Ranking Cities Sports Title Droughts

It has been a wild couple of years in sports in terms of ending title droughts. In 2016, Cleveland won its first championship in any sport in over half a century and the Chicago Cubs broke a 108-year curse by winning the World Series. In 2017, the Houston Astros won their first ever World Series title. 2018 has already seen the Philadelphia Eagles win a long-awaited championship and the Washington Capitals finally bring home the Stanley Cup. Some of the most historic title droughts in all of sports have ended in recent years, begging the question of which cities remain the most tortured for a title. Here is my top ten.

10. Detroit
Teams: Lions (NFL), Pistons (NBA), Red Wings (NHL), Tigers (MLB),
Last title: 2008

It has only been a decade since a Detroit team has won a title, but the history of sports success in the Motor City is not a great one. The Lions have famously (or infamously) never won a Super Bowl, or even appeared in one. They also hold the NFL record for most consecutive playoff losses. Baseball is a little more promising because the Tigers have won before, three times actually, but the last World Series victory came in 1984. The Pistons have had some great teams, but have also been one of the worst run NBA franchises in the last ten years. In the NHL, the Red Wings represent the true bright spot. Detroit has hoisted the Stanley Cup twice since the turn of the century. It hasn’t been that long for Detroit, but it might be a while before one of these four teams wins another title.

9. Indianapolis
Teams: Colts (NFL), Pacers (NBA)
Last title: 2006

Only two teams reside in Indianapolis and the Colts have won a title. The Peyton Manning era is still one fans could look back on proudly, but for a long time the Colts were one of the most tortured franchises in the NFL. They have resumed that post since then. For a city as crazy about basketball as Indy, zero NBA titles is a real bummer as well. The Pacers have only reached the NBA finals once in franchise history losing to the Shaq and Kobe Lakers. Both the Colts and Pacers have been competitive in recent years as well, but always end up faltering in the playoffs, leaving a bitter taste in fans’ mouths.

8. Charlotte
Teams: Hurricanes (NHL), Hornets (NBA), Panthers (NFL)
Last title: 2006

It has also been 12 years since Charlotte has won a title, but they get the edge for having three teams as opposed to Indy’s two. The Hornets have been one of the worst franchises in NBA history. It has been 30 years since the Hornets were founded and the team has never so much as won a division title. Football has treated fans a little better, as the Panthers did reach the Super Bowl back in 2003. They came agonizingly close to beating that Brady guy, but Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winner as time expired to beat Carolina. The Hurricanes are the only team in Charlotte to win a title. After losing in the 2002 Stanley Cup final, Carolina broke through in 2006 to lift the cup. Still, just one title between three teams over the past 30 years is a poor return.

7. Nashville
Teams: Predators (NHL), Titans (NFL)
Last title: N/A

If you also lump in the Memphis Grizzles, the Tennessee would likely move up a few spots on this list. Seeing as Memphis and Nashville are on opposite sides of the state though, it did not seem too fair. Both teams moved to town in 1997, but the Predators came close to bringing home a title in 2017. On the other hand, the Titans made the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in nearly ten years. What holds Nashville back is how new of a sports city it is. It has only had pro teams for 20 years, so the lack of a title is not totally shocking. Only one appearance in a finals setting is more than enough to qualify for this list though.

6. Cincinnati
Teams: Bengals (NFL), Reds (MLB)
Last title: 1990

Oh, where to begin with Cincinnati. For one, the Bengals have been a punch line in the NFL for quite some time. Head coach Marvin Lewis took over in 2003 and has taken the team to the playoffs seven times in his tenure. He is also 0-7 in the postseason. It has been 27 years since Cincy has won a playoff game, the longest active streak in the league. The Bengals weren’t always this way though. In the ’80s, Cincinnati made it to two Super Bowls, both times losing by less than a touchdown to the Joe Montana led 49ers. The Reds haven’t been a whole lot better. Since winning the World Series in 1990, Cincy’s baseball team has only made the playoffs four times. With the Bengals looking like an average team and the Reds in the middle of a rebuild, it could be a while before Cincinnati celebrates another championship.

5. San Diego
Teams: Padres (MLB), Chargers (NFL)
Last title: N/A

Technically, there is only one pro team still in San Deigo, but to not include the struggles of the Chargers in evaluating the drought this city has gone through would be unfair. I actually think the fact the Chargers left makes life as a fan in this city even more torturous. Boasting one of the greatest offenses in NFL history, San Diego never managed to reach a Super Bowl. Its lone appearance was a blowout loss to the 49ers in 1994. Even during the early 2000s, it seemed like the Chargers would finally break through, but never managed to reach the Super Bowl. For the Padres, opportunities for postseason success have been few and far between. In 49 years as a franchise, the Padres have made the playoffs just five times, including two different losses in the World Series. San Diego has long awaited a title and now will have an even tougher time securing one with only the Padres left in town.

