20 Most Desperate Fanbases in Sports
If you're a sports fan, desperation isn't a foreign emotion. Maybe your team has one last chance to rally and send the game to OT, or leave with an outright victory. Perhaps the season is falling apart and one more loss ends any hope for a postseason run.
Desperation isn't a rare affliction, it's one of the fundamental reasons being a diehard sports fan is equal parts joy and agony.
But, some fans—by virtue of a live-and-die-by-the-team family, or their own design—have entered into a pact with a team that specializes in making desperation a continuous state of existence. A state that is never truly interrupted; just periodically numbed.
And, the desperation isn't exclusive to those fanbases of teams which are simply bad at what they do—desperation comes in a variety of flavors. Pick your poison: a glorious past of dominance fading into irrelevance; or perhaps the desperation spawns from perpetually coming up short, when everyone says your team is the favorite to win it all.
These are the 20 most desperate fanbases in sports.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
If you're a Jaguars fan and I mean a been there in the stands since the franchise's inaugural 1995 season fan, it's been a rough ride. Not because the team is consistently bad—that's a recent development—but because of wide-ranging collection of highs, lows and the plain bizarre.
As a Jags fan, the desperation has continually evolved in its form and function over the last 17 years.
As a new franchise, they came out swinging under then-head coach Tom Coughlin and underrated players like Mark Brunell and Fred Taylor. How quickly things changed—from a contender under Coughlin, to watching him win two Super Bowls with the New York Giants.
After former coach Jack Del Rio gradually shaped the team into a offensively inept disappointment, whose tenure is most famous for squandering two awesome running backs and setting up a 'team-building' exercise, which resulted in the punter planting an ax in his own thigh.
Now, with tarps covering empty seats on Sundays, the once-aspiring champion is considering a Hollywood makeover. I'd rate them a lot higher if I thought anyone even cared anymore.
19. Vancouver Canucks
Harry How/Getty Images
Fans of the Vancouver Canucks are only desperate because they're almost there! Over the last decade, they've routinely finished among the top of their division, usually winning it, and are often among the best regular season teams in the NHL.
That kind of consistency in their performance suggests that they've got pretty much all the pieces in place to win a Stanley Cup—an achievement which continues to elude their franchise.
The Canucks have habit of doing the worst possible thing in sports—coming up short when it counts the most. Losing in the Game 7 Finals to the Bruins in 2011, well, that was one thing. A big thing of course, since they rioted.
Being bounced by the bottom-seeded Kings in the first round of the playoffs in 2012, that was something entirely different. Particularly since the Canucks were awarded the President's Trophy as the NHL's best team during the regular season that year.
18. Charlotte Bobcats
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty Images
Charlotte NBA fans must feel something akin to a jilted lover, who's led on to believe things have really changed—no more abandonment, no more half-hearted commitment—only to have their heart broken again.
Before the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans and became the Pelicans, the franchise had drafted and acquired enough talent to become competitive.
However, a return to their losing ways and a dispute with would-be owner and Charlotte native Michael Jordan in 2000, kept disillusioned fans out of the seats.
Thus, the Charlotte Hornets packed up and moved. The franchise was resurrected as the Bobcats in 2004, with Jordan gaining full ownership six years later.
So, with the greatest to ever play the game at the reins for a fresh start, Charlotte's loyal fans were finally rewarded with...one of the worst, talent-starved teams in the NBA today.
17. Cleveland Indians
Jason Miller/Getty Images
If there is a Cleveland Indians fan in your life. Step away from your computer, phone, tablet, or whatever you're using right now, and go hug them. If they aren't in the zone of huggability, call or text a few words of encouragement.
The city's sports fans have endured about every kind of bad break possible—watching an improving Browns team pick up and leave for Baltimore under cover of darkness, then reincarnate as a bottom-dweller; "The Decision."
Indians fans are true fanatics and after watching the team go from being the comedic device for the classic sports flick Major League to a contender with a talented roster, they've suffered through disappointments, this close's and even tragedy.
16. Miami Dolphins
Rick Stewart/Getty Images
There was a time—not long ago—when one could reasonably predict that in the year 2013, some football fan, somewhere, would say, "Man, it's a damn shame that Dan Marino and John Elway never got a ring. How does that happen?"
Unfortunately for Dan Marino and Dolphins fans, only part of that prediction came true.
