By Ray Hamill
When it comes to North American sports, there are plenty of long suffering fans out there faithfully following their team of choice and never giving up on dreams of success. But when it comes to cities that have suffered the most, nowhere compares to Cleveland.
In fact, it’s not even close.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the city’s last taste of success in any major sport, an NFL championship by the Browns in 1964, and I sure hope all the Clevelanders (yes, that’s what they call themselves) held a great big parade that day and really soaked it all up, because it’s been a long barren spell since.
In fact, the city’s three major franchises – the Browns (NFL), the Indians (MLB) and the Cavaliers (NBA) – have now combined for a grand total of 158 seasons without a championship, the most by any major city in the country by a proverbial mile.
And it hasn’t even been close, with just a single championship series appearance by the Cavs and Indians in all that time, while the Browns are one of just two NFL teams (along with the Lions) that have been in existence for more than two decades and have never even reached a Super Bowl.
Even Hollywood doesn’t believe in Cleveland, with the epic movie Major League depicting the story of the Indians winning the American League pennant in dramatic fashion in 1989, but falling short of showing them actually winning the World Series. Apparently that was too outrageous a storyline even for Hollywood.
It seems even many famous Clevelanders have given up on their city.
Wes Craven is from Cleveland and rumor has it growing up a sports fan in the city is what inspired him to make all those horror movies, while Drew Carey knew the only way he would find success was to leave the city behind for an MLS team in Seattle. Yes, an MLS team.
In fact, when it comes to sports, if the city of Cleveland was a cartoon character, it would be Wile E. Coyote, always one step behind the faster and more athletic roadrunner, while naively believing a delicious championship dinner might be just around the corner, only to see its hopes dashed once again by faulty ACME free agent equipment.
Of the 28 major U.S. metropolitan areas with a larger population than Cleveland, only four have failed to win a major sports championship, but of those, Riverside-San Bernardino has no major professional teams, while Orlando and Sacramento have only one franchise apiece, and each of them has been in existence for less than three decades.
Only the city of San Diego can challenge Cleveland when it comes to sports futility over the past half century, with its two major franchises – the Chargers and Padres – a combined 99 seasons without a championship (and counting), and I have a feeling the Chargers will help them reach the century mark by early January.
Minneapolis and Atlanta also haven’t exactly set the sports on fire in the past 50 years.
Minneapolis won an NFL championship in 1969 before losing in Super Bowl IV, and a World Series in 1991, but its three franchises are now a combined 109 seasons without success.
Atlanta, meanwhile, has three teams and just one major championship, the Braves’ World Series in 1995 when they beat, yes, you guessed it, the Cleveland Indians, in what we can now safely say was the battle to avoid being the worst sports city in America. (That World Series is Atlanta’s only major championship in 164 seasons combined.)
Even its own sports teams apparently don’t believe in Cleveland, with the Browns giving up on the city in the mid 90s and moving to Baltimore, where, yes, you guessed it, they’ve won two Super Bowls.
The Browns were re-established again in Cleveland in 1999, picking right up where the old Browns left off and enduring 13 losing seasons in the 15 years since.
Even the city’s brief NHL connection, when the Cleveland Barons graced the ice for a couple of losing seasons in the mid 70s, was a disaster, and the team finally merged with the the Minnesota North Stars, before eventually moving to Dallas and, yes, you guessed it, winning the Stanley Cup there.
While cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston, St. Louis, Chicago and a host of others have all tasted success on multiple sports stages in recent decades, fans in Cleveland can only look on in envy, dreaming of what could be.
So if you think one of your teams has it bad, be glad all your teams aren’t from Cleveland.
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