4. Phoenix
Teams: Cardinals (NFL), Coyotes (NHL), Diamondbacks (MLB), Suns (NBA)
Last title: 2001

It has been 17 years since the largest city in Arizona brought home a sports championship. The Cardinals came agonizingly close in 2009 before falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers in a wild Super Bowl. The Suns haven’t been good in years, but still remember the days of Charles Barkley and Steve Nash fondly. Neither of the ever managed to bring home a title. The Coyotes have never made it to a Stanley Cup final, much less won one. That leaves the Diamondbacks, who won the cities last championship in 2001. It is the only title in the city’s history. The Cardinals won an NFL Championship in 1947, but that was actually while the team was located in Chicago. Only one title between four teams is tough for fans to swallow and it does not seem like any of them are close to a title for a least a few more years.

3. Atlanta
Teams: Hawks (NBA), Falcons (NFL), Braves (MLB),
Last title: 1995

Between the Hawks, Falcons and Braves, Atlanta has only brought home one title in the history of sports in the city. The Braves broke through in 1995, which isn’t really that long ago, but this city definitely knows what it is like to want a title. The Hawks have never made it to the NBA Finals while in Atlanta. The 2016 Falcons made it to the Super Bowl and blew the largest lead in the history of the game. It marked the second time the Falcons lost in the championship. Looking at the Braves, they lost four other World Series during the ’90s. Had it not been for that World Series in ’95, Atlanta might very well top this list.

2. Buffalo
Teams: Bills (NFL), Sabres (NHL)
Last title: N/A

Western New York is home to one of the most passionate fan bases in all of sports. The aptly named “Bills Mafia” provides a fun home field advantage whenever the Bills are hosting. Sabres fans have suffered through many years of woeful play on the ice, but still support the team nonetheless. Between these two franchises, Buffalo has appeared in six different championships, winning none of them. The Bills came up short in four consecutive Super Bowls! Talk about torture for fans. The Sabres made two different runs to the Stanley Cup final over the years, but fell short in both. It was the NHL team who made Buffalo’s last championship appearance in 1999. Up until last year, the Bills hadn’t even been to the playoffs since 1999. What holds Buffalo back from the top spot is the fact that the city only has two teams.

1. Minneapolis
Teams: Timberwolves (NBA), Twins (MLB), Wild (NHL), Vikings (NFL)
Last title: 1991

21 years ago was the last time a team from the Twin Cities won a title. Minneapolis is home to some of the most tortured fan bases in sports. On one hand, you have the Vikings. The Purple People Eaters lost four Super Bowls from 1969 to 1976. The Vikings have never made it back to the big game since their loss in ’76. It seemed like they would in 1998, with a historically good offense, only to lose in their first playoff game that year. Then there are the Timberwolves. Minnesota finally broke the second longest playoff drought in NBA history in 2018 after 13 years of failing to qualify. In a league where more than half the teams make it to the postseason, that is quite a feat. The Wild haven’t been in town long, but like the Timberwolves, have never even reached the finals. The Twins are the only team in town with a title, but have not returned to the World Series. While Minneapolis has won a title, none of the teams in the city have even reached the championship stage in the 27 years since. This city is starved for a title and well-deserving of the top spot on our list.

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In sports, hate is respect

There are some people in sports that you just hate. You hate seeing them have win awards or titles. You hate seeing them make a spectacular play. You just hate seeing them have success in general.

I talked about it the other day, but there are all kinds of hate. There is the hate for Alex Rodriguez, Sepp Blatter and Roger Goodell, which is based on their character and decision making. However, there is also the hatred of a player because he or she is really good at what he or she does.

USA Canada 2010 Gold Medal Game
Crosby scored the game-winning goal in overtime against the US. (Wikimedia Commons)

This version of the word is reserved for a only a few in sports. There are many that hate LeBron. Plenty despised Manning. Crosby is a someone hockey fans love to hate. Messi and Ronaldo are two of the most hated players in the world.

This kind of hate is usually personal. For me, I’ve always hated Brady and Kobe, as well as Crosby, and I’m sure I’m not alone. I never wanted to see them do well and it pained me when they did. That was a problem cause they were successful a lot.

In sports, hatred is the highest level of respect a fan can have for a player. That might sound odd, but when you think about it, it adds up. You despise these athletes because of how good they are at what they do. It is nothing to do with who they are as a person in this case. Instead, it focuses on their accomplishments, which means that you have acknowledged their success.

