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Most Tortured/Suffering Sports Cities (REDUX UPDATE)


dbadefense1990

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Hi everyone. So back when ESPN had "Page 2" on their website (and was in its prime), I had frequently visited the page for all their fun articles as a curious middle schooler. One of the best pieces I've ever read was a list from 10 years ago, on the most tortured sports cities, as in cities whose sports teams have suffered the most deafening losses or other painful moments.

This was their list at the time:

10. Houston

9. San Diego

8. Atlanta

7. Seattle

6. Minneapolis

5. Boston

4. Chicago

3. Buffalo

2. Philadelphia

1. Cleveland

Here's the link to see the original list, along each city's most torturous sports moments (navigate to the other cities through Cleveland's entry):

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=hays/tortured_cleveland

With Super Bowl XLVIII over and another woe-be-me sports city finally quenching their championship thirst (Seattle, Washington), I say it's time to redo this list. 10 years is plenty of enough time to re-calibrate this list. So I ask of everyone: what cities do you consider tortured or lucky? Which cities in the original list shouldn't have been placed on it in the 1st place? Which cities were left out of it? What would be your updated list?

Here's mine:

10. Kansas City

9. Houston

8. Cincinnati

7. Washington D.C.

6. Minneapolis

5. Dallas

4. San Diego

3. Buffalo

2. Atlanta

1. Cleveland

And now, some rationales from my updated list:

-The ridiculous amount of success shared by all Boston teams in this millennium definitely wipes them away from this list. Since the "Tuck Rule Game," Boston teams have seen 12 title game/series appearances and 8 championships, including at least one by all four of their major league teams. No way can they be on this list in the next 50 years.

-Some cities once considered for these lists (Philadelphia, New Orleans and now Seattle) are off the hook for now, for winning championships within the last 10 years, with the Phillies and Saints adding in regular-season success along with their championships, and hopefully the Seahawks do the same, too. Also adding is the fact that the city’s teams have not suffered such a cataclysmic event since a championship was delivered (important for rationale #4).

-Chicago shouldn't have even been in the original list to begin with. Just one name keeps them off it: Michael Jordan. Seriously, how can anyone justify Chicago being in a most tortured sports cities list with the greatest basketball player of all time breaking the hearts of several teams during his career? I can't bear count how many other sports cities did he breaks hearts at. And if it’s not the Bulls keeping Chicago off this list, the Blackhawks two Stanley Cups in the last four years will do the job.

-D.C. suffers mostly because of the Capitals flameouts in the postseason, the Nationals getting Trollbird’d, and the general suck between the Redskins and Wizards. Dallas is in because of the general suck of the Stars, their Super Bowl hosting duties becoming disastrous, and let’s not forget the horrawful endings to the Cowboys recent seasons, most of the Mavericks title runs and the Rangers getting Trollbird’d. I would have taken them off the list because of the Mavericks 2011 title, but suffering such a nightmarish World Series loss four months later gets them on this list.

-Atlanta gets moved up, because their one championship (1995 Braves) grows dimmer and dimmer in remembrance, along with the gathering of such painful losses. The Falcons have had disastrous playoff exits with Matt Ryan, the Hawks have generally sucked, and the Braves have had torturous postseason results in the late Cox and early Gonzalez eras. And they lost their 2nd NHL team to Canada with the Thrashers becoming the Jets 2.0. At least the Seahawks provided a championship to Seattle to stem some of the sting of losing the Sonics; which Atlanta team has provided the comfort for ex-Thrashers fans so far?

-Despite the changes to this list, Cleveland remains at #1. The Browns have generally sucked, while the Indians once flirted with the World Series before Josh Beckett ended those dreams. To top it, those fans had to see Sabathia and Lee oppose each other in the World Series a couple of years later. But the Cavaliers have provided the worst luck for the city within the last 10 years. They became the 1st NBA team ever to have the best regular season record for two straight years and fail to reach the NBA Finals in both years. But the biggest gut-punch of all was LeBron singlehandedly humiliating and destroying the Cavs and the respect he built with the people of Cleveland (and sports fans in general) with “The Decision.” Cleveland had the sad distinction of being the most tortured sports city in 2004…and has it now again in 2014.

Oh boy will this be such fun to discuss...

