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The Best and Worst Sports Cities

The World Series is underway between Detroit and St Louis. Not huge cities by any means, so maybe size really doesn’t matter. But when it comes to winning teams over the long haul the majority do come from New York and Los Angeles. So, as a sports fan where should you live? Which cities will reward your loyality most often and where will have you crrying in your beer?

We’ve all heard of the ‘Curse of the Bambino’ and Boston’s 86 years of hurt. The curse was finally broken in 2004 and Bostonians finally sighed in relief as the Red Sox won their first World Series since 1918. Boston became a happy place, for a time, basking in their team’s glory. But Boston has had the joy of a winning NFL football team recently, it wasn’t long ago that the NBA Celtics were a powerhouse and the city’s NHL team had a good run in the 1970s. So Boston, in spite of the “Curse” had plenty to cheer about between World Series wins. Even the ‘Curse of the Black Sox’ was lifted in 2005 when the Chicago White Sox finally won a world series after failing to win baseball’s ultimate prize since the infamous Black Sox series of 1917.

Some US cities, however, have a number of teams that seem to win year after year. We usually ascribe big populations or owner’s deep pockets for that year on year success. That doesn’t always guarantee success — Hockey’s New York Rangers are the wealthiest team in the league and they have just one cup to show for 40 years of play – but some cities seem to do well in spite of small populations. Football’s Green Bay Packers being perhaps the best example.

Other cities however seem to fail to win anything, cities that fear each playoff with dread and a sense of foreboding — an almost fatalistic expectation that hopes and dreams will be dashed again. The fans of these cities hurt. Some cities even have their own ongoing curses such as the “Curse of William Penn.”

So, which American city earns the reputation as the most pitiful sports city? Conversely, which place is the most successful sports city? If sport is your thing and you were planning a move, which city would give you most joy and which would have you crying in your suds.

Grand Slam Cities

As of 2005, 13 American metropolitan areas have at least one team in each of the four major leagues (baseball, football, basketball and hockey); a Grand Slam of teams. Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, New York, Chicago, Detroit, Denver, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Washington all have at least one team in each league. (Phoenix and Washington are new members of the club, while San Francisco is a member only when you include Oakland and San Jose).

Los Angeles, St. Louis, Kansas City and Cleveland all previously had teams in all four major sports leagues but due to franchise moves none qualifies today.

The happiest sports city in the US

Over the last 25 years of NHL Stanley Cups, NBA Championship Finals, NFL Super Bowls and Major League Baseball World Series’ which cities produced the most successful franchises?

You’d be happy camper if you lived in Chicago, where the White Sox won the 2005 Baseball World Series, or in Raleigh where the Carolina Hurricanes won the Stanley Cup. If you lived in Miami you’d still be toasting the win of the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Championships and, finally, it would be easier living in Pittsburgh knowing your Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl.

But which city would have given you the most joy over the last two and a half decades?

Not surprisingly, New York wins this race in a canter. With two NFL franchises (Giants and Jets), two baseball teams (Yankees and Mets), three hockey teams (Devils, Rangers, and Islanders) and two basketball franchises (Nicks and Nets) it’s not surprising that they in the last 25 years the city has won 25 championships. That’s one a year. With the largest urban population in the US supporting those teams, the Big Apple can finance a number of successful franchises. Those recent franchise wins are also spread around so you can support any of New York’s teams and be reasonably happy.

Like New York, the sheer number of teams aids the second biggest winner on the list. Los Angeles has two hockey teams (Ducks and Kings), two basketball teams (Lakers and Clippers), and two baseball teams (Angels and Dodgers) It lost its two football franchises in the 1990s. However, unlike New York, LA relies on just one franchise for most of its city pride. The NBA Lakers who won seven of Los Angeles’ recent 11 franchise wins.

A number of other cities can be reasonably proud of their franchises. San Francisco can boast success with its two football teams (Raiders and 49ers) and one of its two baseball teams. Boston can look to the Patriots and Red Sox for winning seasons and even the Celtics and Bruins have won championships within living memory. Finally, Chicago and Detroit can provide sport’s fans with at least a reasonable hope of victories every couple of years.

A century of hurt

Plenty of cities have one or two teams that do badly. New Orleans has the Saints and the Hornets neither of whom has made it the finals of their respective sports. Houston has the Astros and Texans both of which have mostly losing records. Washington escapes the worst list on the back of the NFL Redskins, but it’s not helped by the abysmal records of the NHL Capitals and NBA Wizards. The new baseball franchise is too new to count.

Seattle has not won a major sports championship in any sport other than basketball. The NBA’s Seattle Super Sonics won a national title in 1979. Neither the Seahawks nor the Mariners have ever won a national title. The nearest Seattle came to winning a championship recently was when the Seahawks lost Super Bowl XL to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.

Those who believe in the “Buffalo Curse” cite as examples the four consecutive Super Bowl losses by the Buffalo Bills from 1990-1993, and their failure to even reach the conference playoffs in subsequent years as well as the failure of the Buffalo Sabres to ever win the Stanley Cup.

So what of the remaining Grand Slam cities?

It is unfair to include Phoenix in this list as their franchises are all relatively new. Cleveland has three of the major league teams. The NBA Cavaliers have never appeared in the playoffs. The Browns have never made the Super Bowl, in spite of the league’s most rabid fans, and the Indians have one just World Series appearance in 1995 since the last time they won baseball’s biggest prize in 1948.

The relative small size of Minneapolis creates a special place in the hearts of sports fans everywhere. In the NFL, the powerhouse Vikings have made it to four Super Bowls only to lose all four times. The NHL North Stars managed to make it to the Stanley Cup finals twice losing each time. At least the Twins have won two World Series in 1987 and 1991. The Original Minneapolis Lakers won five championships in the 1950s but had to do without a hoops team for 20 years.

Atlanta boasts the Atlanta Braves — a team that won 14 consecutive division championships but has just one World Series title (1995) to show for it. The Atlanta Falcons have just one appearance in the Super Bowl, losing to Denver in 1999. The city’s hockey franchises, the short lived Flames and the new Thrashers both have yet to win anything and, finally the Atlanta Hawks made regular appearances in the playoffs in the 70s but since then the franchise has slowly declined. In 2006 was the worst team in basketball.

But the record for the city with the worst sports record is Philadelphia. In the city of brotherly love you’ll need some bonding to get through the sports seasons of Pennsylvania’s largest city. Some people blame another curse. The Curse of William Penn. By tradition–though not by law–no building in the city was to rise above the statue of William Penn atop City Hall. Since the March 1987 erection of the One Liberty Place skyscraper, which exceeded the height of the statue, no Philadelphia major sports team (baseball, football, basketball, or ice hockey) has won a championship in its respective league. The last time a Philadelphia team won a championship was in 1983, when the 76ers won the NBA title.

Philadelphia now boasts one of the best Quarterbacks in football and Donovan McNabb did lead the Eagles into the 2004 Super Bowl where they lost to the Patriots. In 1991, the Eagles also made the final only to lose to the rampant Raiders. But that is it for football glory. Philadelphia is recognized as a hockey mad town and remains one of the most solid franchises in the NHL, but you’d have to go back to 1975 and the Broad Street Bullies to find the last time the Flyers won a Stanley Cup. The 76ers have made it to the NBA finals four times taking home the title just once. On the plus side the Philadelphia Athletics have won four World Series — but not since 1930. The Phillies won the 1980 World Series but has been on the losing end four more times and that win ended 97 years of fruitless ball playing. So, if seasons of frustration and depression are you thing then head to Philadelphia and enjoy a pretzel and Philly sandwich because the on field entertainment isn’t anything to write home about.

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