Kobe Bryant
Bryant retired third on the NBA all-time scoring list. (Wikimedia Commons)

It took me a very long time to realize why I hated some of these guys so much. It was because they were really good. I hated these players like Brady, Crosby and Kobe because they continually did things that most other athletes could not and I didn’t want to see it happen. I truly hated them solely because they were good at what they did.

Eventually, that kind of hatred turns into respect. I can’t stand Kobe and his constantly isolation, but I recognize that he is one of the top ten players to ever lace them up. Crosby cost me $10 in a bet when I was a kid and cost the United States a gold medal in hockey at the Olympics. I resented him for that, but I know it’s because of how skilled he is as a player.

Tom_Brady
Brady is tied for the most Super Bowl wins as a quarterback in league history. (Wikimedia Commons)

And Brady, man, I don’t know if I can put into words how much I hate Brady. He has tormented the Jets for as long as I can remember and I mean that quite literally. I’ve watched him hold up the Lombardi Trophy four times. Each time has felt like a gut punch. However, I accept the fact that he is arguably the best quarterback in NFL history.

It is hard to admit these things to ourselves, much less to other people. You always want to maintain that those players are not as good as everyone else thinks they are. Eventually, you give up the fight though and begin to respect them.

That doesn’t mean you hate them any less, you just understand that your hatred is more than justified because of all the success they have accrued over the course of their respective careers.

Do I still hate these guys? Absolutely. But do I respect that they are great athletes that I am lucky to be watching. Yes, I just might not like to admit it.

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Major League Baseball has laid out the blueprint

So now the question is, when does everyone else start catching up? Major League Baseball suspended four different pitchers in the past 2-plus weeks for use of a steroid called stanozolol. Popular among body builders, the drug reportedly helps athletes lose fat while maintaining lean body mass. Ervin Santana, David Rollins, Arodys Vizcaino and Jenrry Mejia all tested positive for the steroid under the new MLB anti-doping policy. The league also announced they will be investigating the repeated appearance of the drug, using the 2013 Biogenesis investigation as a model. Clearly, MLB has made major strides in its handling of steroid usage and cases showing an initiative to clean up the league.

Despite the obvious success MLB has seen since the implementation of the new system, other professional sporting leagues have yet to follow. The NFL has some basic steroid testing in place but not to the full extent possible. The NBA and NHL have relatively weak systems that do not pose much of a threat to players who are using these drugs. Each of them have clearly outlined systems but none of them are being enforced anywhere close to as heavily. Let’s go through some basic comparisons.

Roger_Goodell

NFL
The NFL is probably next in line behind MLB but they are still fairly far behind. Players are subjected to random drug testing during the season. If a player were to test positive for steroids, HGH or stimulants, they would immediately receive a 4-game suspension. On a second offense, players are suspended for ten games and a third offense results in a minimum two-year ban from the league and all related activity. Players have to apply for reinstatement as well following the minimum two years. If a player tests positive for stimulants during the offseason, they are referred to the league substance abuse program. The NFL also does a relatively good job of enforcing the drug policy, with roughly 100 players suspended since 2010. The HGH testing is new for the league though, which shows they are still conscious that the policy can be tweaked and improved.

Adam_Silver

NBA
The NBA seems to have a solid program in place. NBA players are subjected to a reasonable number of tests per season with four random tests during the course of the league year. Players can even be tested on reasonable cause, determined by a third-party expert. However, the penalties are pretty minor with a first offense resulting in only a ten game suspension. A second offense means the player only earns a 25-game ban and a third offense results in a yearlong ban. A fourth offense would result in a permanent ban from the league. That is all well and good, except when you look at the numbers. The NBA has suspended exactly three players since 2010 for violating the NBA drug policy. That includes drugs of abuse and other illegal substances outside of steroids. Those numbers are not too high when you compare them to anywhere else.

Gary_Bettman

NHL
Hockey, like basketball, has never really gripped the nation with a major drug scandal. The NHL does a fairly good job of testing as many players as possible. Each player is subjected to two unannounced drug tests per season and one of them must be a team-wide test. The number of tests is on the smaller side unfortunately but the punishment is better than the NBA and probably on par with the NFL. A first-time offender receives a 20 game suspension, a second offense results in a 60-game suspension and a third offense is a permanent suspension. Like the NFL, players can apply for reinstatement after the minimum two years are served. The league does not crack down too much on players. They have only suspended three players under the new performance enhancing drug policy, but it was only launched last year.

