The Most Fun Awful Teams in Sports History

Scott Janovitz@@BrainTrain9Featured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2015

The Most Fun Awful Teams in Sports History

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    Even when they're terrible, Kobe Bryant makes the Lakers fun.
    Even when they're terrible, Kobe Bryant makes the Lakers fun.David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    It's often said that sports aren't all about winning and losing but about having fun as well. The problem, though, is that loss and fun are almost always conflicting, mutually exclusive notions. In other words, few people can lose and have fun at the same time.

    This reality is every bit as true from the perspective of the fans too. Take a moment to consider the history of sports and you'll find it hard to identify teams that were both really exciting and really bad; the teams we love to watch are mostly winners, sometimes average but rarely awful. 

    There are, however, exceptions to most rules, this one included.

    The 1996 Detroit Lions, for example, found wins incredibly hard to come by but still register as one of the NFL's most captivating teams thanks largely to some guy named Barry Sanders. 

    This year, in the NBA, Kobe Bryant is doing the same thing for the Los Angeles Lakers, who remain a popular, can't-miss attraction despite their depressing, losing ways. 

    In 1962, a gregarious manager named Casey Stengel played the same role of fun and entertaining savior, using humor to turn the miserable Mets into the country's most lovable losers.

    With these historical anomalies in mind, we were inspired to rank the 10 most fun awful teams in sports history.

    Some of the terrible teams we chose entertained fans with legendary stars, while others featured a dynamic coach or compelling style of play. No matter what, though, people had plenty of fun watching each one lose.

Chicago Cubs, 1999

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    The Cubs may have been terrible in 1999, but witnessing Sammy Sosa's historic play was alone worth the price of admission.
    The Cubs may have been terrible in 1999, but witnessing Sammy Sosa's historic play was alone worth the price of admission.RON FREHM/Associated Press

    The Cubs were dreadful in 1999—an NL-worst 67-95, to be exact. The team scored only 747 runs on the year—the fourth-worst total in the league—and was even worse on the mound, sporting a 5.27 team ERA (second-worst in the NL).

    These stats, however, don't tell the entire story.

    They don't, for example, acknowledge Sammy Sosa or speak to the outrageously fun and exciting season he had.

    It's true, the 1999 season fell short of 1998, when Sosa and Mark McGwire captivated the country in their quest to become baseball's single-season home run king.   

    But Sosa was almost as prolific in '99, hitting a ridiculous 63 homers to go along with 141 RBI and a more than respectable .288 batting average.

    And whether Sosa's historic production was achieved honestly or not, one thing remains forever true: chicks dig the long ball.

    And so do we.

Dallas Mavericks, 1995-96

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    Jamal Mashburn, a young Jason Kidd, and Jim Jackson made a bad Dallas team worth watching.
    Jamal Mashburn, a young Jason Kidd, and Jim Jackson made a bad Dallas team worth watching.Layne Murdoch/Getty Images

    Plenty of bad NBA teams have a good player or two. It's rare, however, for a bottom feeder to boast two All-Stars (one an eventual Hall of Famer) and six double-digit scorers. 

    But that, in fact, is the story of the 1995-96 Dallas Mavericks, a talented group that won just 26 games with the NBA's worst defense.  

    When on offense, though; the team was truly a pleasure to watch. 

    As alluded to above, six players scored 11.3 PPG or more—Jamal Mashburn, Jim Jackson, George McCloud, Jason Kidd, Tony Dumas and Popeye Jones—with Mashburn's 23.4 points per contest pacing the bunch.

    Jackson's efficient scoring—19.6 PPG on 44 percent shooting from the floor—was certainly worthy of attention, while Jones—a double-double machine, averaging 11.3 PPG and 10.8 RPG—excited fans with his palpable energy and courageous hustle.

