Has there ever been a more miserable sports city than Cleveland? Whether you support the Browns, Indians or Cavaliers, the city has become synonymous with ‘almost won,’ ‘can’t catch a break’ and ‘same time next year.’ But fans still love their sports teams, especially now that LeBron James is back and the NBA Cavaliers, fresh off an improbable Finals run, are poised to do it again in 2016. The Browns? Well, same time next year, fellas. And the Indians blew a chance to win the city a championship by losing a 2-1 lead in Game 7 of the World Series against the then Florida Marlins.
It may seem odd that a city that houses the Bulls and the Blackhawks would be called cursed, but Chicago’s appearance on this list is strictly about the Cubs. From the infamous Steve Bartman game in Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS, to the fact that the team hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. Cubs fans remain optimistic that every year is their year, and at this point, just about every fan in America would root for the Cubs if they got back to the World Series.
Philly fans are loud, smart and obnoxious, and they desperately care about their teams, including the 76ers, Eagles, Flyers and Phillies. Of those teams, only the Phillies have won a championship in recent times, and that was way back in 2008. The Eagles went to the NFC Championship game from 2001 to 2004, and made a Super Bowl appearance in 2004, losing to the New England Patriots. The 76ers, once a proud franchise, are the worst team in the NBA, and the Phillies, a former powerhouse, are selling off star players for cents on the dollar.
Atlanta could appear on this list for the Braves alone, winners of 14 consecutive division titles, with only one World Series title to show for it. The NBA Hawks have never appeared in the finals, and the Falcons were humbled in their only Super Bowl appearance in 1999, losing 34-19 to the Denver Broncos. When you think of teams in Atlanta, you think of mediocrity.
All you have to do to antagonize a Bills fan is to say, ‘wide right,’ and you might be in for a fight. In the 1991 Super Bowl, the long-suffering Bills were about to kick a field goal to win the Super Bowl, but somehow, the curse of being a team from Buffalo struck, and kicker Scott Norwood booted the 47-yard field goal wide right, allowing the New York Giants to win the game. The Bills famously went to four consecutive Super Bowls and lost them all. The Sabres are a test case in futility, and since the city has no NBA or MLB teams, that’s about it.
6. Washington D.C.
The Redskins haven’t won a Super Bowl since 1992, and the team’s name is under assault from Native American groups. The Capitals remain a study in frustration and underachievement, and the Nationals, always talented, but never mentally tough enough, have found ways to lose playoff games to lesser teams.
Phoenix doesn’t have a huge sports legacy, but what it does have is full of close calls. The Suns played one of the most memorable NBA Finals of all time against the Boston Celtics in 1976, including a triple overtime Game 5 that is widely considered the greatest NBA game in history. The series ended with the Celtics winning 4 games to 2. The Suns then waited 17 years to return, only to be thwarted by Michael Jordan’s Bulls. Then in the 2009 Super Bowl, the Cardinals were leading the Pittsburgh Steelers late in the game, and found a way to lose. Perhaps desert cities were never meant to become winning sports cities.
Although the Golden State Warriors recently won the NBA title, Oakland remains a city under a cloud in the other major sports. The most notorious fans in the NFL are Raiders fans, who wear the silver and black as if they’re gang colors. Raiders fans have known disappointment for more than 20 years, and haven’t sniffed a meaningful season in a decade. The A’s are always a talented and well-managed team, but they lack a finishing mentality. Oakland has always felt inferior to the hated citizens across the Bay in San Francisco, so watching Giants fans celebrate another World Series title must have been galling.
9. Kansas City
The Royals got oh so close to winning the World Series last year, but were topped by the San Francisco Giants. Kansas City hasn’t had a championship since 1985, the last time the Royals won the World Series, and the city’s NFL franchise, the Chiefs, hasn’t been relevant in 15 years.
Thanks to the Bengals’ run of frustrating Wild Card losses, and the team’s inability to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the 1982 Super Bowl, Cincinnati is one of those cities that laments its missed opportunities. The Bengals disappoint every year, the Reds are just good enough most years to win 80 games, which is five to six games out of the Wild Card, and with no NHL or NBA teams, the city must continue to root for teams that have no real shot at a championship.
Although the Rockets won back to back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, no Houston team has added to that total since that time. The Astros are contending in 2015, but have a history of choking. The team once known as the Oilers is famous for blowing a 35-3 lead in a 1993 Wild Card Game to the Buffalo Bills, and the Texans are a dud with the exception of defensive standout JJ Watt.
The Vikings have never won a Super Bowl but came close to advancing to the Big Game in 1999 when the team played in the NFC Championship Game. But inexplicably, instead of driving for the game-winning field goal late in the game, Vikings coach Dennis Green opted for overtime and cost his team the game. The Vikings felt heartbreak again in 2010 as they were marching for a game-winning field goal against the New Orleans Saints in the NFC title game, until Vikings quarterback Brett Favre threw an interception. The game went into overtime, and the Saints kicked a field goal to advance to the Super Bowl. Minneapolis fans also live with a bad Timberwolves NBA team, and a Twins team that hasn’t seriously contended since 2010.
13. San Diego
Although San Diego residents live in a city on the beach with balmy weather and beautiful people, sports fans have suffered more than 50 years without a championship. The Chargers came close in 1995 when they appeared in the Super Bowl, but they were blown off the field by the San Francisco 49ers and lost 49-26. They returned to the AFC Championship Game in 2008, losing to the New England Patriots 21-12. In baseball, the Padres have never won a World Series, last making an appearance in 1998. The team lost the Clippers to Los Angeles, and has no basketball identity. Maybe it’s too nice and sunny in San Diego for the city to ever win a championship, though LA is a test case in being a great city to live in that can still produce winning teams.
Toronto is a great Canadian city that can’t catch a break. The NBA Raptors are a good, solid team that gets no attention in the U.S., and has never been past the conference semifinals in the playoffs. The Blue Jays did win a pair of World Series in the early 1990s, but haven’t been competitive in the past decade. The NHL Maple Leafs have hoisted the Stanley Cup 13 times, but the last championship came in 1967. Toronto residents are desperate for a sports title, but the current lineup of teams doesn’t offer much hope.
As sports cities go, Charlotte is still in its infancy, but it hasn’t had much success given that the Hornets in the NBA and the Panthers in the NFL are major teams that have had disappointed fans for years. The Hornets were the laughingstock of the NBA for a long time before they finally made the playoffs in 2014, only to see their best player suffer a foot injury that helped usher the team out in a 4-0 dismantling by the Miami Heat. The Panthers have won five division titles and appeared in a Super Bowl, but they continue to break the hearts with not being good enough to bring home hardware.