tom jones' two cents
Last week, the Los Angeles Kings ended a 45-year drought and won the first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Finally, the long-suffering fans of the Kings could celebrate a title.
But what other fans continue to suffer?
There are plenty of teams still waiting on the first championship in their histories. Some franchises — such as, say, the Florida Panthers, Carolina Panthers, and even the Rays — haven't been around long enough for true suffering.
Some franchises — such as, say, the Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz and Buffalo Sabres — don't have any titles but have had plenty of superb seasons.
Some franchises — such as, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals — have struggled in recent times but do have histories that include respectability and championships.
So, considering all that, here are our picks for the fans who are suffering the most these days.
We can debate whether or not your particular team belongs on today's list, but there is no debate as to which fans have it the worst, no debate as to which fans have suffered the most. Even when Red Sox fans were waxing poetic over their Curse of the Bambino, the Cubs still had it worse. This is a franchise that hasn't won a World Series in more than 100 years — since 1908, to be exact. They haven't even appeared in a World Series since 1945. They famously were jinxed by a black cat in 1969. They came ever-so-cruelly-close in 1984 when first baseman Leon Durham couldn't get his hand on a grounder and in 2003 when fan Steve Bartman did get his hand on a foul ball. If you don't feel sorry for the Cubs and their fans, you have no soul.
There's a reason the movie Major League spoofed the Indians. It's because they were the perfect lovable losers to spoof. For years they played in a dump of a stadium. And, despite being around since 1901, the franchise has won only two World Series, the last being in 1948. They've appeared in only three World Series since then, losing in 1954, 1995 and 1997. But, the big factor here: 63 years and counting without a world title.
Yeesh, if following the Indians weren't bad enough, the good folks of Cleveland have lived through the nightmares of the Browns, as well. One of the great historic franchises of the NFL, the Browns last won a title in 1964 and have never even appeared in a Super Bowl. They had their hearts broken twice by John Elway and the Broncos in the playoffs. In 1986, it was The Drive, as Elway engineered a tying drive. The next year, it was The Fumble, when Browns running back Earnest Byner fumbled away a sure touchdown. Come to think of it, the Cleveland Cavaliers have never won a title and now are watching former favorite son LeBron James go for one with Miami. Poor saps.
Okay, so most people outside of Philadelphia have absolutely no sympathy for any sports fan in Philly because, let's face it, many of those folks are knuckleheads. (We wanted to use a worse word, but this is a family publication.) However, these are the facts: The Eagles' last NFL title was way back in 1960 with Chuck Bednarik, Norm Van Brocklin and Tom Brookshier. Look at those names and you can feel how long ago that was. The Eagles have appeared in only two Super Bowls, losing to the Raiders and the Patriots.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Clippers have been in Los Angeles only since 1984 and, normally, that wouldn't be long enough to be considered for this list. But the Clippers been so historically bad that it would be wrong not to include them. In fact, when someone wants to make a reference to the worst franchise in sports, the Clippers often come up. Since moving to L.A., they've won only two playoff series, and their all-time winning percentage is an embarrassing .357 (802-1,446). Even worse, Clippers fans have to suffer the indignity of sharing a home with the stylish Lakers, who have won eight NBA titles just since the Clippers moved to L.A. The good news is the Clippers appear to be on the upswing with Blake Griffin.
This franchise has been around since 1930, but it has been years since it won a championship. How many years? Well, the last NFL title for the Lions was in 1957. They have never appeared in a Super Bowl. Heck, they've never even come close. In the Super Bowl era, they have won one postseason game, and that was in 1991. And, they are 1-10 in the postseason in the Super Bowl era. They look to be on the rise, but that doesn't mean the fans aren't pining for a title.
This franchise hasn't been around that long. It came into the NHL in 1974 and promptly became the worst team in league history with an 8-67-5 record. However, that's not why the Capitals are on the list. They are on the list because they have been just good enough to get their fans dreaming about Stanley Cups but not quite good enough to avoid choking. They have never won a Cup. They appeared in only one Cup final and were swept in four games. But here's what drives their fans batty: Teams have led a best-of-seven series three games to one on 229 occasions. Of those, only 20 have blown that lead and lost the series. Of those 20, the Caps have done it four times. That's suffering.
St. Louis Blues
In 1967, the NHL expanded from the original six teams to 12. Now that the Kings have won the Stanley Cup, the Blues are the only surviving team of those expansion six not to have won a Cup. To be fair, the Blues have given their fans plenty of good hockey. At one stretch, they made the playoffs 25 consecutive seasons. But after reaching the final in their first three years of existence (when they were in a conference with the other expansion teams), the Blues have never advanced to the final again. In a way, making the postseason all those times and rarely getting out of the second round might be more maddening for the fans than missing the playoffs.
Toronto Maple Leafs
What makes the Leafs so pitiful is there are few fans in the world who are as passionate about their team as Leafs fans. For far too long, Leafs fans were so arrogant — and unnecessarily so — that it was somewhat laughable to watch them suffer. But not so much anymore because the Leafs are just so … pathetic. Despite being located in the hockey capital of the world, the Leafs are far from being worthy of living in that neighborhood. They last won a Stanley Cup in 1967 and haven't even been to the Cup final since the great expansion the next season. Worse, they haven't even qualified for the postseason since the 2004-05 lockout.
We were tempted to include the Atlanta Hawks (not even one NBA Finals appearance since moving to Atlanta in 1968) or the Houston Astros (lost only World Series appearance since coming into league in 1962) in this spot. We also thought about the Minnesota Vikings, Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Falcons. But, we're going with the Bills. They did win two old AFL championships. But losing four consecutive Super Bowls must have been sickening to fans. And now they haven't made the playoffs since 1999.
There's a reason why the movie Major League spoofed the Indians. It's because they were the perfect lovable losers to spoof. For years they played in a dump of a stadium. And, despite being around since 1901, this franchise has won only two World Series, the last being in 1948. They've only appeared in three World Series since then, losing in 1954, 1995 and 1997. But, the big factor here: 63 years and counting without a world title.