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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Packing their bags for more than just money

After a 21-year vacation, it looks like the Rams are heading back to Los Angeles. NFL owners voted 30-2 in favor of the former St. Louis franchise setting up shop in Inglewood. The plan is in place now and the team is set to move in 2017, once the new stadium is built. They will play their home games at the LA Memorial Collesium this year, home of the USC Trojans, for the time being.

While the Rams are celebrating, the Chargers still have a lot of work to do if they want to move. There is an option for the Chargers to join the Rams in Inglewood in 2017 and there are still some rumblings about a new stadium in Carson as well. It is still looking good for the Bolts to be LA bound too, which is important because their stadium lease is up.

On the other hand, the Raiders seem to be screwed. Their proposal to move back to Los Angeles was rejected by the owners and the team seems like it will have to stay in Oakland. However, Raider czar Mark Davis indicated that the team will do everything it can to leave. Rumor has it that a San Antonio site could be pursued. As of right now, the Raiders do not have a place to play their home games. Their lease for their current stadium is up and Davis seems determined not to renew it. Apparently they are next in line for LA if the Chargers pass, but that doesn’t seem too likely.

Todd_Gurley
Todd Gurley is the face of this new Rams franchise.

So why all of the push to move? Well part of it is because money talks. Teams think that they can turn a big profit in Los Angeles with all of the fans that are hungry for football. To me though, this isn’t just about money.

All of these franchises are in the midst of average or below average seasons. None of them have won a Super Bowl since back in 1999, when the Rams took home the Lombardi Trophy thanks to the Greatest Show on Turf. It seems like these teams just want a fresh start. A chance to start over and see what they can build.

For the Rams, it means moving to a big market from a small market. Not many players want to settle down in quiet old St. Louis, Missouri. It is not glamorous by any means, even if it is a great place to live. The Rams suddenly have an opportunity to draw attention of players seeking the spotlight. St. Louis also tends to be a smaller market dominated by baseball. With the Rams failing to make the postseason during the last 11 seasons, it is not easy to command respect in the fan base.

Philip Rivers
Rivers is the aging face of this seemingly average team.

The Chargers seem to be in a slightly different boat. San Diego wants to move into the more prominent light of California. For years, despite all of the Raiders struggles, San Diego has failed to win over the state. The 49ers commanded all of the respect and had most of the support of California fans. Between five Lombardi Trophies and all of the big names, think Rice, Montana, Young, Walsh and Lott, San Fran definitely has the better history. San Diego had Dan Fouts, but many view him as a poor man’s Dan Marino. They also had Kellen Winslow and Lance Alworth, but those guys don’t quite match the mystique of those famed Niners. Even now as the 49ers seem to be in rebuild mode, the Raiders look like a serious playoff contender for the first time in a decade. San Diego just can’t seem to catch a break. They will add another one soon (Tomlinson), but either way, this is about turning the page in the franchise’s history and making the team more popular. Not for the sake of attracting players, more for appealing to fans.

Derek Carr
The Raiders also have a player to build around and market in Derek Carr.

Meanwhile, the Raiders don’t seem to care where they move to, as long as they don’t stay in Oakland. I don’t know why but it seems like the Davis family just does not want to be there. Al Davis, Mark’s father, moved the team to Los Angeles during the 80s, leaving Oakland then too. This has nothing to do with money if you ask me. The Raiders just want to start over. They are building a good young team and they seem to want to leave their past behind them. This organization’s last 10 years was a joke. From drafting Jamarcus Russell to firing Hue Jackson after an 8-8 season, there are some bad memories. Relationships with the local government don’t seem to be great the Raiders would prefer to play in a football specific stadium, rather than share with the Athletics. San Antonio could be a likely spot; I’ve even heard some far-fetched rumors that the team could fill the Rams spot in St. Louis. This is all about escaping Oakland for the Raiders.

All of the cards have yet to completely shake out regarding relocation but for these three franchises, a move represents a lot more than just an increase in potential revenue and new fans in the seats. This is a chance to start fresh.

Rivers leaving SoCal?

The rumors continue to swirl about various NFL franchises making the move to Los Angeles. It likely will not be for a couple of years now that a team actually makes the transition. However, the teams most frequently involved in talks of a move to Southern California are the Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams and oddly the San Diego Chargers. The last one is a real head-scratcher. The Chargers had an average attendance last season of 65,530 per game last season on average. The maximum capacity of their stadium is only 70,561. The fan base is available for the Chargers in San Diego but that doesn’t seem to be enough. It might be soon enough though if the team is serious about keeping its best player.

Since 2006, Philip Rivers has been the starting quarterback in San Diego. As the starter, he has led the Chargers to five postseason appearances and really been the focal point since LaDainian Tomlinson left for New York. He has been named to the Pro Bowl on five separate occasions. Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks in the league right now and while he might not be the best in the business. He is a well above average starter. However, with all the rumors circulating that the team might be moving, Rivers has made it clear that he does not want to resign with the Chargers. His contract is set to expire after this season so that makes this a very time sensitive issue.

The potential solution rumored to swirling around the winds of NFL news is to trade Rivers away to a quarterback needy team to cash in on a top draft pick. The Chargers hold the 17th pick in this year’s draft but with many teams in the top five wanting a bonafide franchise signal caller, there is a market for Rivers. The issue is that whatever compensation San Diego might get will likely not be enough to really offset the loss of Rivers. If the team traded away the five-time Pro Bowler, they would likely be looking to land Marcus Mariota from Oregon as his replacement.

However, as it has been well-documented, Mariota likely will not be a Day 1 starter. He will need a year to work out the final kinks in his game before taking over as the starter. The Chargers would more or less be pushing back any chances of competing in the playoffs for about two years, at least, with Mariota at the helm. The reality is that this team needs to run the risk of Rivers leaving. There is no guarantee that the organization moves out to LA and even if they did you can hope that maybe Rivers will change his mind.

Sure it would be nice to get a security policy in case Rivers does leave but the smarter way for San Diego to do that would be to draft a quarterback in the second or third round that has the potential to replace Rivers in 2016 if he does leave. With Brent Hundley, Byrce Petty and Garrett Grayson all expect to go in one of those following two rounds, the Chargers could find a talented, quarterback with a lot of potential. It would be an ideal situation where you let him learn from the veteran Rivers for a season before letting him take the reins the following year.

My final evaluation, keep the sure thing rather than gamble your future on something that may or may not happen. Rivers is on the cusp of very good and elite. He is not someone you can simply replace. Only netting the second, or potentially later, pick in the draft should not be enough to tip the Chargers’ hand. Selecting Hundley or one of those other players in a later round is a much safer plan and it allows you to cover your bases, as the Chargers clearly want to. Word I am hearing is that the San Diego organization is looking to just ride this year out and wait to see what happens with both relocation and Rivers’ contract. My opinion: keep number 17 in Charger powder blue. He gives them the best chance to win, and after narrowly missing the playoffs last year, the Chargers could be poised to make a postseason run. Under a rookie quarterback, none of that is possible.