The 25 Sports Teams That Need a Hug
Every sports franchise in human history has had it's share of ups and downs. Teams go through lulls in talent, have a few terrible personnel decisons, and just go through periods of poor play.
It's just a fact of sports. But every once in a while, a team is so consistently bad, or suffers from such a stretch of play so terrible, you can't help but feel bad for them.
These are the 25 teams who could really use a hug right now. Some of them have been bad for a historically long amount of time, others have suffered a brutal stretch of bad luck in recent years, while still more may be trying to move past the loss of a legend.
But, in every case, they certainly deserve a hug.
Honorable Mention: Denver Nuggets
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The Nuggets don't need a hug yet, but they will. After all, Carmelo Anthony is as good as gone at this point, and much like the Cleveland Cavs, the Nuggets literally built their team around him.
Sure, they could convince him to stay, although it's becoming less and less likely that he signs the offer sheet on the table. And, if he does leave, you can bet Denver's going to need a hug.
25. Atlanta Falcons
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For much of their history, there wasn't much to get excited about in Atlanta. The Falcons have made the playoffs all of 10 times since their inception in 1966, and they hadn't even sniffed a Super Bowl until 1998.
Then, when they are favored, like in 1998, or this season, when they took home the NFC's top seed, the Falcons have this nasty habit of folding like an origami swan. The Broncos took home Super Bowl XXXII in convincing fashion, and the Falcons got routed 48-21 in the NFC divisional round this season, by a Packers team they had beaten in the regular season.
Fortunately for the Dirty Birds, with Matt Ryan under center, they've always got hope, which is more than many teams on this list can say.
24. The New York Knicks
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There are few franchises that have been as hapless as the Knickerbockers over the last decade. Thanks to some stellar personnel decisions by former general manager/head coach Isaiah Thomas and owner James Dolan, the Knicks haven't had a winning record since the 2000-2001 season.
Even when the Knicks have found success, they find themselves taking one step forward and two steps back.
Things may have finally begun to swing the other way at Madison Square Garden, as this year's Knicks team is showing more life than the club has had since Jeff Van Gundy left.
23. Minnesota Vikings
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The Vikings are tied with the Buffalo Bills as the most futile teams in Super Bowl history. Both the Vikes and Bills have gone 0-4, but it's the non-Super collapses that put the Vikings on this list.
Just look at last season; they had the ball in field goal range late in the NFC title game against the Saints. Run the ball, and kick a field goal, and you're going to Miami.
Instead, the Vikes decided to throw a pass, and wound up getting intercepted. They lost in overtime.
Add that to the misery that ensued during the 2010 season (ineffective offense, porous defense, Brett Favre's junk spreading across the Internet like wildfire), and you have got a franchise in dire need of a hug.
22. Columbus Blue Jackets
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How hapless can a team who's barely been in the NHL for a decade be? If they're the Columbus Blue Jackets, then "incredibly hapless" springs to mind.
They've never finished better than third in their division, have made the playoffs all of once (where they were promptly swept back to anonymity by the Detroit Red Wings), and most people outside of the greater Columbus area (and many people in the greater Columbus area) don't know who they are.
21. Baltimore Orioles
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This franchise was once one of the best in all of baseball. But after falling to the Cleveland Indians in the 1997 ALCS, they entered one of the worst downward spirals seen this side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Since that point, the Orioles have yet to finish better than third in the American League East, and haven't won more than 79 games (which happened in 1998, the year after their ALCS loss).
There is hope on the horizon, though, as a new generation of pitching prospects, and a talented trio of outfielders hold plenty of promise for the future.
Still, given the franchise's ineptitude over the last decade, it's hard not to feel for them.
20. Washington Wizards
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The Wizards/Bullets have long been one of the doormats of the NBA. With a lone title to their credit (1977-78), and not much to brag about in the last decade, there's not much hope in the nation's capital.
Even during the Gilbert Arenas/Antwain Jamison/Caron Butler heyday, Washington never won their division, never took home a conference title, and were plagued by off-the-court issues in recent months.