This is the fundamental truth haunting the team and its fans: Marino never won a Super Bowl and no signal caller since has been adequate, much less approaching his caliber.
Dolphins fans desperately want the next Marino, but with a team built to win.
15. Orlando Magic
Doug Benc/Getty Images
Life is quite good for the NBA right now—the league features an array of stars, young and enduring, who put on an electrifying show for fans.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant (*sniffle*)—these are just a few of the names in the lineup on any given day.
Arguably, the salary cap-era has helped spread the wealth of talent, but for every player gained by one team, another has lost one. Enter the Orlando Magic.
In 1992, the Magic drafted the guy—the 'can't miss' prospect, Shaquille O'Neal. Fans got the beast and the future looked bright. Then, in '97 he was gone.
In 2004, the team drafted another 'sure' talent, Dwight Howard. Then in '12 the "Dwightmare" mess fractured the team and culminated with Howard's trade to the Lakers.
14. Dallas Cowboys
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Realistically, the Dallas Cowboys shouldn't be anywhere near this list. They're consistently rated as the NFL's No. 1 most valuable franchise; in 2012, Forbes listed their valuation at $2.1 billion. Owner Jerry Jones is considered the gold standard of professional sports franchise owners, given his dedication to the league and his desperation to win.
The 'Boys play in a glorious stadium worth over a billion dollars itself and they're inexplicably dubbed "America's Team" for no apparent reason whatsoever. So what gives? Well how about the fact that they haven't been to a Super Bowl in 17 years now. The '90s don't seem further away anywhere than Dallas.
How about the fact that they rarely even make the playoffs these days, and when they do, it ends in disaster? How about the fact that Jones refuses to relinquish his role as GM, despite being absolutely terrible at it? Bad drafting. Bad decisions. Bad press. And then there's the divisiveness of quarterback Tony Romo.
Everything looks like perfection on the surface, but just below there's been a festering mess for years. And with each passing year, Cowboys fans are getting increasingly more desperate—particularly when they see the Redskins finally starting to make some strides.
13. Cleveland Cavaliers
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
More often than not, the desperate faithful of a sports team that's seen better days, or struggled for so long that the better days are irrelevant, can point to a single event in the past which offers a compelling reason for why.
For decades, Red Sox fans cursed the 'sale' of Babe Ruth to the Yankees, until exorcising his ghost in 2004. Edmonton Oilers fans still fume over the team's 1988 fire sale, which sent "The Great One" to the LA Kings.
Unfolding before us, is the 21st Century version of this phenomenon—the Cavaliers' loss of free-agent LeBron James to the Miami Heat.
Instantly transforming from hometown hero to hated villain after the move was announced on ESPN's special, "The Decision," the fans underwent a transformation themselves—from witnesses of a contender built around James, to betrayed 'victims' seeking vengeance.
12. New York Mets
Paul Bereswill/Getty Images
The New York Mets—and by proxy—their fans, are the metaphorical son who can't hold down a good job, gets caught up in failing business ventures and generally feels the cold prickle of his rich, successful brother's shadow. It's got to be frustrating to be the Mets in city that calls the Yankees their own.
Oh, the Mets have had their moments—two World Series Championships, a bevy of great players—but they occupy the same space as the club with a billion Championships and Hall of Famers. Sure, being a Mets fan is a point of pride in that Jordan Catalano I'm too cool for school kind of way, but there has to be an endgame.
The only real solution is a reversal of fortunes, so Mets fans have stuck through the usual strategies an insecure rival tries in an effort to achieve this—imitation, ignoring the problem and outright belligerence.
11. Washington Capitals
Len Redkoles/Getty Images
Perhaps no franchise emerged from the 2004 NHL lockout more re-energized than the Washington Capitals. With outstanding rookie winger Alex Ovechkin making an instant impact, the team was well-positioned to build a contender around the Russian star.
In 2007, the team unveiled a new look with their now-signature red, and under new coach Bruce Boudreau, the team's nucleus of Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Nicolas Backstrom and Mike Green began a four-year run of regular season dominance in the Eastern Conference.
Washington, D.C.-area Caps fans embraced the moment and made the Verizon Center one of the most loud and boisterous arenas for opposing teams. However, as much as some things change, some things always stay the same.
