Reading in the sports world about long-suffering Cubs fans made me wonder which sports markets really have suffered the most during this century. There are currently 48 markets that have at least one team in one of the four major North American sports leagues. I was curious to see which of the 48 markets had the most success recently and which has the most long-suffering fans.
Over the last 16 seasons, 23 of the 48 markets have had one of their teams win a championship. Another nine markets have had at least one of their teams make it to the championship round of their sport. The most successful market in this period has been Boston. All four Boston teams have won a championship since 2008. Los Angeles has also had four teams win a championship during this period, but they have six teams in their market. San Francisco and New York have had five teams make it to the championship round, but those markets have six and nine teams respectively.
Since 2000, 16 markets have not appeared in the championship round of their league. Four markets have never appeared in the championship round: Columbus, Jacksonville, Memphis, Winnipeg. Three of these four markets are new to the major North American sports leagues. Winnipeg had a WHA dynasty in the late 70s. Neither the old nor the new NHL versions of the Jets have ever made the Stanley Cup finals.
Of the other twelve markets, three have only one team: Montreal (93 Stanley Cup), Portland (92 Western Conference Champions), Salt Lake City (98 Western Conference Champions). Another five markets have two teams. Of these markets four have had a team play in the championship round since 1990: Buffalo (93 AFC Champions, 98 Eastern Conference Champions), Cincinnati (88 AFC Champions, 90 World Series Champions), Nashville (99 AFC Champions), San Diego (94 AFC Champions, 98 NL Champions).
The worst off of these smaller markets is Milwaukee. Milwaukee has not had a championship team since the 1970-1971 Milwaukee Bucks swept the Baltimore Bullets in the NBA Finals. The last appearance by Milwaukee in a championship round was by the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers, who lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. Luckily, many in Milwaukee claim Green Bay as their NFL team, so they've been able to have some recent champions in which to take pride.
The worst big markets are Atlanta, Toronto, the Twin Cities, and Washington, D.C. While the last sixteen years have been rough for Atlanta, the Braves and the Falcons had a great decade in the 90s. Perhaps the rush the city has to build new stadiums again is in the hope that this new round of stadiums will have the same effect on these teams as the previous round.
Toronto has been a land of sports mediocrity since Joe Carter killed Mitch Williams. After those back-to-back championships by the Blue Jays, no Toronto team has made it to the championship round. The Maple Leafs haven't been to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1967. I think we can start calling this the Curse of Mitch Williams.
Washington D.C. has been a losing sports town ever since the Senators were "first in war, first in peace, and last in the American League." Washington hasn't won a championship since the 1991 Super Bowl. The Capitals also made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1998. Fortunately, Washington has been able to enjoy a very successful MLS club. Also, the Washington Nationals appear to be ready to make the World Series in the next few years.
This leaves one market to claim the title as the longest-suffering professional sports market in the United States and Canada. The Twin Cities hasn't been to a championship round since the Twins beat the Atlanta Braves in seven games in 1991. That same year, the Minnesota North Stars lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Norths Stars' second Stanley Cup Finals appearance. The new Twin Cities NHL franchise has never made the Stanley Cup Finals. The Timberwolves have never made it to the NBA Finals.
The 1950s were a great time for the Twin Cities. The Minneapolis Lakers won four championships in that decade, before they departed for lakeless Los Angeles. The 1970s brought several Super Bowl appearances for the Minnesota Vikings, but none were successful. In the last fifty years, the Twin Cities has only the 1987 and 1991 World Series championships to celebrate. If you've ever wondered why so much great music has come out of Minnesota over that period of time. This might be your answer.