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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Nothing is sacred in football

In a week where we have seen the world of football surrounded by talk of the Patriots’ legacy being tainted for underinflated footballs and Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank admitting to the use of fake crowd noise, cheating in the NFL has been on everyone’s mind. The legitimacy of the game so loved in the US sure takes a hit but at least it was not a single player at the heart of the controversy. However, we have a new story coming to light about the man many say is the single greatest player in league history.

ESPN released a video a few weeks ago about the evolution of receiving gloves in the NFL. A little over a minute in, Jerry Rice admits that he used to put a little stickum, a banned substance by the league, on his gloves to make sure they had that extra bit of grip. The NFL officially outlawed the substance in 1981. Rice joined the league in 1985. At no point could the Hall of Fame receiver have played using stickum without violating NFL rules. Rice would have been great regardless but once again, this is a matter of going to any length for a competitive edge.

For some context, Hall of Fame receiver Andre Reed explains in the video that using stickum would allow you to completely control a football. It did not require you to grip it so much as simply touch it for the ball to stick to your hand. It made hanging on to the football both when catching it and when running with it much easier. Receiver gloves nowadays act in a similar manner but not to the point where players can palm a ball without gripping. Not to mention that gloves are not illegal to use in the NFL.

Back to Rice, he holds just about every meaningful record for a receiver in NFL history. A few have fallen but not many. The question now raised is does this taint what Rice did at all? He acknowledged that what he was doing was unfair, saying, “I know this might be a little illegal guys, I just put a little spray, a little stickum on ’em, to make sure that texture is a little sticky.” It is not the biggest thing in the world for a receiver to have used stickum but it is illegal. What makes it worse is that Rice knew he was breaking the rules. It was something the league did not heavily enforce at the time. However, using stickum is not all that different from having underinflated footballs or fabricated crowd noise. It gives you a slight edge that may not affect the outcome of a game but will go down as an unfair advantage.

This all boils down to the culture of the NFL. It is a win at all costs league. It seems that every era has some sort of scandal and they almost never seem to be the same. Players and teams are continually finding new ways around the rules all the time. It really tears down the integrity of the NFL if you ask me. This league has more scandals than any other in the United States and likely the world. It is disappointing to me as a fan to see the sport that I love more than any other tarnished over and over again by a list of infractions that is slowly building each year.

On a different level, it is really unfortunate to find out that an NFL legend like Rice was using stickum. It does not change his credibility as an elite player because Rice was still one of the most cerebral and dedicated football players of all time. It does make you think a little thought about the level of his success. It also makes you think of this year’s Patriots. There was no doubting that New England would have been good because of its talent and preparation. But the controversy leaves you wondering what if. The issue is that the Patriots have caught a lot more flack for this. In my eyes, if you want to put an asterisk next to the 2015 Super Bowl champions go ahead. But you better be putting one next to Jerry Rice’s records then. Cheating is cheating, no matter who does it, when it happens or how strongly it is enforced. Holding one example accountable means that you must hold all other accountable as well. That is just the culture of the NFL now. Find a way to get an edge, and do the best you can to make sure you don’t get caught.

NFL coaching changes

Five head coaching positions opened up in the NFL on Monday. The New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders all are searching for a new man to run the show. There are dozens of candidates available so I am going to take my guess at who will be the next hire each organization makes. My decisions will be based on personnel, strong points and weaknesses as well as financial flexibility.

Atlanta Falcons
Previous coach: Mike Smith (67-49)
Projected new coach: Rex Ryan (Previous with NYJ)
The Falcons over the last two years have gone from being a Super Bowl contender to a middling team that disappoints too often. In 2012, Atlanta came within one game of the Super Bowl. Since then, Mike Smith’s Falcons went 11-21, missing the playoffs two straight seasons. This team has all sorts of offensive weapons but desperately lacks an identity on defense. The offensive line needs work too but there is some young blood there. Enter Rex Ryan. The former Jets coach may have seen a steady decline in performance over the last three years with New York, but almost all of the struggles were on offense. Ryan would have a lot of improvements to make. The Falcons defense ranked last in yards allowed per game and 27th in scoring defense as well. Atlanta also tied for second to last in sacks. Ryan is one of the best defensive minds in the NFL. Tasking him with fixing Atlanta’s defense is the best solution Falcons’ owner Arthur Blank will find.

San Francisco 49ers
Previous coach: Jim Harbaugh (44-19)
Projected new coach: Adam Gase (Currently with DEN)
Unlike Atlanta, the defense was never the problem in San Francisco. It was the dysfunctional offense. Many witnessed the 49ers miserable up and down season. Through it all, the 49ers showed that its defense might be the deepest in the entire league. San Francisco lost several defensive starters to injuries and suspensions over the course of the season yet still ranked in the top 5 for yards allowed and the top 10 for points allowed. The offense however was anemic. The unit ranked 20th in yards per game and 25th in points per game. Colin Kaepernick looked lost at times and Frank Gore finally showed signs of aging. Michael Crabtree was not as reliable as he once was making Anquan Boldin the only true weapon. The offense needs a lot of help and that is where Adam Gase comes in. Gase has spent the last two years as Denver’s offensive coordinator helping Peyton Manning run his record setting attack. Gase has proven his versatility and understanding this year with his ability to change the Broncos gameplan as needed from week to week. He will have some molding to do with Kaepernick but the potential is there. Gase is also inventive enough to deploy Kaepernick’s running abilities in a way similar to Russell Wilson, truly utilizing the dual threat quarterback. Gase will garner a lot of attention from teams but I think he will ultimately choose San Francisco.