Things have calmed down recently with Arenas and the gang moving on. John Wall gives them a potential star, but the Wiz don't have a lot of hope until he gets some help.
19. Toronto Blue Jays
Sure, the Jays had their time in the sun in the late 1980's and early 1990's. But they've been mired in mediocrity ever since, failing to make the playoffs since their World Series title in 1993. They've used homegrown talent, they've acquired big-name talent, they've had one of the best pitchers in baseball, and none of it matters; they just can't get over the hump.
For proof of their hug, consider that the upstart Tampa Bay Rays passed them in the AL East, while the Jay continue delivering those 84-78 records.
18. Kansas City Royals
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The Royals won the World Series in 1985, and haven't made the postseason since. They've had a grand total of seven winning records since then, and most of those came before 1990.
Up until recently, their farm system was bereft of elite prospects, or any prospects, but the Royals couldn't afford top-tier free agent talent, either.
So, Kaufman Stadium became a ghost town, the players couldn't get it together, and Kansas City became one of the punch lines of baseball.
Things have started to turn around, and the Royals have a farm system rife with talent, but until it develops (if it ever does), things will still be rough in Kansas City.
17. Edmonton Oilers
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Early in their franchise's history, the Oilers were a juggernaut. They had two of the best players in the NHL (Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier), and contended for Stanley Cups.
Then, in 1988, Gretzky, also known as the Greatest Hockey Player in History, was shockingly traded to the Los Angeles Kings.
While the team took home another Cup in 1989, they've been unable to consistently make any kind of impact on the NHL since The Great One Left, nor have they found anything resembling a suitable replacement.
In recent years, the team has taken a massive downward slide, finishing at or near the bottom of the standings in each of the last five years.
16. Los Angeles Clippers
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The Clippers have been an NBA punchline for longer than many teams in the league have existed. They managed three winning records in eight seasons as the Buffalo Braves, another one in six years as the San Diego Clippers, and, after moving to Los Angeles in 1984, became the laughingstock of the league.
Since 1984, they've made the playoffs just four times (and crashed out in the first round each time), and posted a winning record all of twice.
Owner Donald Sterling has chased off good talent, and when coupled with some of the worst injury luck in the league, the Clippers definitely merit a spot on this list.
How are one of the most inept franchises in sports so far down? With young emerging stars in Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, and a roster laden with promising talent, the Clippers have never looked this hopeful in the franchise's long and infamous history.
15. Tennessee Titans/ Houston Oilers
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Why do the Titans make the cut?
Simple: has a potential division title ever gone down the tubes so fast? Add to that the fact that Tennessee hasn't made the playoffs since 2008, when they were bumped off by the Baltimore Ravens. Their franchise quarterback (Vince Young) went AWOL, their team quit on head coach Jeff Fisher, and suddenly, after a 6-10 season, the Titans feel a long way from the second Super Bowl bid in team history.
Oh, and that first bid? Lost to the Rams when Kevin Dyson's last-second reach for the end zone came up a yard short.
Sounds like someone could use a hug.
14. Indiana Pacers
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Remember the late 90's and early 2000s when Reggie Miller, Rik Smits and the Pacers battled Jordan's Bulls to the death?
That was a long time ago. Now, the Pacers are a team that's been mired in mediocrity for the last five seasons.
They haven't sniffed the playoffs in that time, but haven't been bad enough to get the kind of lottery pick they need to improve.
Couple that with the fact that basketball-mad Indiana is so desperate to back a winner that they follow the WNBA's Fever before they follow the Pacers, and you've got a team in need of some love. And maybe a high draft pick.
13. Newcastle United
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Newcastle has developed a reputation over the years for being the Chicago Cubs of English football.
Optimism has sprung eternal amongst their loyal followers, the Toon Army, but the Magpies have a surprisingly small collection of hardware for being so loyally followed.
Many are the years in club history when the boys from St. James Park were favored to win the league, only to come up oh-so-short.
In 2008-09, Newcastle suffered their first demotion out of the Premiership since arriving in 1990, a serious blow to this club's pride.