    Of course, with all that said, Kidd was the real sight to behold. Blossoming in just his second NBA season, the future Hall of Famer was already one of the league's best point guards and gave fans a glimpse into his exciting future with tantalizing all-around play and this historically gaudy stat line: 16.6 PPG, 9.7 APG, 6.8 RPG, 2.2 SPG. 

Boston Braves, 1935

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    To see Babe Ruth one last time, it would have been worth watching the bad Boston Braves.
    To see Babe Ruth one last time, it would have been worth watching the bad Boston Braves.Anonymous/Associated Press

    It's likely that most of us weren't around to catch the 1935 Boston Braves. But it's equally likely that they were super intriguing to those who were. 

    Sure, the team lost a lot—115 times, to be precise, to go along with just 38 wins. And its winning percentage—24.8—is still tied for sixth-worst of all time. 

    Then again, Wally Berger alone had a season worth watching, with the four-time All-Star leading the NL in both homers (34) and RBI (130) while scoring 91 runs and batting .295.

    Oh, by the way, did we mention that some guy named Babe Ruth also played for the Braves, and that 1935 was his last season playing professional baseball?

    By this time, the Great Bambino was a far cry from his legendary self—he hit just six homers and 12 RBI in 28 appearancesbut getting a chance to say goodbye to the see the greatest ever one last time was, we're sure, a worthwhile and exciting experience, to say the least.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 1976

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    His Bucs were terrible in 1976, but John McKay made them fun to follow.
    His Bucs were terrible in 1976, but John McKay made them fun to follow.GB/Associated Press

    The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers set the NFL standard for futility, to put it kindly. 

    The team's struggles were hardly surprising—it was Tampa's first year in the NFL—but excruciating nonetheless. For some perspective, consider this: The '76 Bucs were the first team in league history to play a full 14-game season without registering a single win or tie and averaged just 8.9 PPG on the year.

    With that said, like no one else could, head coach John McKay somehow found a way to bring fun and laughter to all the dread. Though it sometimes came at the expense of his players, McKay's combination of honesty and sarcasmespecially in his post-game press conferences, which played more like stand-up comedy routineswas more fun to witness than any of Tampa's games. 

    For example, when told that kicker Pete Rajecki was nervous to perform in front of him, McKay responded with this gem: “That’s unfortunate, as I plan on attending all the games”.  

    On another occasion, McKay told reporters that they didn't know the difference between a football and a bunch of bananas. So when a member of the media left a bundle of bananas at McKay's door a week later, the head coach adapted his routine and accused the media of not knowing "the difference between a football and a Mercedes-Benz."

    Finally, in another of his best post-game moments of the year, McKay was asked about his team's execution—or lack thereofand quipped, "I'm in favor of it."

    In the end, though, Bucs football was truly dreadful to watch in 1976. But with McKay leading the way, it was just as fun to follow.

Edmonton Oilers, 2013-14

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    The Oilers were bad in 2013-14, but Taylor Hall made them exciting enough to watch.
    The Oilers were bad in 2013-14, but Taylor Hall made them exciting enough to watch.Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    We take a step back from the history books here to highlight a team that was both awful and exciting far more recently.

    To be clear, the 2013-14 season was a difficult one for the Edmonton Oilers. The group's 67-point season was second-worst in the NHL and ranked all the way at the bottom of the Western Conference. 

    Still, hockey fans had at least a couple of reasons to watch. Their names? Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall.

    The two forwards both finished among the NHL's top-30 point scorers, with Hall's sixth-best, 80-point total leading the way. Combined, the two recorded 145 points on the year and formed one of the most dynamic offensive duos in the league. 

    As a result, even when the Oilers were losing with impressive consistency, their exciting offensive stars made them a more than worthwhile watch. 

Los Angeles Lakers, 2014-15

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    Kobe Bryant's quest to make history has overshadowed LA's terrible basketball.
    Kobe Bryant's quest to make history has overshadowed LA's terrible basketball.Jonathan Bachman/Associated Press

    For the Lakers, the 2014-15 season has been almost entirely about an aging Kobe Bryant.

