It’s been a rough last 12 months to be a loyal sports fan in Cleveland, Ohio. From The Decision to The Injury to The Mangini, it seems that every single franchise has had its individual decade worth of failures condensed within their respective past season.
Thinking about such a concept and comparing it to the rest of the country, it’s intriguing to compare how bad the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers are, right now, compared to the remaining sports cities in North America. Analyzing the 30 multiple franchise cities with teams in the major four sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL ) in the United States and Canada, this study enables the reader to have a more objective comparison of the current worst sports city in America.
The next topic in this segment, Extreme Waiting For Next Year, will air next weekend about the worst year in Cleveland sports history. We all know the title drought has continued since 1964, and that topic will be discussed with more depth in that upcoming segment.
Honorable Mention: Whether it’s because of recent success or too diversified of a profile, these four cities barely made this list of dishonorable sports cities in America because of some fairly awful seasons of late.
Baltimore, Md./Washington D.C. – This metropolitan area craves attention on the national spotlight and is the lone city with five or more franchises that made this list. Daniel Snyder is one of the least popular owners in sports with the Redskins, the Nationals/Orioles have been bad for decades, and the Wizards desperately need John Wall to act as a savior. If it weren’t for the always good Ravens, and Alex Ovechkin being a regular season star with the Capitals, this city could rank much worse. Teams: Redskins (NFL, 6-10 record), Ravens (NFL, 12-4 record, AFC Divisional Round), Nationals (MLB, 69-93 record), Orioles (MLB, 66-96 record), Wizards (NBA, 13-33 record) and Capitals (NHL, 27-15-9 record, 63 pts, 2010 East Quarterfinals)
Houston, Texas - Middling success can only help you get so far in professional sports these days. The Texans still have yet to make the playoffs despite several seasons between 6-10 wins in the NFL. The Astros made the World Series recently under Roger Clemens, and continue to only be good after June over the past few years. Meanwhile, the Rockets won the most recent title here, but are now caught in the awful cycle of being a mediocre team in the top-heavy NBA. Teams: Texans (NFL, 6-10 record), Astros (MLB, 76-86 record) and Rockets (NBA, 22-27 record)
St. Louis, Mo. – The Rams almost squeaked into the playoffs this past year, but this is clearly a Cardinals town first and foremost. That team has had its success and won a World Series within the past decade, but time will tell if Albert Pujols will ever be able to lead them again to the promised land. The Blues have had their better years, but this city deserves something just for only having one franchise worth paying that much attention to. Teams: Rams (NFL, 7-9 record), Cardinals (MLB, 86-76 record) and Blues (NHL, 22-20-7, 51 pts)
Denver, Colo. - As pictured to the left, Carmelo Anthony controls the fate of this city’s sports future. The Nuggets have been a perennial playoff contender each season, never quite making the finals, but always around. That nearly epitomizes the state of the Rockies too, who always seem to surprise folks and finish with a better record than expected. The Broncos are bad at the moment and the Avalanche are one of the best in the NHL, but if Anthony leaves like LeBron, this city clearly moves down. Teams: Broncos (NFL, 4-12 record), Rockies (MLB, 83-79 record), Nuggets (NBA, 28-18 record, 2010 West Quarterfinals) and Avalanche (NHL, 25-19-6, 56 pts, 2010 West Quarterfinals)
Third Tier: Now getting into the real meat of this discussion, these three have truly been lamented for their failures recently, and feature some of the laughing stocks of their respective major sport leagues.
Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn. - The Twins are the model franchise and everything any medium-sized metropolitan area could ask for in a sports team. With that being said, you have to give Minnesota some bad credit for the play of the Vikings, Timberwolves and Wild generally over the past few years. There have been some good playoffs years for the like every now and then, but overall, it’s been rough and that continued again this year. Teams: Vikings (NFL, 6-10 record), Twins (MLB, 94-68 record, Divisional Round), Timberwolves (NBA, 11-36 record) and Wild (NHL, 25-19-5, 55 pts)
Nashville, Tenn. - The Titans finally had an awful year of turmoil after making the Super Bowl and having some decent seasons under head coach Jeff Fisher. Vince Young is now out of town, and although the Predators have had some solid seasons of late, this is just one rough town in terms of any credible championship history. Teams: Titans (NFL, 6-10 record) and Predators (NHL, 27-17-6, 60 pts, 2010 East Quarterfinals)
Kansas City, Mo. – The Chiefs somehow found a way to make it into the playoffs this season and actually seem to be on the quick upswing in the AFC. If that continues with a playoff win or two over the years, you could easily see this team slide out of any sort of dishonorable mention. But the Royals have been the worst in MLB for a long while now, and that drags down the state of Kansas City sports. Teams: Chiefs (NFL, 10-6 record, AFC Wild Card Round) and Royals (MLB, 67-95 record)
Second Tier: Certain cities occasionally have a few down years every now and then, and these three have had their fair share of difficult seasons recently. Take heed First Tier, these might set the new standard shortly.
