As the year 2004 approaches, so does the 40-year anniversary of the last professional sports championship in the city of Cleveland. It's been a long road to hoe for Cleveland fans since that 27-0 Browns victory over the Baltimore Colts on December 27, 1964, with several near misses and heartbreaking losses along the way.
The Super Bowl was created three seasons later, and the Browns have yet to appear in one. In 1986, 1987, and 1989 the team reached the AFC Championship Game, only to be sent home by the Denver Broncos each time. The Detroit Lions are the only other franchise that has been in existence since Super Bowl I that has yet to appear in one.
The Cleveland Indians finally made it back to the World Series in 1995 after a 41-year hiatus, but were defeated in six games by the Atlanta Braves. We made it back two years later, only to lose to the Florida Marlins in the most emotionally damaging way possible, in the 9th inning of game seven.
And the Cleveland Cavaliers even flirted with greatness in the late 80's and early ‘90's, making the playoff six times in seven years from 1988 to 1994, only to be sent home in four of those playoff appearances by Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
I had to see, is there a more tortured city when it comes to the ineptitude of their pro sports franchises? After some research, I found that the answer was no. There isn't even a close second. Let's take a look at the 15 most tortured cities when it comes to professional sports...
The 15 Most Tortured Cities in Professional Sports
1. Cleveland, OH
Not one title in any sport dating back to 1964, when the Browns defeated Baltimore 27-0 in the NFL Championship game. The Browns actually won five NFL Championships from 1945 to 1964, but have yet to even appear in any of the 37 Super Bowls played thus far. To make matters worse, the city was dealt three painful losses in four seasons to the same team, the Denver Broncos, in AFC Championship appearances in the late 1980's. The Indians have not won a World Series since 1948, and have been there and lost three times (‘54, '95, '97) since then. The Cavaliers have yet to even appear in the NBA Finals, and were shown the door in the playoffs by Michael Jordan and the Bulls several times throughout a successful run in the late ‘80's and early ‘90's, which included crushing blows in 1989 ("The Shot") and 1992 (won 57 games, lost in Eastern Finals in six games). My worst fears were easily confirmed. There isn't even a close second.
2. Buffalo, NY
The city of Buffalo only has two major sports franchises, the Bills in the NFL, and the Sabres in the NHL. Despite that fact, they come in as the 2nd most tortured city in pro sports. The Bills were one of the best teams in all of football from 1990-1998, yet came away with nothing. As a matter of fact, they came away with a record that will likely never be touched, when they lost four consecutive Super Bowls in 1991, '92, '93, and '94. The Sabres, who have been in existence for over 30 years, have never won a Stanley Cup, and have only made two appearances in the Finals. They lost in 1975, and then in cruel fashion in 1999, when they were ousted by the Dallas Stars on a goal that replays later showed should not even have counted.
3. Seattle, WA
Seattle was awarded all three of their professional sports franchises in the 70's, and has only one title to show for in all three of the sports since then. The Supersonics defeated the Washington Bullets in the 1979 NBA Finals, after losing to the Bullets the prior season in the Finals. They went back to the Finals in 1996, pushing the Bulls to six games, but eventually losing. The Seahawks have yet to even appear in a Super Bowl, or even come close for that matter. Aside from some recent successes, the same holds true for the Mariners, who have yet to appear in a World Series.
4. Atlanta, GA
The Braves did win the World Series in 1985, but aside from that, the city has never celebrated another championship. The Braves have been lucky enough to make five World Series appearances in the last eleven seasons, but came up losers in 1991, '92, '96, and '99. The Falcons made their lone Super Bowl appearance in 1999, only to lose to the Denver Broncos. The Hawks have yet to ever make an NBA Finals appearance, and the Atlanta Thrashers are the NHL's newest team and have expectedly had their struggles thus far.
5. Minneapolis, MN
World Series titles by the Twins in 1987 and 1991 are all that the city of Minnesota has to show for, despite having teams in all four of the major sports for some time now. The Twins also appeared in the 1965 Word Series, but were defeated by the Dodgers. The NBA's Timberwolves are the newest of the Minnesota franchises, and their inability to get out of the 1st round of the playoffs is now well documented. The Vikings, like the Bills have appeared in and lost four Super Bowls. The Vikings did not do it consecutively, but in an eight-year stretch from 1970 to 1977. They have not been back since. Minnesota used to have the North Stars in the NHL, who went to the Cup Finals and lost in 1981 and 1991. The North Stars moved to Dallas and have since been replaced by the expansion Minnesota Wild.