    Despite the team's on-court struggles—it was 12-31 at the time this article was published—fans in LA and nationwide continue to follow the Lakers en masse for one reason only: The Black Mamba.

    For starters, in what is sure to be one of the legend's last NBA seasons, Bryant is quite literally shooting for history, an exciting endeavor no doubt. To be exact, he currently sits third among the NBA's all-time leaders in points and is fast chasing both Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

    Better yet, with the record he yearns for in mind, Bryant is shooting almost as much as ever, wowing crowds with more than 20 shots per game. And despite an all-time low shooting percentage of 37.3, the future Hall of Famer is still managing to score better than 22 points a night.

    In the end, then, watching the Mamba take countless ill-advised shots in his quest for immortality has, this year, been fun enough to justify tolerating lifeless Laker basketball. 

San Francisco Warriors, 1962-63

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    The Warriors 0f 62-63 weren't nearly as bad as Wilt Chamberlain was good.
    The Warriors 0f 62-63 weren't nearly as bad as Wilt Chamberlain was good.Anonymous/Associated Press

    In 1962-63, the San Francisco Warriors were really bad at basketball. They won just 31 games in 80 outings and sported the NBA's worst overall defense, allowing 120.6 PPG.  

    But in addition to a bunch of Ls next to their name, the Warriors also had a 26-year-old center by the name of Wilt Chamberlain

    And at the time, Chamberlain alone was the league's most exciting attraction.

    For his pitiful Warriors, the mammoth center averaged a mind-boggling 44.8 PPG to go along with an awe-inspiring 24.3 rebounds per contest. And thanks to help from five other double-digit scorers, San Francisco managed to field one of the league's best and most dynamic offenses. 

    So while it's hardly fun to watch a single NBA team lose repeatedly, we imagine it's a whole lot easier when one of its players can score 50 or more points on any given night. 

    In other words, regardless of their team's struggles, watching players who consider 40-point, 20-rebound games slightly below average sounds like a whole lot of fun.

Detroit Pistons, 1994-95

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    In 1994-95, Grant Hill teamed up with Allan Houston and Joe Dumars to play bad but exciting basketball.
    In 1994-95, Grant Hill teamed up with Allan Houston and Joe Dumars to play bad but exciting basketball.Rocky Widner/Getty Images

    In 1994-95, the Detroit Pistons were clearly one of the NBA's worst teams. Their putrid 28-54 record was the worst in the Central Division—a full six games behind the second-to-last Milwaukee Bucks—while their defense, which allowed 105.5 PPG, was the East's second-worst unit. 

    Detroit's roster, however, was surprisingly talented. In fact, it featured four players who scored 14.5 PPG or more, including Joe Dumars, Grant Hill and Allan Houston.

    In Dumars, fans got the chance to see a future Hall of Famer before it was too late, and while he could still play and produce at a high level—he averaged 18.1 PPG in addition to 5.5 APG. 

    In a young Houston, just two years out of college, viewers caught a glimpse of a future two-time All-Star and one of the smoothest shooters to ever lace up a pair of sneakers.

    And most important of all, those who were patient enough earned the opportunity to witness an emerging Hill, who, though just a rookie, was already showing aspects of what would become a beautiful all-around game.

    When you add it all up, 54 losses suddenly doesn't seem like too much to endure.

Detroit Lions, 1996

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    The 1996 Detroit Lions were pitiful, but the brilliance of Barry Sanders made all the losing matter a little less.
    The 1996 Detroit Lions were pitiful, but the brilliance of Barry Sanders made all the losing matter a little less.DUANE BURLESON/Associated Press

    We don't have to say or write much for readers to know where we're going here. 

    In 1996, the Detroit Lions were really bad—5-11 bad, to be exact.

    But with the electrifying Barry Sanders donning silver and blue, Detroit's mounting losses seemed to matter far less.

