Cleveland without rival in futility

Buffalo and San Diego haven't crowned a champ in a while either, but they've had fewer teams.


King Kaufman
October 31, 2008 3:00PM (UTC)

I mentioned Thursday that with Philadelphia's World Series win, Cleveland has emerged as a city without rival in championship futility in the major sports, with none since the Browns won the NFL in 1964. That brought some yelps from two of our finest cities:

Caldo, Achiever: As a San Diegan, I believe we deserve mention with Cleveland for elongated suckitude -- or are we getting credit for our N.L. pennants? Enduring three seasons of the Conquistadors should qualify us for some sort of bonus.

jfruhlinger: What about Buffalo? I don't want to take away from anyone's pain, but surely Buffalo deserves mention as a home for sports agony?

First things first: San Diego Conquistadors! Yeah!

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Buffalo won an AFL title in 1965. I'm counting that. Shouldn't I? The AFL was already a pretty big deal by the mid-'60s. It was a big deal in Buffalo, anyway. Besides, didn't the Sabres win the Stanley Cup in 1999? When Brett Hull's goal was disallowed? [Ducks.]

San Diego, yeah, actually one year longer than Cleveland. The Chargers won the AFL in 1963. Cleveland has had NBA basketball and San Diego mostly hasn't. Buffalo hasn't had major league baseball and mostly hasn't had NBA basketball. So Cleveland has had more non-championship seasons in the big four sports than either San Diego or Buffalo.

In fact, even before Wednesday night, Cleveland had more non-championship seasons than Philadelphia by a lot. I'd thought Philly was in the photo, but not really. Here's how it breaks down for the four cities, before the Phillies won the World Series Wednesday. What we're counting here is non-championship seasons in the NBA, NHL, NFL/AFL and major league baseball since the city's last title in one of those. We're not counting the 1994 baseball season, when the World Series was canceled.

CLEVELAND

Last championship: Browns, 1964

Team League Non-title
years
since '64
Indians MLB 43
Browns/Browns 2.0 NFL 41
Cavaliers NBA 39
Barons NHL 2
Total   125

- - - - -

PHILADELPHIA

Last championship (before Wednesday): 76ers, 1983

Team League Non-title
years
since '83*
Eagles NFL 26
76ers NBA 25
Flyers NHL 25
Phillies MLB 24
Total
* Counts '83 MLB
and NFL seasons
  100

- - - - -

SAN DIEGO

Last championship: Chargers, 1963

Team League Non-title
years
since '63
Chargers AFL/NFL 45
Padres MLB 39
Clippers NBA 6
Rockets NBA 4
Total   94

- - - - -

BUFFALO

Last championship: Bills, 1965

Team League Non-title
years
since '65
Bills AFL/NFL 43
Sabres NHL 38
Braves NBA 8
Total   89

Since Caldo, Achiever mentioned the Conquistadors, I'll point out that adding the American Basketball Association and World Hockey Association, the other two leagues that were absorbed into the established one in the era under discussion, doesn't change much.

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San Diego would get an extra six seasons, three for the ABA Conquistadors -- we won't count the 11 games of their fourth season, as the San Diego Sails, before they folded -- and three for the WHA Mariners. Neither won a title. Then again, Cleveland would get four more seasons for the WHA Crusaders. Philadelphia would get one for the WHA Blazers.

Adding in the World Football League and the United States Football League, neither of which got to the prestige level of even the WHA, Philadelphia gets two seasons each for the WFL Bell and the USFL Stars.

Philadelphia had been the leader among the four-sport cities with no championships for 25 years. The new leader, just barely, is the Twin Cities, which last crowned a champion in 1991, when the Twins won the World Series. Washington also last crowned a champion in 1991, when its football team won the Super Bowl.

That actually happened in January 1992, three months after the Twins' win. Also, Washington has only been a four-sport city since 2005, when the Expos moved from Montreal and became the Nationals. The Twin Cities have been a four-sport area since the NHL Wild began play in 2000-01.

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The longest wait for a four-sport city that's been a four-sport city the whole time? Not a city but an area: The Bay Area hasn't had a champion since the 49ers in the 1994 season. Atlanta's gone since the Braves won the World Series in 1995.

Seattle deserves a mention here, with teams in three sports but no championships since the Sonics won the NBA in 1979. Alas, that's one that's not likely to happen again soon.


King Kaufman

King Kaufman is a senior writer for Salon. You can e-mail him at king at salon dot com. Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr

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