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Chicago shouldn't really be on the list. Since 1985 the city has won 9 championships (1 Super Bowl, 6 O'Brien trophies, 2 Stanley Cups, and 1 Commissioner's Trophy. The Blackhawks and Bears have also each made losing appearances in championship games twice in that time frame in addition to however many division championships spread out among the 5 major teams.

Obviously that doesn't matter if you're looking at the specific context of the Cubs franchise, which is perhaps the very embodiment of sports ineptitude.

If you want to talk about most tortured overall city, it's gotta be Cleveland. There's no major city in the country with as many major sports franchises that loses miserably at such a consistent level.

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Oakland could deserve some consideration. The Raiders are Browns level wretched, the A's can't escape the first round of the playoffs, and the Warriors have mostly been bad until recently. Another one is Phoenix. Only one title between the 4 teams.

Also CS, Chicago was on the list 10 years ago, that's why they were on the post.

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Oakland could deserve some consideration. The Raiders are Browns level wretched, the A's can't escape the first round of the playoffs, and the Warriors have mostly been bad until recently. Another one is Phoenix. Only one title between the 4 teams.

1. It's really hard to break down municipalities, so for the purposes of this list, I've combined cities into their media market combinations. In this case, Anaheim/Los Angeles will share the same level of success and failure, as well as the pairing of Oakland/San Francisco and New York City/Northeastern New Jersey. Even with this, the general suck of the Warriors and Raiders since 2004 (at the publishing of the original list) can't supersede the Athletics failures and propel Oakland into this list. Sorry, but ground rules apply.

2. Phoenix does have their title from the 2001 Diamondbacks, but unlike others on this list, their city fanbase isn't as diehard to heighten the level of losing as in other cities. Even with the Suns being burned out of the playoffs in the mid-2000s and the Cardinals heartbreaking end to Super Bowl XLIII, the whole saga of the Coyotes (and of how well-chronicled their financial troubles and fan lunacy are within the CCSLC) just can't put Phoenix into this list. Not with the other cities involved.

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Hi everyone. So back when ESPN had "Page 2" on their website (and was in its prime), I had frequently visited the page for all their fun articles as a curious middle schooler. One of the best pieces I've ever read was a list from 10 years ago, on the most tortured sports cities, as in cities whose sports teams have suffered the most deafening losses or other painful moments.

This was their list at the time:

10. Houston

9. San Diego

8. Atlanta

7. Seattle

6. Minneapolis

5. Boston

4. Chicago

3. Buffalo

2. Philadelphia

1. Cleveland

Here's the link to see the original list, along each city's most torturous sports moments (navigate to the other cities through Cleveland's entry):

http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=hays/tortured_cleveland

With Super Bowl XLVIII over and another woe-be-me sports city finally quenching their championship thirst (Seattle, Washington), I say it's time to redo this list. 10 years is plenty of enough time to re-calibrate this list. So I ask of everyone: what cities do you consider tortured or lucky? Which cities in the original list shouldn't have been placed on it in the 1st place? Which cities were left out of it? What would be your updated list?

Here's mine:

10. Kansas City

9. Houston

8. Cincinnati

7. Washington D.C.

6. Minneapolis

5. Dallas

4. San Diego

3. Buffalo

2. Atlanta

1. Cleveland

I stopped reading when I saw Dallas on there.

The Rangers had a two year run in the world series. Yeah they didn't win but they were there. The Stars had a pretty successful run that ended with a Cup championship and an appearance the following year. The Mavericks had a championship run pretty recently. The Cowboys virtually dominated the first half of the 90s with 3 Super Bowls in 4 years and a team that was loaded with Pro Bowl and hall of fame players. IF that wasn't enough, they had a decent run in the 70's with the Tom Landry teams. Granted the Stars are currently rebuilding and the Cowboys hasn't done much in the last 15 years. But that hardly makes Dallas a suffering city.

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There's two things to consider here when making these lists:

1. What does "tortured" mean? If a team has generally just sucked, is that "torturous"? I think of torture meaning that while they suck most of the time, they've been on the cusp of winning it all but something disastrous happens. The Bills being set up to win the SB but then Scott Norwood missing that kick certainly qualifies Buffalo, since they still managed to reach the SB 3 years in a row after that (but got crushed.)

