Be thankful... you are not a sports fan in Cleveland

November 20, 2007, 12:41 PM · Today's post is completely off-topic, but indulge me this one. Most theme parks around the country are closed now, for those that remain open, the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving might be the slowest days of the year. Since I am also a math geek and sports fan, I decided to dust off an idea I've had in the back of my mind for some time.

Which city's sports fans have suffered most? I'm sick of hearing Cubs fans, for example, complain even though their city's NBA team racked up championships like Britney racking up referrals from child welfare agents. Or Red Sox fans (before 2004) moaning even though the Pats sported multiple Super Bowl rings and the Boston Garden's roof might as well have collapsed from the weight of NBA banners.

No, truly suffering sports fans live in a city where no team's won squat in recent memory. To figure out which city's fans have suffered the most, I applied a simple formula: Your metro area gets one point for each season it's had a team in the four major team professional sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) since one of those teams last won a title. City with the highest Misery Score has suffered the most.

Here are a couple examples: Denver, which last won when the Avalanche got the Stanley Cup in 2001, gets 24 points -- for the six years since then for the NFL Broncos, NHL Avalanche, NBA Nuggets and MLB Rockies. Salt Lake City, which has never won a title in any league, gets 28 points for the 28 years the NBA Jazz have played there.

I spent some time with Wikipedia and calculated the Misery Score for each metro area with a team in one of the "big four" leagues. I did not give any metro area "double credit" for having two teams in one league, e.g. the Giants and Jets for New York in the NFL. AFAIAK, that's two chances for your city to win a title. If you choose not to root for one or both of those teams, that's your problem. I'm not going to get into this "Well, I live on the north side of Chicago and root for the Cubs, Blackhawks, Packers and Bucks, so I've suffered more than you give Chicago credit for." Hey, if that's who you chose to root for -- sucks to be you.

The 'Which Team Should I Root For' Rule

I'm proposing that whenever you're killing time watching a game involving two teams you don't normally follow, you root for the team from the city with the highest Misery Score. Why? A) It's good karma to help out a city that needs the help. B) It'll make the wins that much sweeter, since you're not rooting for teams from cities that win all the damn time (*cough* Boston).

The Sports Fan Misery Index

Here's the list. And, Cleveland... I'm sorry. At least you've got Cedar Point.

City Last title Misery Score
1. Cleveland 1964 (NFL) 124
2. Philadelphia 1983 (NBA) 96
3. Buffalo never 93
San Diego never 93
5. Seattle 1979 (NBA) 84
6. Minneapolis 1991 (MLB) 56
7. New Orleans never 50
8. Washington, D.C. 1992 (NFL) 48
SF Bay Area 1995 (NFL) 48
10. Atlanta 1995 (MLB) 44
Kansas City 1985 (MLB) 44
12. Cincinnati 1990 (MLB) 34
Houston 1995 (NBA) 34
14. Dallas 1999 (NHL) 32
15. Charlotte never 30
Milwaukee 1997 (NFL- Green Bay) 30
Portland 1977 (NBA) 30
18. Salt Lake City never 28
19. Denver 2001 (NHL) 24
Phoenix 2001 (MLB) 24
21. Nashville never 19
22. Orlando never 18
23. New York/NJ 2003 (NHL) 16
24. Baltimore 2001 (NFL) 12
Detroit 2004 (NBA) 12
Jacksonville never 12
27. Tampa Bay Area 2004 (NHL) 9
28. Chicago 2005 (MLB) 8
Columbus never 8
Memphis never 8
31. Miami 2006 (NBA) 4
32. Pittsburgh 2006 (NFL) 3
St. Louis 2006 (MLB) 3
34. Raleigh 2006 (NHL) 1
35. Boston 2007 (MLB) 0
Indianapolis 2007 (NFL) 0
Los Angeles 2007 (NHL) 0
San Antonio 2007 (NBA) 0

- I counted the 2004-5 NHL season, even though it wasn't played, since it was miserable for sports fans.
- I counted franchises no longer located in a metro area only for the years that franchise played in that area since the area's last title by any team in the four major sports.
- New Orleans gets "credit" for the two years the Hornets played in OKC and the one year the Saints played in San Antonio.
- To calculate the misery index for San Diego and Buffalo, I counted those years the Chargers and Bills played years in the AFL, as well as NFL. I didn't have to count years in the ABA for existing NBA franchises, since all four of those cities have won titles since the ABA/NBA merger, thanks to Indianapolis' victory in this year's Super Bowl.

FWIW, under this system, the Colts' win in Super Bowl 41 was the biggest relief for a city's sports fans since Houston's win in the 1994 NBA Finals. Indy's score under this system before the Colts' win would have been 55, which would have put Indy then in sixth place on the list.

Replies (20)

November 20, 2007 at 1:19 PM · Allow me to predict... that just as soon as Cleveland loses Chief Wahoo, and renames its MLB team "Spiders," Cleveland gets off the top of this list.

It's all about the karma.

November 20, 2007 at 2:00 PM · Shocking that Chicago is not higher. We got the Cubs!

And, to disagree with Mr. Drew Carey, Cleveland doesn't rock!

November 20, 2007 at 2:02 PM · If you included MLS the Kansas City score (and a few other cities) would be lower. Since the Wizards won the cup in 2000 the KC score would be lowered to about 18, if I understand how you calculated this.

Either way, this was interesting and I never thought to look at this way.