New York Jets
Previous coach: Rex Ryan (46-50)
Projected new coach: Josh McDaniels (Currently with NE)
The Jets are in full rebuild. Owner Woody Johnson fired both his coach and GM making this hard to call right now as to the coach will be without a GM in place. New York looked poised to become an AFC power in 2011, but then the wheels fell off and the team has not fully recovered since. Part of that is due to Rex Ryan’s inability to coach the offensive side of the ball. The other is the obvious lack of talent that the Jets have on that same side of the ball. The Jets began building a better foundation this year with the additions of Percy Harvin and Eric Decker but neither has been enough to turn the offense around. That is where Josh McDaniels comes in. McDaniels has spent the last three years coaching division rival New England’s offense. The Patriots may have Tom Brady but McDaniels has played a large part in designing the offense he runs. McDaniels also has head coaching experience from his time in Denver. He would likely be assigned the task of trying to salvage Geno Smith’s career with likely a rookie developing behind the scenes as well as retooling the offense around him. New York’s defense is still in good shape following the Ryan era but needs some work in the secondary. McDaniels would have his work cut out for him. It would certainly take some time as well to turn the Jets around but McDaniels is the right man for the job.

Oakland Raiders
Previous coach: Dennis Allen/Tony Sporano (went 3-13 this season)
Projected new coach: Dan Quinn (Currently with SEA)
The Oakland Raiders seem to have more fresh starts than anyone else in the NFL, but this one is has a little bit of promise. The Raiders have two pieces, quarterback Derek Carr and linebacker Kahlil Mack, to build around for the 2015 season. This team needs a ton of help on both sides of the ball. It is going to be more than a one season project. Oakland would have a decent amount of money to play with in free agency and a high draft pick meaning Dan Quinn can go to work on the Oakland roster. Quinn, over the past two years, has coached one of the greatest defenses of all time in Seattle and that pedigree will be something GM Reggie McKenzie hopes he can carry over to the Bay Area. Oakland has a couple of other young players in D.J. Hayden and Latavius Murray who have shown some promise but the Raiders will need to get rid the aging veterans McKenzie and Dennis Allen brought in last year as stop gaps. They did not pay off and Quinn will want a fresh start. In a division where Phillip Rivers, Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles rule, Quinn would have a tall task in making sure the Raiders’ defense is ready to compete.

Chicago Bears
Previous coach: Marc Trestman (13-19)
Projected new coach: Frank Reich (Currently with SD)
The Bears are another team that completely cleaned house this offseason. The Chicago brass decided to fire head coach Marc Trestman, general manager Phil Emory and offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer. This team will be looking all to pretend the Trestman era never happened. The Bears, in many ways, are stuck with Jay Cutler as their quarterback so it is time to bring in a man who has worked with Phillip Rivers over the last two years and made him look like an MVP candidate at times, Frank Reich. Reich is a former NFL quarterback, which bodes well for helping Cutler. He managed to keep San Diego’s offense afloat despite losing this year, Ryan Mathews, Danny Woohead and Ronnie Brown at running back this season. Keenan Allen also fell into a deep sophomore slump. However, the Bears have a ton of offensive talent and need someone to generate some production out of them. The defense struggled as well but the return of Charles Tillman and Lamaar Houston as well as continual development of a young linebacking core could make the defense much better next season. This team has a lot of work to do if it wants to avoid being one of the most disappointing in recent NFL history. Reich should be ready to get the job done.

Monday Night Preview: Week 14

Week 14 in the NFL closes tonight after the Green Bay Packers take on the Atlanta Falcons from the frigid Lambeau Field. This is actually a matchup of division leaders despite the Packers at 9-3 and the Falcons only have a 5-7 record. A win for the Packers tonight would put them back into a tie with the Cardinals for first place in the conference. A win for Atlanta would give the Falcons some breathing room in a very clustered NFC South.

The Packers are coming off their biggest win of the season yet as they held on to beat the Patriots last week. The Falcons are coming off an impressive defensive showing against the Cardinals in which they bottled up the Cardinals’ usually very effective ground game.

That Atlanta defense is going to need to be at its best too if they have any hopes of competing in tonight’s game. The Packers have one of, if not the most, potent offense in football and their balanced attack keeps teams guessing all game long. It almost seems unfair to give a quarterback as good as Aaron Rodgers weapons like Randal Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy. But those guys make up the core of this group. Outside of last week’s showing, the Falcons have been nothing short of woeful against the run, as they are tied for the most rushing touchdowns allowed this year. Look for the Packers to run Eddie Lacy early and often to frustrate this Atlanta team. It keeps the ball away from Matt Ryan and will eventually lead to the Falcons stacking the box to slow down Lacy. At that point Rodgers will take his pick of who he wants to throw to with single coverage cause his receivers are some of the best at creating separation.

For the Falcons, they will return to the same strategy them employed last week against Arizona: throw to Julio Jones. The third year wide out registered 10 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown while going against a quality opponent in Patrick Peterson. The Packers will likely try to double Jones all night which could lead to another big day from Steven Jackson who recorded his first 100-yard outing of the season last week. Harry Douglas should also get involved again with Roddy White active but still recovering from an ankle injury. If Matt Ryan and his receivers get in sync, this could be a high scoring game.

Prediction: Yes the Falcons are the more desperate team here in need of a win but the Packers are simply too talented across the board. Their defense limited the Patriots offense last week and right now this team looks like the best in football. Don’t be surprised if the Falcons keep it close early cause Green Bay will likely stick true to the game plan all night eventually pulling away for the win. Packers stay hot and win it 34-21.