6. San Diego, CA
San Diego has just the Padres and the Chargers, but neither has been able to win a championship. The Padres went to the World Series twice, losing in 1984 to the Tigers and in 1998 to the Yankees, winning only one combined game in those two trips. Aside from those 2 seasons, the Padres have never even gone as far as the NLCS in their team history. The Chargers have appeared in the Super Bowl one time, but were torn apart at the seams by the 49ers in 1995. Aside from that season, and a little 3-4 year run of success in the early 80's in the Dan Fouts era, the franchise has accomplished little in their history.
7. Indianapolis, IN
Another city with just two franchises (the Colts and the Pacers) and without a championship to their name. The only time the city has come close was a Pacers NBA Finals appearance in 2000. And this from a city and a state that prides itself on its rich basketball tradition. The Colts have had little success since moving from Baltimore to Indianapolis; with a 1995 last second AFC Championship loss to the Steelers being their closest brush with success.
8. Kansas City, MO
Kansas City has the Chiefs in the NFL and the Royals in MLB. Both have won championships, but the city has had little to cheer about for the last fifteen years or so. The Royals beat the Cardinals in the 1985 World Series, and also went and lost in 1980. The Chiefs have to go all the way back to Super Bowl IV in 1970, when they handed the Vikings the 1st of their four Super Bowl losses. They also appeared in the 1st Super Bowl ever, losing to the Packers.
9. Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia has four major professional sports franchises that have combined for 12 championships. One problem. Those same four teams haven't won anything in nineteen years. Their last taste of success was the 76'ers 1983 NBA Finals victory over the Lakers. The Sixers also won titles in 1947, 1956, and 1967. The Phillies last title was in 1980 over Kansas City. Before that, you need to go back to 1930 to find the last time the Phils won the World Series. They went and lost in 1983 and 1993. The Eagles won some NFL Championships in the 40's and also in 1960, but have never won a Super Bowl. They appeared in one, losing to Oakland in 1981. And the Flyers won consecutive Stanley Cup titles in 1974 and 1975. They have been back four times ('76, '80, '85, and '87) but have lost each time. A lot of history, but none of it has come in the last twenty years.
10. Charlotte, NC
Charlotte has really evolved into an auto-racing town, and that had a lot to do with the Hornets being moved to New Orleans. While in Charlotte, the team experienced little to no success. The Panthers second season in existence was an exciting one, as the team made an improbable run to the NFC Championship game, but they have yet to make the playoffs since then. The NHL's Hurricanes also made a shocking Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 2002, but were easily dispatched by the Detroit Red Wings.
11. Cincinnati, OH
The Reds have won five World Series titles (1919, 1940, 1975, 1976, and 1990) and have been to and lost another four. The Bengals have been to two Super Bowls ('82 and '89) and lost to San Francisco both times. For the last 12 years, the city has really fallen on hard times as the Reds and Bengals have both regressed into obscurity, until the Bengals current run this season.
12. Milwaukee, WI
If not for the Packers 1997 Super Bowl victory, Milwaukee would rank much higher. The Brewers have not won a title since 1957, and the Bucks haven't since 1971.
13. Houston, TX
The Rockets have made four NBA Finals appearances, winning it all in Jordan's two years away from the game in '94 and '95. The Astros have never seen the World Series, and either have the Oilers/Texans franchises.
14. Washington, D.C.
The Redskins have three Super Bowl titles to their name (1983, 1988, and 1992) in a total of five appearances. The Bullets/Wizards last tasted success in 1978, and the NHL's Capitals were swept by Detroit in their only Stanley Cup Finals appearance in 1998.
15. Oakland, CA
All three teams (the Athletics, Raiders, and Golden St. Warriors) have won titles, but the last one came in 1989. The city lost the Raiders to Los Angeles for a period of time, and the Warriors have fallen off the face of the earth.