They fought back, and currently sit in the middle of the table this year, but after selling star striker Andy Carroll to Liverpool, the question becomes, for how much longer?
12. Cincinnati Bengals
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The Bengals had their day in the sun, so to speak. During the 70's and 80's, they were frequently seen making the playoffs, and even punched tickets to the Super Bowl twice.
What happened? The Bengals lost both Super Bowls to Joe Montana's 49ers, both on last-minute, game-winning drives.
And since 1990, there have been few teams as hapless as the Bengals, who have used terrible draft picks (David Klingler, Ki-Jana Carter and Akili Smith spring to mind, but trust me, there are more) and questionable coaching hires to doom the franchise to two decades of hopelessness.
Now? The Bengals had two wide receivers who had reality shows last season. I think that speaks for itself.
11. Washington Redskins
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What do you get when you take one of the NFL's proudest franchises, and put it in the hands of an owner who goes through coaches like candy, lavishes veteran free agents with exorbitant contracts, makes terrible decisions in the NFL Draft and generally undermines his franchise's ability to win football games?
You get the Washington Redskins, a team who last looked like serious Super Bowl contenders in 1999, when they went 10-6 and fell to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the divisional round.
Unlike some other teams on this list, the Redskins haven't drafted all that well recently, meaning there's not a crop of young talent waiting to come save them.
10. Oakland Raiders
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The Raiders might be one of the worst run franchises in the NFL at this point. They lack a quarterback (and have since the Rich Gannon era came to an end), haven't finished with more than eight wins since 2002, and have been the laughing stock of the NFL in most of those seasons.
Add that to an owner who's approaching 250 years old, but still insists on making personnel decisions, and you've got a recipe for a team in need of some T.L.C.
On the plus side, the Raiders showed signs of life last season, reaching .500 for the first time since 2002.
But, the team fired it's head coach and decided to let star-cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha walk in free agency.
In other words, business as usual in Oakland.
9. Seattle Mariners
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The Mariners were once a force to be reckoned with in the American League. But since 2003, when they wrapped up back-to-back 93-69 seasons, they've failed to make any semblance of an impact on Major League Baseball.
Oh, sure, they showed plenty of potential in 2006, and again in 2009. But in each instance, the Mariners followed up their promise with some of the most epically disappointing seasons baseball has ever seen.
Heading into 2011, there are few teams with as little hope of finding success than Seattle. With a lack of young prospects and only Ichiro and defending Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez as recognizable stars, the M's are looking headed towards another last place finish in the A.L. West.
Someone go give Ichiro a hug.
8. Buffalo Bills
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Even when things were great in Buffalo, they weren't. The Bills made four straight Super Bowls, from 1990 through 1993. They also lost each and every one of those Super Bowls, either via a heartbreaking near-miss (the words "Scott Norwood" are officially classified as a swear in upstate New York) or soul-crushing blowout (52-17, in Super Bowl XXVII, to the Dallas Cowboys).
Since then? Things have not been pretty in Buffalo. They've scored just one postseason win, and haven't made the postseason since the 1998-1999 season.
The last five years, when the Bills have yet to post a record better than 7-9, have been particularly bad.
Right now, the Bills lack leadership in the front office, lack young talent on the field, and were a pleasant surprise when they went 6-10 last season.
7. Toronto Maple Leafs
I realize that in many circles, it's hard to feel bad for a team that resides in a hockey-mad city, and who have taken home 13 Stanley Cups, second only to the Montreal Canadiens all-time.
But consider this: it has been 45 years since the Maple Leafs last lifted Lord Stanley's trophy, and in hockey-crazed Toronto, that's 44 years too many.
Sure, they've had near misses since then, but you don't keep fans happy with almosts and could've's.
Right now, they're in the midst of one of the worst funks in franchise history, having missed the playoffs for five straight seasons, and given the teams play this year, they'll likely make it six. They're still at least a year or two from contending, and while there's hope for the Leafs, in Toronto, it's always accompanied by cynicism.
6. Cleveland Indians
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1948. That was the last time the Indians were able to call themselves the best team in baseball. Since then, it's been a lot of near misses (the mere mention of 1995 sends Indians fans into conniptions) and shattered dreams.
