Heartbreak City: Top 10 Tortured Fanbases
Which Fans Have It Worst?
With March Madness approaching, Northwestern hopes that it will finally earn its first-ever NCAA tournament berth. First, it will have to go through No. 11 Ohio State on Wednesday night after squeaking out a victory over lowly Penn State.
But with the Wildcats on our minds, we examine the Top 10 most-tortured fanbases in North American sports - pro or collegiate - and explain why there is a black cloud hanging ominously over these fans.
10. Cleveland Cavaliers fans
We know, we know. You thought that the Cavaliers would be closer to No. 1 on this list, but that’s just because the sour taste of LeBron James’ unpopular departure to South Beach still is the mouths of those in Northeast Ohio.
But the Cavs aren’t higher because their fans have only been tortured for about four decades since the franchise began in 1970.
But LeBron wasn’t the first to boot the city in the stomach. Michael Jordan famously made “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo in Gave 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first round.
Still without an NBA title after LeBron and company were swept in the 2007 finals, Cleveland is back to being an NBA bottom-feeder pinning its hopes on another No. 1 overall pick, point guard Kyrie Irving.
For the Cavs’ sake, let’s hope it ends better with him.
9. Philadelphia Eagles fans
This is one ornery bunch - and for good reason. The Eagles have never won a Super Bowl, despite having some great teams in recent years. They have made the playoffs nine times since Andy Reid took over as coach in 1999 and have suffered four losses in the NFC Championship Game.
Philly did make the Super Bowl after the 2004 season but had a memorable struggle when star quarterback Donovan McNabb literally was sick to his stomach trying to move up and down the field in the fourth quarter. There was also a 1981 trip to Super Bowl XV in which the Eagles were crushed by the Raiders.
No wonder the fans have a collective reputation as one of the rudest and worst-behaved in all of sports. It didn’t help that the “Dream Team,” as proclaimed by backup QB Vince Young after a flurry of free-agent signings prior to last season, finished 8-8 in 2011.
Watching the Redskins, Cowboys and Giants combine for 12 Super Bowls just pours salt on the wound.
8. Cleveland Indians fans
Sorry, Cleveland, but your city is back again.
The Indians haven’t won a World Series since 1948. The Indians did have a lot of success in the 1990s, when they won five consecutive division titles. But that era perhaps is best remembered for a seven-game loss to the Florida Marlins in the 1997 World Series, when Jose Mesa blew a save in the bottom of the ninth inning in Game 7. There was also a World Series loss to the Braves, a.k.a. “The Buffalo Bills of baseball.”
The Tribe then surprisingly made it to the American League Championship Series in 2007, when they took a 3-1 lead on the Boston Red Sox - only to lose in seven. Guess we should have seen it coming.
Now the Indians have become a classic small-market team that can’t afford to pay its best players and watches stars like C.C. Sabathia take their talents to teams like the Yankees.
7. Minnesota Vikings fans
Vikings fans of all ages can identify with the failings of their favorite football team. Between 1969-76, the “Purple People Eaters” lost four Super Bowls.
They haven’t been back to the big game but, in 1998, the Vikings went 15-1 in the regular season before losing to the underdog Atlanta Falcons in overtime in the NFC title game. Kicker Gary Anderson - who hadn’t missed a kick all season - misfired on a 38-yard boot that would have iced the game in regulation.
Then, after years of rooting against Brett Favre, the legendary quarterback came to the Vikings - only to throw a crucial interception in overtime of the NFC title game after the 2009 season that propelled the Saints to the Lombardi Trophy.
On top of it, the rival Packers are really, really good. It makes you want to bury your head in the snow.
6. Toronto Maple Leafs fans
The Maple Leafs have won 13 Stanley Cups so what’s there to complain about?
Well, the last title came in 1967 and they haven’t even made it back to the Stanley Cup finals since then. In that time, the Montreal Canadiens have hoisted the cup 10 times in the only sport that matters to the country up north. Naturally, the Maple Leafs are on pace to miss the playoffs again this season.
As one writer put it, “God hates the blue and white — it’s that belief which binds together all those who call themselves citizens of Leafs Nation. On talk radio, in chat rooms, and in sports bars across the country (but mainly in southern Ontario) they share the misery of loving a team that does not give back. Not ever.”
5. Northwestern basketball fans
The Wildcats are the only BCS school never to make the NCAA tournament, which started in 1939 and was actually decided in Evanston that year. In comparison, Kentucky has made the Big Dance 51 times.
That drought includes tons of terrible basketball and some near misses like last year’s team that lost to Ohio State in overtime during the Big Ten Tournament to keep the Cats from dancing.
Is this finally Northwestern’s year?
Joe Lunardi currently has the Wildcats (17-11, 7-9) among his last four teams in the tourney but they almost choked that away with a last-second victory over Penn State on the weekend. A victory over Ohio State on Wednesday would almost certainly punch their ticket.
If not? Well, at least Wildcat fans have women’s lacrosse to look forward to.
4. Detroit Lions fans
Barry Sanders is all this fanbase has had to hold on to in recent years - and even he retired early.
No, the Lions haven’t won a Super Bowl. Not even close, actually. They’ve never been to the Super Bowl - a tough feat for a franchise that preceded the Big Game. In fact, Detroit’s playoff appearance in January was its first since 1999.
The Lions went 0-16 in 2008 and followed that with a 2-14 campaign the following year. It has been a struggle, but the Lions have turned it around under coach Jim Schwartz.
Now if they could only add to the franchise’s one playoff win since 1957.
3. Cleveland Browns fans
Are you sensing a pattern here?
Yes, Cleveland sports fans have it bad. But it gets no worse in the city than the Browns, who have never won a Super Bowl or even earned a berth in the game.
Cleveland’s beloved football team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2002, which, at the time, was its first appearance in the postseason since 1994. But there was a reason for that.
The original Browns moved to Baltimore after the 1995 season before returning as a franchise of the same name in 1999. The Ravens have gone on to win a Super Bowl and become a powerhouse in the AFC while the new Browns still stink.
You think you have it bad as a fanbase? Try being the Browns, who are bad in two different forms.
2. Buffalo Bills fans
Sure, the Vikings lost four Super Bowls, but not four in a row. That honor goes to the Bills, who were a missed field goal by Scott Norwood away from beating the New York Giants in their first appearance in the big game after the 1990 season.
But after falling flat four times, Buffalo has sunk to the depths of despair. They have the longest current playoff drought in the NFL, which dates to after the 1999 season. What happened then? The “Music City Miracle,” in which the Tennessee Titans beat the Bills with a trick play on a kickoff to erase a one-point deficit in the final seconds.
On top of it all, the franchise has been rumored to move to Toronto.
Maybe they would be doing their fans a favor.
1. Chicago Cubs fans
Where should we begin?
The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908. Let that sink in for a while. As such, they have taken the title of woebegone fanbase over from the Boston Red Sox, who hadn’t won a World Series since 1918 - and had choked away a chance at some along the way until winning in 2004 and 2007.
The Cubs, well, they are still waiting. Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan at Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series, interfered with outfielder Moises Alou to help Chicago blow the game and series that it had led 3-1 at one point. And that was the most-recent sorrow.
To put it all in perspective, they have a fanbase that believes in the “Curse of the Billy Goat” and are just happy when there is nice weather at Wrigley Field.
Theo Epstein, please help these people.