Rob_Manfred

MLB
It is rare that I think baseball is truly way ahead of the curve when it comes to the major sports in the United States, but for steroid testing, it isn’t even close. Every year at the start of spring training, each player is subjected to a urine and blood test. The league then randomly chooses 3,200 urine and 260 blood tests of random players throughout the course of the season to catch those who begin doping following the spring training tests. The league also selects certain urine tests to undergo carbon isotope ratio mass spectrometry analysis. MLB, like the NBA allows reasonable cause testing, something the NFL and NHL have not yet implemented as far as I could find in the bylaws. MLB is also much harsher with its punishments. The league hands out an 80-game suspension following a first offense and a season-long suspension after a second offense. A third offense will result in a permanent ban with a minimum of two years required before a player can request reinstatement. MLB has suspended 19 players since May of 2012 and that doesn’t include 5 minor leaguers as well.

Overall, there is still clearly cheating in American sports due to performance enhancing drugs. Baseball has taken the right initiative with the intensive measures used in its testing. The key thing that MLB has that other sports desperately lack is the public shame that comes with steroid use. Dozens of players have been held out of the Hall of Fame due to their checkered past with steroids. It creates a major stigma for the player and MLB is continuing to enforce the image that steroids make you a cheater. The NFL does not do that, often refraining from using the word steroids, opting instead to refer to them as performance enhancing drugs. The idea is still the same, but the stigma that comes with being called a steroid user is just not there. The NBA’s and NHL’s rate of suspending players is a joke.

And none of this seems to be a problem for them. According to an article from ESPN, NBA general counsel, Rick Buchanan, was quoted saying, “We think we have a program that is as good as any other in pro sports.” That is the underlying issue. No one is putting enough pressure on these other leagues to make a change. Fans agonized over MLB’s faulty system until they made some major improvements, and now the league has easily the best anti-doping program of any American sport. We might all like to think that these leagues will strive for change on their own, but without a little push from their fans, there is no chance that the NBA, NFL or NHL make the necessary moves to truly fight steroid use in American sports.

Even as we approach the Sweet 16, many college athletes can be left bitter

The NCAA tournament is in full swing at the moment as the Sweet 16 will take place at the end of this week. However, it seems the NCAA is never safe from scrutiny. President Obama cast his lot into the conversation regarding the corrupt and questionable practices of college athletics’ governing body. He made a couple of different points but the one that rung out the strongest to me was his criticism of players losing scholarships due to injury. The NCAA allows programs to revoke scholarships from players who are injured or who are cut from their respective teams.

What the NCAA continually does to college athletes is something like this. And yes I am looking at you Mark Emmert:

Let’s say that you want to learn how to cook better, so you decide to take some cooking lessons. Upon signing up for the lessons, you discover that the first four months of classes are free. This is a great deal for you, probably all of the classes you might need, and looking at the price, you probably would not be able to afford the classes otherwise. So, you begin taking classes at this local cooking shop and begin learning all sorts of new skills from a chef acting as your teacher. A week or so in, you begin to make your own dishes. The chef continually tells you that you should be researching recipes and practicing on your own time, but you have a full-time job that is meant to take your priority so this is a difficult task.

About a month into your classes, you hurt yourself during one of the sessions. You cut yourself fairly deep on your hand with a knife after you slip up chopping vegetables. An honest mistake but now you cannot go to the cooking classes for the next month due to the stitches in your hand. You take time and heal properly, just as your doctor and teacher tell you, and then return to the class.

Upon your return, someone who works higher up in the corporation that runs the cooking class approaches you. He tells you that because you missed the past month of classes, you are no longer eligible for the discount and you will need to start paying to take the cooking classes now. You complain that you were injured in one of the classes and that the injury was outside of your control. The man insists that there is no other way for you to continue attending the cooking school and you must find a way to pay.

In that story, you are fundamentally wronged and loose out an opportunity to do something you really enjoy because the school turned its back on you. Everyone recognizes that what happened is morally wrong. Yet, this happens to college athletes over and over again. And the scary thing is that there is very little that the NCAA requires colleges to provide regarding healthcare. In fact, most of the healthcare services are optional for schools to provide. So not only are they at risk of losing their scholarships due to the injury, they are not guaranteed to have any medical costs covered. Schools will occasionally cover the fees of surgeries for students but they are not required to and that they are not is what is concerning.