Phoenix, Ariz. - Phoenix? Really? Yes indeed, because if you look at the current state of the Cardinals/Diamondbacks/Suns despite some recently decent playoff successes, it’s just as bad as it gets right now. Derek Anderson is not the savior for football, the baseball team has struggled to find an identity for years, and the Suns are clearly on the downswing after many successful years led by Steve Nash. So give this town a little break, it hasn’t always been this bad. Teams: Cardinals (NFL, 5-11 record), Diamondbacks (MLB, 65-97 record), Suns (NBA, 21-24 record, 2010 West Finals) and Coyotes (NHL, 25-17-9, 59 pts, 2010 West Quarterfinals)
Toronto, Ontario - This is a hockey town first and foremost, and that team has been awful for many years, easily the worst again this season in the NHL. So the next most fitting sport for the Toronto fan base is the Raptors, who have tanked as much as the Cavaliers post-Chris Bosh this season. The Blue Jays have had many winning seasons over the past decade, but it’s going to always be tough to do anything in the AL East. Teams: Blue Jays (MLB, 85-77 record), Raptors (NBA, 13-35 record) and Maple Leafs (NHL, 19-25-5, 43 pts)
Seattle, Wash. - If the Seahawks had lost to the Rams and not made the playoffs, this city might belong in the first tier. But a playoff performance and victory over the Saints also reminds us of that run to the Super Bowl several years ago, thus taking away from the sad state of the Mariners at this moment. Cleveland fans enjoy their constant trades of talented prospects for mediocre first basemen, and now they are counting on Eric Wedge for a long rebuild. Teams: Seahawks (NFL, 7-9 record, NFC Wild Card Round) and Mariners (MLB, 61-101 record)
First Tier: The mantra of “Waiting For Next Year” has taken on a whole new meaning to these three cities however, as it seems that no sustained championship environment will ever arrive for one of these franchises.
Charlotte, N.C. - Although not quite filled with a long history of sports franchises, it’s been sad to be a fan in this area of North Carolina for many years. The Panthers own the first pick in the NFL draft, but that doesn’t mean they will be able to get the star rookie quarterback they initially hoped for. The Bobcats finally made the playoffs a year ago, but look to be on the verge of a new rebuild soon after dumping Larry Brown for Paul Silas. NASCAR anyone? Teams: Panthers (NFL, 2-14 record) and Bobcats (NBA, 20-26 record, 2010 East Quarterfinals)
Buffalo, N.Y. - The Bills are the archetype of “Waiting For Next Year,” right alongside the Cubs in the very successful city of Chicago right now. Several Super Bowl losses last decade plagued that franchise, and they have still been unable to recover. Claiming partial ownership of the Raptors doesn’t help much and although the Sabres have had some winning seasons, a title still has avoided this city. Teams: Bills (NFL, 4-12 record) and Sabres (NHL, 23-21-5, 51 pts, 2010 East Quarterfinals)
Cleveland, Ohio - Joining the first tier, of course, is this juggernaut of rough sports performances over the past year and the last several decades overall. The Cavaliers are the worst NBA team in quite some time thanks to a 1-29 stretch, the Indians are hoping for a miracle with some prospects this season and the Browns faltered after high expectations again in 2010. Who knows who might be next to a title, but these three are all in the bottom third of their respective sports. Teams: Browns (NFL, 5-11 record), Indians (MLB, 69-93 record) and Cavaliers (NBA, 8-38 record, 2010 East Semifinals)
It’s interesting to compare the different cities with two, three and four sports teams as opposed to the powerhouses in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Clearly they all have had some success of late, along with Philadelphia, and that enables these 15 cities to fall beneath the cracks.
You are free to come to your own decision about which city is the worst for sports right now in America, but it would likely have to be one of these bottom few to make any sort of legitimate sense within the major four professional sports leagues.
Stay tuned for next week’s look at the worst individual years in Cleveland sports history.
(Photos above via Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images and The News Tribune)
Jacob Rosen is a long-time contributor to WaitingForNextYear. He's also a writer online at SportsAnalyticsBlog and Nylon Calculus . An Akron native, Jacob is a current MBA student at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center. You can follow him on Twitter @WFNYJacob or e-mail him at udjrosen(at)gmail(dot)com.