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. Thus, in reverse order:
7. San Diego
Last title: 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.
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.
Last title: Never.
Combined seasons sans title: 76 (Bills 39, Sabres 37)
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. 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.
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 yet to make the Western Conference Finals, 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. 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.
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.
Last title: Browns, 1964, AFL.
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 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.Posted in Columns, MLB