There are many things fundamentally wrong with the NCAA. The amount of money they make while maintaining they are a non-profit is one. The fact that they are exploiting young, college students is another. But pulling away a kid’s hopes and dreams due to an injury sustained while playing for a university under the NCAA is awful. This issue falls on both the school’s and the NCAA’s shoulders to fix, as they are both equally to blame. Schools are not required to honor scholarships; that does not meant they cannot honor them. And the NCAA, does not require schools to honor scholarships, which is sickening. People can talk all they want about how college athletes should be paid (I’m not saying they should or should not) and how the NCAA is exploiting students. Above all else, the NCAA needs to begin protecting the kids who suffer serious injuries playing collegiate athletics. That has got to be the top priority. If you want to maintain that these kids are student-athletes, with the student part coming first, then do not take away their chance to be a student because they got hurt being an athlete.

Top five most successful sports cities

As a continuation from yesterday’s piece, I thought it might be interesting to reflect back on the last 15 years of sports champions. More specifically, I am ranking the top ten sports cities in the US since 2000. This includes the five largest sports leagues in America, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. The rankings will mainly rely on championships won by a single city but I will also take into account appearances in the finals as well. Let’s see if your city cracked the top five.

#5 Chicago: 3 total titles in 6 total appearances
Chicago actually has fewer titles than San Antonio but gets the nod for the extra finals appearance and diversity across more than one sport. Chicago is home to the two-time finalist Fire of the MLS in 2000 and 2003. The Bears also claim the Windy City as home. Even though this NFL team hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1985, they did make it to 2007 Super Bowl. Despite the Cubs century long struggle to win the World Series, the White Sox claimed a title in 2005. The other two titles came from the NHL side. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013. Chicago has seen championship berths from the spread out across these 15 years. The Bulls, despite all the success in the 90s, have not made it to the finals since the turn of the century.

#4 Miami: 4 total titles in 6 total appearances
Florida’s major city clocks in at number four largely due to the success of the Miami Heat during this decade. The Heat made it to a NBA-record four straight NBA Finals, winning the middle two. The Heat also locked up a championship back in 2006 as well over the Dallas Mavericks. So yes, most of the credit goes to the NBA team but the baseball team based in Miami has a World Series title as well. The Marlins, who back then were only the Florida Marlins but still played in the city, won the 2003 World Series over the New York Yankees. The titles from two different sports gives Miami a boost. Now if only the Dolphins could help the city out. Soccer could be springing up as well soon as David Beckham seeks to set up a MLS expansion team. For now though, Miami is nowhere close to jumping over the top three cities on the list.

#3 Tri-State: 6 total titles in 15 total appearances
This seems like it is cheating a little bit but it is hard to differentiate New York and New Jersey. Despite being called the New York Giants, Jets and Red Bulls, all of these teams play in New Jersey, along with the Devils. Either way, The Giants locked up two Super Bowl titles in 2008 and 2012. The Red Bulls made a Cup run in 2008, falling short to Columbus. The Yankees won two World Series titles in 2000 and 2009, the 2000 one over the cross-town rival Mets. The Yanks also made the 2001 and 2003 Series. On the ice, the Devils have two Stanley Cups from runs in 2000 and 2003 to go along with losses in the 2001 and 2012 final. Even the Nets, who back then played in Jersey, made consecutive title appearances in 2002 and 2003. Worth noting, New Jersey based teams have accounted for 4 titles in 9 appearances while New York teams only have 2 championships in 6 showings. Looks like Jersey is holding up their end of the deal…

#2 Boston: 9 total titles in 18 total appearances
You know a city is dominant when they have more finals appearances than there are years in our criteria. Boston’s 18 championship runs is one less than the number one team on this list. The cities 9 titles are incredible though. The largest contributor has been the Patriots, with Super Bowl victories in 2001, 2003, 2004 and 2015 and losses in 2008 and 2012. The Red Sox have held up their end of the bargain as well, delivering 3 World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and 2013. The Celtics and Bruins even locked up a title each in 2008 and 2011 respectively. The little known fact is that Revolution actually have contributed the second most title appearances, with five. The issue is that they have come up short every time in the MLS Final. Still Boston’s titles are very impressive. They just couldn’t edge out number one.

#1 Los Angeles: 14 total titles in 19 total appearances
Wow. 14 titles in 15 years. It’s no wonder stars love going to Los Angeles. With teams in every one of the sports being considered but football, LA probably solid chances of succeeding but still 13 championships in 15 years in unprecedented. The LA Galaxy have brought home 5 MLS Cups in 7 attempts in 2002, 2005, 2011, 2012 and 2014. The Lakers have the same numbers with their titles coming in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010. The Kings have been stellar of late, nabbing two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. The Anaheim Ducks grabbed a trophy on the ice in 2007. The Anaheim Angeles added a World Series title in 2002 as well. When one city has three different teams winning titles in a single year (2002), there is really no discussion. This city has truly become Titletown since the year of 2000.

Disagree with the list, tell me who you think should have been included and who should have missed the cut.