The old ghost of so-so hockey, interrupted by disappointing playoff exits, continues to haunt the team and fans—punctuated by four consecutive upset playoff losses to lower-seeded teams (included the hated Pittsburgh Penguins).
10. Philadelphia Eagles
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
There's a good possibility that desperation and unbridled rage are one, sweaty amalgamated emotion unique to Philadelphia in its unadulterated power and stamina.
Over the course of the NFL's history, many franchises have had great teams that have never quite reached the promised land, but few—if any—combine that cruel form of disappointment with a fanbase capable of tearing a phone book in half with nothing more than vitriol...like the Eagles.
Sports fans across the world should suck it up and swallow the bitter pill of an Eagles team winning a franchise-first Super Bowl. It will be painful, but for the greater good.
9. Sacramento Kings
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
The Sacramento Kings aren't part of a major media market and, historically, the team's performance on the court is largely forgettable—their overall franchise record is just below .500.
But, the Kings have some of the most tirelessly dedicated fans in the NBA; a fact underscored by their passionate plea to keep the team in Sacramento.
I've personally experienced what it's like to be the fan of a team you love, which is facing the threat of relocation. In my case, it was in 2006, when the Pittsburgh Penguins threatened to move the team if an agreement on a new arena wasn't reached. However, it wasn't nearly as serious.
Right now, the NBA wants to bring pro basketball back to Seattle, the Kings ownership is looking to sell and a bidding war has erupted between buyers from each city. All Kings fans can do is voice their support and hope for the best.
8. New York Islanders
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
There was a while, right around the year of my birth, that the New York Islanders were a pretty big deal.
From 1979 to 1984, the Isles won four Stanley Cups and five Conference Championships. They were the prolific sports dynasty sandwiched in between the Pittsburgh Steelers of the '70s and the Edmonton Oilers of the '80s.
And that was about it for the Islanders. They had a big moment in '93 by defeating the heavily favored Penguins, going for their third straight Stanley Cup, on a fluke overtime goal in Game 7.
Since then…well…they've done absolutely nothing. At least, not anything good. And if you don't have anything nice to say, you shouldn't say anything at all. Or whatever.
Honestly, it would just take too long to run down the list of this franchise's failures. Not to mention depressing. And I'm not even an Islanders fan. Thank God.
7. Buffalo Bills
Mike Powell/Getty Images
There's a fine line between desperation and ambivalence—desperation is the purgatory to ambivalence's hell. The passion of Buffalo Bills fans is rooted in the 'what could have been' era of Marv Levy, Jim Kelly and Bruce Smith.
The core group of players that fueled the Bills early '90s AFC dominance looked a lot like the modern NFL dynasty franchises that came before and then emerged at their expense.
However, the Hall of Fame talent on both sides of the ball and hurry-up offense innovation only produced four Super Bowl losses; haunted by kicker Scott Norwood's agonizing 'wide right' against the Giants in Super Bowl XXV.
For a mid-sized city like Buffalo, which loves its NFL and NHL franchises, the team's slide into mediocrity—after coming so close to the promised land—makes a second shot a dream worth believing in.
6. New York Knicks
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The Knicks are so weird. They've got all kindsa money. They've got all kindsa fans. They've got all kindsa history. And they play in the largest media market for the NBA in the entire country. They have no trouble attracting players because it seems like everyone wants to play in New York.
And they aren't cheap, either! If there's an overweight, underachieving free agent out there on the market, you can always count on the Knicks to overpay him. Well, at least for a while! Things have improved drastically since the dreaded Isiah Thomas era.
Over the last 30 years, the Knicks have suffered from a lot of bad decisions and bad timing. Their most recent successes came during the Patrick Ewing era, which had the misfortune of overlapping with the Michael Jordan Era. Talk about a tough break.
No matter the circumstances, though, there's no excuse for the fact that the Knicks haven't won a championship since 1973—the same year the Vietnam War ended and construction on the World Trade Towers was completed.
Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony may be coming off one of the best seasons of his career, but the fact that he says there's "no pressure" in the playoffs? That can't be sitting well with a fanbase that has waited far too long for their third championship.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images
Honestly, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been so tragically terrible for so long that its hard to tell if their fanbase is desperate or just delusional. I'm actually from Pittsburgh, so I have a unique perspective on this, and I believe it's an unhealthy mix of both.
