 presidential election, the map is mostly red. Who has got it better than them?
Herriman Gremlins: Sam Gordon's Team
Thanks to YouTube footage, the 9-year-old starting halfback became one of last year's viral mega-stars. Her cutting, juking, and sprinting feats are adorable and scary-good all at once.
If you aren't a Herriman Gremlins fan after watching the video, you probably steal candy from kids and kick puppy dogs in your free time.
2004 Detroit Pistons: Victory for the Working Class
Bleacher Reporter writer EJ Tabuena wrote this in his analysis of the 2004 Piston squad:
"In an era where teams believe that the only way to win is to amass all the stars, most GMs either look at the 2004 Detroit Pistons as something to idolize or a pariah to this new line of thinking."
Sure the Pistons had All-Star players (most of whom didn't make an All-Star appearance until after the big win, though), but none on the level of a Kobe Bryant, a LeBron James, a Tim Duncan.
1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack: Hug Someone, Coach
NC State had a prodigious number in the loss column for their 1982-1983 season: 10. That's right, they lost about 38 percent of their games.
But at tournament time, they left a wake of head-scratching superior teams: Pepperdine, UNLV, Virginia, Georgia and finally powerhouse Houston and the Phi Slamma Jamma Boys.
Will someone please give the coach a hug?!