When I first started here at Bleacher Report, I wrote an article about whom, in my very humble opinion, were the 10 most irrelevant teams in sports today. I explained how, unless your name begins with “Milwaukee” (the most irrelevant sports town in America) or you play in the NHL, it’s actually more difficult to stay irrelevant than to become relevant.
This is because relevance is anything that places a team in the public eye. Take the LA Clippers for example. Sure, in Los Angeles, they’re the four other Jacksons to the Lakers' Michael. But they still play in Los Angeles. And there abused-sibling juxtaposition next to the Lakers makes for an unmistakable national identity.
So the real question becomes: how would such rankings work from the opposite end, or the Lakers' end, of the irrelevant spectrum? With so many teams clinging to multiple points of relevance, which ones top the field?
It would be easy to just rattle off the 10 most iconic franchises in sports history. Everyone knows about Red Auerbach’s victory cigars or Lou Gehrig’s “Luckiest Man” speech and the rest of the famed stories, legends, and championships that checker the histories of teams like the Celtics, Canadiens, and Yankees.
But relevance is a figurative cross between historical success and flavors of the moment. Take a team like the Canadiens for example. They're a hockey franchise that hasn’t sniffed the Stanley Cup in almost two decades (1993). So are they really more relevant at this point in time than a recent power like the Phillies?
Historically, it’s a no-brainer. Only the Yankees (26) have won more championships than the Canadiens (23) among professional North American franchises. While the Phillies, with over 10,000 losses since 1883, are the losingest team in the history of sports.
But relevance is an ever-revolving pendulum that swings back and forth more often than Joe Lieberman’s political affiliations. History does go a long way towards defining it. But history can also have trouble competing with the flavor of the moment.
This is what makes it possible for a perennial loser like the Phillies to matter more than a team with 11 times as many championships (like the Canadiens). By current standards, the Phillies are an all-encompassing powerhouse in the National League with an all-world pitching staff. The Canadiens are a mediocre hockey franchise content on reaching the second round of the playoffs.
So when defining relevance, put yourself in this scenario: you’re a die-hard sports fan in the middle of New Mexico. You have no local professional teams to sway your opinion. Drop everything and tell me the first 10 that come to mind at this very moment. With history as my influence and modern flavor breaking the ties, here’s how the scenario plays out…