Everyone knows that the Buccos capped off two impressive decades of abject futility in 2012. That's 20 straight years without accidentally stumbling or bumbling their way into a .500 record. Really the best they could hope for, since management isn't trying to win.
Although, Pirates fans seem to think every year is their year. Occasionally, they're not too far out of contention come mid-summer, and in 2012 they even led their terrible division for one glorious moment in time, but eventually they always fall back into their losing ways.
I've been mocking desperately delusional Pirates fans dating back a decade at this point. Maybe this really will be their year to break that notorious streak. Or maybe it'll be the year management decides to trade Andrew McCutchen to the Red Sox for a huge pile of cash in July.
Which sounds more likely?
4. Cleveland Browns
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Ah, the trifecta—the city of Cleveland makes its third appearance. At this point, you may be feeling a few pangs of sympathy, or sadistic giddiness, depending on where you call home and/or the leverage of your conscience.
The once-proud Cleveland Browns, where Jim Brown redefined what it means to be a complete running back in pro football, have subjected their fans to existential crises, cruel ironies and old-fashioned organizational mismanagement.
The Browns fired the future Darth Vader (and three-time Super Bowl Champion) of the NFL, Bill Belichick, kidnapped itself under cloak of darkness and was reinvented as the Baltimore Ravens at the behest of the late Art Modell; and subsequently resurrected itself in 1999, only to stake its future in epic QB bust Tim Couch.
Either Browns fans are due some reparation for all they've invested in the team, or the Universe wears black and gold.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
Rich Lam/Getty Images
Today, the Toronto Maple Leafs' Stanley Cup Championship drought stands at 45 years. Until recently, the L.A. Kings took second place honors in that area, but they won the first championship in franchise history in 2012.
Although, it's worth noting that the Kings came into existence a full 50 years after the Leafs.
But jeez. What else is there to say about the Leafs?
It's been a decade since they last made the playoffs. They're usually bad. Sometimes they're terrible. Sometimes they're unforgivably wretched. And sometimes they're just short of mediocre—they could scrape into the playoffs in 2013.
But you could knock me over with a feather if they managed to make a run, let alone make the playoffs. Let's just say those fans deserve better than that and just leave it there.
2. New York Jets
It's hard to even talk about the hapless New York Jets, because just saying the name seems like a joke/insult these days. A very far cry from the days of Joe Namath, who brought the franchise their only championship ever in 1969.
To say they've been inconsistent over the last four decades would be an understatement. But at least the older generation of Jets fans has some fond memories to look back on—which probably helps get them through the darker days.
The Jets have had an extremely interesting four years since head coach Rex Ryan took the reins back in 2009. Ryan's tenure started out with a bang thanks to that famous big-talking Ryan bluster. His big mouth attracted a lot of media attention, but the consensus seemed to be it was fine as long as he was winning.
And Ryan did win at first; he took the Jets to two consecutive AFC Championship appearances in his first two years. But just when you thought the luck of the downtrodden Jets may be changing for good, everything started to rapidly spiral downhill.
They've had two consecutive losing seasons. Some of the most inconsistent quarterback play in the NFL. An endless array of controversies stemming from a lack of leadership in the locker room. And suddenly Rex Ryan is the quietest guy in any room.
1. Chicago Cubs
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
It's been over a century since the Chicago Cubs, the lovable losers of The Windy City, have won a World Series. In fact, they've only won two in club history—but they were consecutive in 1907 and 1908.
So if there are any living and mentally coherent 110-year-old Cubbies fans out there, they've got some pretty fond memories to look back on. Those two glorious championships that took place nearly a decade before Wrigley Field was even built—the second oldest stadium in MLB. Boston's Fenway Park was built in 1912.
Then there was a goat who got kicked out of the stadium, likely for being a goat, and apparently cursed the team. Because goats are known to practice black magic. Then there was a black cat that wandered by home plate in 1969, which apparently help solidify the goat thing.
Then there was Steve Bartman…poor…poor…Steve Bartman. By 2003, Cubs fans were out of reasonable excuses to blame animals for their failures, so they decided to take their rage out on one of their own for doing the same thing everyone in his immediate vicinity did at a NLCS playoff game against the Florida Marlins.
The fact of the matter is that the Cubs aren't the pathetic sad sacks they were for most of the 20th century, but that almost makes it worse. They are routinely among the MLB leaders in payroll and have recently been finishing behind the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates in their division.