    Simply put, Sandersalong with Michael Jordanwas the most captivating athlete in sports at the time.

    If you weren't around to see it and haven't yet gone back to watch, this is what we're talking about. 

    And to be clear, the human highlight was particularly special in '96, rushing for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns with an impressive 5.1 yard-per-carry average.

    Of course, it wasn't just what Sanders did but how he did it.

    No matter what we had to endure along the way, watching the Hall of Famer juke and dazzle while making world-class athletes look plain silly was a mystifying act that simply never got old.

New York Mets, 1962

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    Casey Stengel helped the 1962 Mets build a mass following despite horrific play on the field.
    Casey Stengel helped the 1962 Mets build a mass following despite horrific play on the field.Associated Press

    Before John McKay employed humor and wit to lessen the pain in Tampa Bay's winless 1976 campaign, Mets manager Casey Stengel used brilliant and equally hilarious one-liners to overshadow his team's miserable 1962 season. 

    And boy were the Mets bad. Infamously bad, in fact.

    With a 40-120 record, New York finished the year in last place, more than 60 games behind the NL Champion San Francisco Giants. Their 120 losses are still the most suffered by an MLB team in a single season since 1899.

    Stengel, however, had the words to put things in perspective and even bring a little fun to all the misery.

    At his introductory press conference, for example, Stengel poked fun at his own advanced age and his team's projected futility, humorously acknowledging that it was, "a great honor to be joining the Knickerbockers."

    And when his Mets proved to be in trouble early in the season, Stengel appealed to fans through the media, printing the following message in New York City newspapers: "Come see my amazin' Mets!"

    In another famous moment, a reporter asked the manager to describe rookies Ed Kranepool and Greg Goossen, which inspired Stengel to make yet another humorous observation: "See that fellow over there? He's 20 years old. In 10 years, he has a chance to be a star. Now, that fellow over there, he's 20 too. In 10 years, he has a chance to be 30."

    It didn't take long for Stengel's sideshow antics to gain mass appeal. What is arguably his most famous line—"Can't anybody here play this game?"—is still celebrated today and is the title of Jimmy Breslin's book chronicling the '62 Mets.

    Sure enough, his quirky attempt to turn the miserable Mets into fun and lovable losers worked brilliantly. The team's average attendance throughout the season—11,532 per game—ranked a respectable sixth in the National League.

Indianapolis Colts, 1998

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    Peyton Manning teamed up with Marshall Faulk in 1998 to make a 3-13 season a lot more fun.
    Peyton Manning teamed up with Marshall Faulk in 1998 to make a 3-13 season a lot more fun.Seth Rossman/Associated Press

    For a long while, the Indianapolis Colts franchise was among the worst in the NFL. Between 1977 and 1998, the team made just three postseason appearances. Heading into the '98 season, it was coming off yet another disappointing year (a 3-13 record).

    But on April 18, 1998, with just two simple words from then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Indy's future fortune shifted dramatically.  

    Those words, of course, were "Peyton" and "Manning," whom the Colts selected with the first overall pick in that year's NFL Draft.

    From a win-loss perspective, the new face's impact was far from immediate—the Colts were 3-13 in '98, Manning's rookie season, which was tied for the worst in the NFL.

    With the promising gunslinger in the picture, though, hope was alive and well in Indy; the Colts suddenly mattered again nationally too.

    Even though his team stunk in the record book, Manning energized and entertained right out of the gate, throwing for a fun-to-watch 3,739 yards and 26 touchdowns during his rookie campaign.

    He wasn't alone, either, on what became an alluring Colts offense. Some guy named Marshall Faulk lent a dynamic hand, rushing for 1,319 yards and six touchdowns while also catching 86 balls for 908 yards and another four scores. All told, Faulk led the NFL with 2,227 yards from scrimmage. 

    Together, the two sturdy stars made Indy exciting and relevant and all its struggles far less excruciating. 

    Follow Janovitz on Twitter: @BrainTrain9