2. How long back to you consider? I'm 36, so no championship before '85 means anything to me. So even though Philadelphia has won 3 major titles in my lifetime, only one counts. And besides that one, we've dealt with the Flyers being a game away several times (and pushing the Oilers, who you could argue were the greatest team in team-sports history to the brink twice) and in the finals several other times, the Eagles losing to the Bucs in the 2002 NFC title game (which is the single most crushing loss in the history of Philadelphia sports, since that was the best Eagles team of that era, and all the stars were aligned, and then 4 other championship game losses mostly due to a fat sack of crap head coach and a childish thin skinned dufus at QB.

So I guess how far back to you go? My perspective is different than a 25-year old's, and is certainly different than a MOD EDIT 14 year old MOD EDIT.

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I'll admit I'm confused as to why Dallas is on there if the '90s Bulls were your rationale for keeping Chicago off. The Cowboys were winning titles at the same time and the Stars have an even more recent one, not to mention the Mavericks. I agree with CS85 that the Cubs tend to over-taint these lists. Chicago shouldn't be there.

You mention the ground rules, but what are they? Tortured since 2004? Then the '90s are moot.

This is a good topic, though, even if Cleveland is still the runaway No.1.

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Cleveland is undisiputable. In addition to the fumble and the drive, THEY LOST THEIR GODSDAMN TEAM! Then got it replaced with one that's just so poorly managed that there's no chance of it ever winning.

Their baseball team hasn't won forever, and is saddled with a controversial mascot and is probably more relevent in conversations about native american imagery than actual baseball talk.

Their basketball team's only hope left them.

Their hockey team walked away decades ago, and they'll never get another one.

Plus, it's godsdamn Cleveland.

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Atlanta is far too high. The Braves won a World Series which was recent enough for people in their twenties to remember. (Same for Houston and the Rockets). And the division title streak continued for many years after that. The Braves alone should drop Atlanta a few slots.

I think Cincinnati needs to be higher. I’d put us fourth behind Cleveland, Buffalo, and Kansas City. We had the Big Red Machine, but the people who remember that team dwindles by the day. We won it all in 1990, but since then pretty much nothing has gone right. Here’s our resume (not even counting Super Bowl Losses):

  • We haven't won a playoff matchup since 1995
  • The Bengals haven’t won a single playoff game since 1990
  • The Reds haven’t won a playoff series since 1995. Got swept hard by the Braves in the NLCS.
  • The Reds and Bengals Have lost a collective 10 consecutive playoff matchups (that’s hard to do)
  • In the 47 seasons since the 1990 World Series the Reds and Bengals have only qualified for the postseason 10 times combined
  • First play of the first playoff game in 15 years. Carson Palmer’s knee gets shredded by the worst team in sports. Team never stood a chance after that.
  • Reds won 96 games in 1999, lost one game playoff. Most wins by any team in the wild card era to miss the playoffs
  • Bengals missed the playoffs for 15 straight years
  • Reds went ten years without a winning season.
  • 2012. After not suffering an injury to the five man rotation all season the best pitcher injures himself on his third or fourth pitch of game 1 of the LDS. Reds manage to win the first two games on the road. Blow the series by losing three straight all at home
  • Not on my own personal list, but Kenyon Martin broke his leg in the CUSA tournament and kept a very good UC team from doing anything in the tournament.
  • Mike Brown owns our football team.

Cleveland is easily the worst because they get close and never finish, but there’s a different kind of torture that exists with crippling mediocrity. We can’t get out of the first round. All I ask is to get to the playoffs and then play well once in the playoffs, which is something I haven’t really seen.

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As pointed out above, it depends on one's definition of "tortured". Is it about just falling short (e.g., the Texas Rangers), never even giving fans a reason to pay attention a few weeks into the season (e.g., the Browns), or a long title drought (e.g., Cleveland).

Since we are talking about cities (as opposed to teams) I go with the latter as the primary criteria. But there are still a lot of nuances. For example, Milwaukee does not belong there because Milwaukee cares more about the Packers than the Bucks and Brewers combined. From the OP's top 10, no to Dallas, who has a recent championship in the NBA, somewhat recent Stanley Cup, and a somewhat recent NFL dynasty.