November 20, 2007 at 2:02 PM · PITTSBURGH STEELERS!!!!!!!

kicking clevelands butt since 1933!!!
Love ya Black & Gold

November 20, 2007 at 2:43 PM · Atlanta should be closer to the top than it really is. The one year the Atlanta Braves won the World Series Title was a year most folks did not care about MLB - this was a strike-shortened season and most fans were too angry with the league to care that season. The Falcons...I won't even go there!

This may be off topic, but it is fun!

November 20, 2007 at 3:39 PM · I remember when the Braves won that Series, and everyone thought it was the first of many... not a one-off that (barely) kept Atlanta from being one of the top-three suffering sports cities. Yet, I suspect that ATL will be moving up on this list for a looooong time.
November 20, 2007 at 4:00 PM · I'm from Cleveland, and it does suck being a sports fan. We are always hopeful, but are usually let down. The Tribe blew against Boston, and the Cavs just couldn't win a game in the Finals. The Browns have been rebuilding ever since they brought the team back, but at least this year they are winning some games. To add on to the misery, Cedar Fair just closed Geauga Lake, which has long time memories from everyone in Cleveland.
November 20, 2007 at 5:17 PM · Hey, Mike, at least now you have quantified *proof* that you do, in fact, have it worse than anyone else. :-)
November 20, 2007 at 8:42 PM · No offense for you hockey fans, but I'm pretty sure that in this country these days, it's the Big 3, not the Big 4. Robert, how would the numbers look if you removed the NHL from the equation?
November 20, 2007 at 9:10 PM · Robert, Boston area fans had to put up with quite a few misery years to get to this wonderful little thing we have going right now. Let us have our fun while it lasts!
November 20, 2007 at 9:18 PM · Pete,

Four of the top five most miserable cities don't have NHL teams, so the ranking at the top wouldn't change much. The one city with an NHL franchise, Philadelphia, would drop some, but not out of the top five.

The cities whose most recent titles came from the NHL all won titles in other sports within a few years, so there aren't any other huge jumps there. Raleigh would go off the list entirely, though, as it has no other major league team.

Yeah, the NHL is clearly the number-four league, but the Stanley Cup is such a cool trophy that winning it brings a lot of relief to a city. That's why I kept it in: more for the Stanley Cup than the NHL.

November 21, 2007 at 5:34 AM · Even though you mentioned some of these teams, some, such as Seattle or Philadelphia, had been to a Super Bowl or what not recently, but did not win. So the misery score should be slightly changed, in my opinion
November 21, 2007 at 9:01 AM · Robert-

Nice work--of course I am not thrilled because I am a die hard Cleveland fan. However at least now I know my heart can withstand just about anything since all Cleveland teams have all broken my heart many times :).

I find it somewhat amusing that some inadverdently want their Cities misery index to be higher -- what I wouldn't give for Cleveland to be nowhere on the list!

Anyway thanks for keeping the board alive as go into our quiet period.

November 21, 2007 at 9:15 AM · I thought about trying a more complex formula, one that factored in how far a team advanced in the playoffs short of a championship.

But then I thought of friends of mine from upstate New York. Watching them, I think it is possible, maybe even probable, that watching your team go to the Super Bowl four times, and lose them all, provokes more misery than never seeing your team make the playoffs.

So... since I could not decide whether playoff advancement meant more, or less, misery, I stuck with the simpler formula: It's all about the championships.

November 21, 2007 at 10:01 AM · Seattle should get bonus points for 2001.

The Mariners had by far the best record in baseball that year. They won 116 games, which set a new American League record for number of wins.

But did we get to go to the World Series?
No. Damn Yankees.

November 21, 2007 at 12:38 PM · i dont like commercial sports >:(
i love theme parks
November 21, 2007 at 1:11 PM · Actually, I'm thankful I'm not ANYTHING in Cleveland...

But seriously, Robert, I think you totally missed the point about Tampa Bay. Here, our misery index is always 0, no matter what our sports teams do. Why?
a) It's 82 degrees and partly cloudy on Nov 21st.
b) Busch Gardens is open 365 days each year (366 in leap years!).
c) We have beautiful Gulf beaches less than an hour away, and just as beautiful Atlantic beaches just over two hours away.
d) We're only an hour from the House of Mouse.
e) If we don't like our own sports teams, there's always Orlando, Miami, Jacksonville...or in a worst case scenario, Atlanta or New Orleans. It's not unusual to see a Buccaneers flag on one side of a car and a Miami flag on the other...

So you see, no matter what happens in the Sports World, we are always smiling! Misery index = 0!

November 21, 2007 at 4:24 PM · Yes, denial is the only acceptable response to the Rays. ;-)

Actually, I thought about that looking at San Diego so high up on the list. I mean, lots of folks will feel some sympathy toward fans in Cleveland and Buffalo, but San Diego? Nope. Teams stink? Hit the beach.

November 26, 2007 at 12:39 PM · I agree that the NHL 04-05 lockout is partly responsible for the Tampa Bay Lightning not being able to keep the momentum to successfully defend the Cup.

And how can you not include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their years of misery, especially their inaugral season?

November 26, 2007 at 6:06 PM · Cleveland is on the up in sports. It's great to see that the teams are all doing well during the season. Now it's time to pick up a title. Had the Indians beaten the Sox, they probably would have been champs. The Cavs will be tops in the East, but they are a mid level team in the West, and the Browns are doing well, but in the same conference as the Patriots, Colts, and Steelers.

At least it's not Boston, where sports fans can't seem to be happy despite the fact it's been raining championships recently.

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