There was hope of breaking the slump in 2007, but the Indians lost in Game 7 of the ALCS (remember the midges?), and haven't cracked the baseball consciousness since.
Combine that with an underperforming superstar (Grady Sizemore, who hasn't been a superstar since 2007), a fan base that ranks among the most depressed in sports, and a current roster at least two seasons from fighting for the postseason, and you've got a team who could really use some love.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
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From 1990-1992, the Pittsburgh Pirates appeared in three straight NCLS, losing four games to two, four games to three and four games to three.
In the years since, they haven't won more than 79 games (in 1997) and have become the benchmark for baseball ineptitude. They've consistently picked at or near the top of just about every draft since 1992, but the prospects they've taken have either gone bust or never quite lived up to the hype.
They've tried youth movements, they've tried bringing in high priced free agents, but no matter what they did, they found themselves at the bottom of the NL Central.
Unlike many teams on here, there doesn't appear to be much hope at PNC Park, thanks to prospects that are still far away from readiness or not good enough to make the cut.
Oh, well, at least they've got Andrew McCutcheon.
4. Cleveland Browns
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The city of Cleveland loves their Browns. Like, looooves them.
Which makes their futility over the years so hard to take. The original Browns franchise never won a Super Bowl, thanks to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. Still, they were slowly becoming one of the NFL's stronger teams, and soon...
Disaster struck. The Browns became the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, and the city was without a football team until 1999, when the Browns returned.
Since then, they've had all of one playoff berth, and two winning seasons. Now, they just went 5-11, unable to build off of wins over the Patriots and Saints in consecutive weeks midway through the season, and have a severe lack of talent on the offensive side of the football, outside of quarterback Colt McCoy and running back Peyton Hillis.
Until the talent level improves, you can bet the Browns could use a hug or twelve.
3. Detroit Lions
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The benchmark for NFL ineptitude by which all other incompetent franchises are measured. The Detroit Lions haven't won an NFL championship or Super Bowl since 1953, haven't made the playoffs since 1999, and haven't won more than 9 games in a season since 1995.
The Lions managed to make Barry Sanders, the most dynamic runner the NFL has ever seen, into one of the greatest backs in NFL history never to win (or even make) a Super Bowl.
In the last 10 years, things have been simply awful in the Motor City. The Lions haven't broken 8-8 since 2000, when they went 9-7, and have used some of the worst drafting strategy in NFL history to guarantee that their futility would not go down without a fight.
Quarterback Matt Stafford, wideout Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, give the Lions hope, but given the futility they endured last season with those three, you'll have to excuse the Lions for not getting too excited.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
Poor Cleveland; that's three teams in the top 10. And rest assured, if they had an NHL franchise, they'd be here too.
And at this time last year, the Cavs wouldn't have believed they’d be this far up this list. They were on top of the world, looking like one of the favorites to win the NBA title, and loving life.
Then, boom. They came apart at the seams in the playoffs against the Boston Celtics (thanks to a choke job of historic proportions by a certain monarch).
Then, "The Decision", when NBA megastar LeBron James stabbed every Cavs fan and player in the heart on national television, leaving the team too stunned to do anything but explode at their Benedict Arnold superstar.
With no time to find an adequate replacement(s), the Cavs have the lowest talent level of any team in basketball right now. They look and feel like they’re just going through the motions, unsure of what or how to do. They’ve dropped 22 straight games, with little chance of ending that streak any time soon.
I'd say they need a hug, but that might not help.
1. Chicago Cubs
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Sure, the Cavs might be more miserable at the moment, but is there really another team in the history of sports who could do with a hug more than the Cubs?
102 years and counting on their last World Series. A heartbreaking loss in a crucial playoff game that would have sent them to the World Series in 2003. A current team who can't stay healthy, is loaded with hefty contracts for underperforming veterans (Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, anyone?) and, with the exceptions of Tyler Colvin, Starlin Castro, and possibly Geovany Soto (depending on the day) is bereft of young talent.
Until the Cubs win another World Series, who else could it be?