I think an argument can be made for the other cities. While I am old enough to remember titles in Houston, KC, Cincy, DC, Minneapolis, and Atlanta, those are getting to be a while ago.

I think we'd be hard-pressed to disagree with Cleveland. The Indians dominated the AL Central in the 90s and came away empty-handed. The Browns, already tortured, left town and were replaced only to be consistently bad. The Cavs went from run-of-the mill bad weather NBA town, to having LaBron, back to run-of-the-mill bad weather NBA town. No championships since the pre-Super Bowl era Browns. So they've been close, they've been mediocre, they've been spurned by LeBron...they've kinda had it all.

My biased pick for #2 is Minneapolis/St. Paul. The longest drought of all four-sport towns. Two titles that don't belong to the LA Lakers. None for over 20 years. I give you:

  • NHL: A consistently mediocre team (that did get hot for a couple of playoff runs) moves to Dallas. Replaced seven years later by another consistently mediocre team. The Wild have limped into the playoffs a few times...last year they broke a five-year streak of no NHL OR NBA playoffs. They've been unable to ever have depth and usually finish near the bottom in goals scored. Likelihood of a title in the next 20 years: 10%. Only because anything can happen as long as a team gets in.
  • NBA: Two playoff series wins in about 25 years. Like Cleveland, they are stuck as a bad-weather non-cosmopolitan city. No free agents want to come. Kevin Love wants out badly and will be a Laker next year and when they were good...it was the Lakers they could not get by. Likelihood of a title in the next 20 years: <1%.
  • MLB: Minnesota fans cling to 1987 and 1991. Those were fun times and the 1991 team was actually good. Since then they've given us some reason to be interested (plenty in the previous decade) but showed each year that being just good enough to win a weak division does not mean you can play with the big boys. They've threatened to move, asked to be contracted, and turned to crap overnight. They have a few good prospects, but when a big-time free agent is shopping, he never shops at the Mall of America. Likelihood of a title in the next 20 years: 5%
  • NFL: The Vikings are the crown jewel of Minnesota sports torture. It's been suggested that the Dome did not get as loud for the Vikes as for the Twins because the fans were waiting for the other shoe to drop. And it usually did. The Vikings have more postseason trips since the merger than anyone aside from Dallas. They have two very heartbreaking NFC title games in my memory and at over 50 years without a title that counts (one NFL title essentially voided by Super Bowl IV loss), are getting into Cubs territory. They always disappoint. I'd almost rather they be like the "new" Browns. Likelihood of a title in the next 20 years: 5%. I don't totally believe in curses, but I kinda do; it's like putting on the purple for a big game means you know you have to find a way to lose.
  • Overall likelihood of a title in the next 20 years: 15%. Again, most likely from the Wild. They'll never have home ice in the first round, but anything can happen in hockey. Logic says maybe the Vikes have a shot since the NFL has so much standings turnover, but I just can't imagine them doing so (a symptom of a "tortured" fan). The Twins would need to catch some lightning in a bottle and then have ownership go crazy in free agency. The T-Wolves may as well not exist.
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Minnesota is probably signing Thomas Vanek this summer, if that helps the odds at all.

The Cities have definitely had it rough, but I can't put them ahead of Cleveland and Buffalo, and I really believe in putting Montreal high up there. They've spiritually lost the Canadiens, and actually lost the Expos. Yes, 24 championships, but it's been 20 years since the last one, and more importantly, the Habs just aren't the touchstone of French-Canadian culture that they were. It wasn't just that they dominated, but that they dominated with their own people in a culture that's always been marginalized and ostracized, always Less Than, except in hockey. I mean, just behold the Gallic glory of the names: Vézina, Bouchard, Béliveau, Geoffrion, Maurice Richard, Henri Richard, Plante, Savard, Lafleur, Lemaire, Lemieux, Demers, Carbonneau, Roy as hhgkwah. Now look at them. These aren't les gens du pays anymore, it's just a bunch of Eastern Europeans, and even worse, Americans. And the worst part is that for all that soul-selling, they don't even have the decency to do better than the local boys did. They're not something beyond sports anymore. They're just a hockey team that kinda sucks. I can't imagine what it would be like to live through such a fall from grace.

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