In Search of North America’s Sports Heartbreak City
After Cleveland ended its 62-year drought without a championship, attention shifted to finding the new heartbreak city. We’ve ranked the top contenders among cities that have gone without a championship in the Big 4 sports (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) for 20 years or more based on their performance since 1960.
We’ve only considered cities that, at least at one point, had teams from 3 of the Big 4 sports. As a result no Milwaukee (if you include Green Bay they wouldn’t qualify since the Packers won)
Our rankings so far:
- HN – Nashville/Memphis
- #10 – Montreal
- #9 – Toronto
- #8 – Cincinnati/Columbus
- #7 – Houston
- #6 – Vancouver
#5 – Washington
Teams: Washington Senators (MLB), Washington Nationals (MLB), Washington Redskins (NFL), Washington Bullets-Wizards (NBA), Washington Capitols (NHL), DC United (MLS), Washington Darts (NASL)
- Senators moved to Minnesota in 1961, “New” Senators moved to Texas in 1971.
- No World Series win since 1924, no pennant since 1933
- Redskins have had only 5 playoff appearances since 1992 and have not been to the Conference Championship since 1991 when they last won the Super Bowl. Have most hated owner in the league.
- Washington has not been to the NBA Finals or the Conference Finals since 1979 when they lost a rematch to the Seattle. They have been 20-54 in the playoffs since then.
- Washington is 5-15 in four NBA Finals, getting swept in 1971 and 1975 (when they were heavily favored).
- Since 2008, Washington Capitals have won the most division titles (6) and have had the best record twice yet have failed to advance to the Conference Finals.
- The Caps have only been to the conference finals twice, winning in 1998 before being swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
- DC United lost the 1998 MLS Cup to Chicago 2-0.
- The Washington Darts lost the championship in 1970.
In 2015, the New York Rangers eliminated the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals with a 2-1 overtime win in Game 7. The win capped a comeback from a 3-1 Capitals series lead. It is the fifth time the Caps have blown a 3-1 lead and second time against the Rangers. Two nights later, the Washington Wizards appeared to have postponed elimination when Paul Pierce hit a three pointer as time was running out in Game 6 of its conference semifinal series against the Atlanta Hawks, but a review showed it was after the buzzer. See Heartbreak City 2015
- The Redskins were a dominant team during the Joe Gibbs era winning 4 conference championships and 3 Super Bowls.
- The Bullets won the NBA Finals in 1978.
- DC United has won the MLS Cup in 1996, 199, 2000 and 2004.
- The Washington Darts won back-t0-back NASL Championship in 1968 and 1969.
#4 – Minnesota
Teams: Minnesota Twins (MLB), Minnesota Vikings (NFL), Minneapolis Lakers (NBA), Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA), Minnesota North Stars (NHL), Minnesota Wild (NHL), Minnesota Kicks (NASL).
- Minnesota Vikings are tied with the Buffalo Bills for most Super Bowl losses without a win at 4. They also have the most conference championship appearances without a Super Bowl ring at 8.
- The Vikings have not been to the Super Bowl in 30 years. In that time they lost 3 NFC championship games by a combined 13 points, while losing a fourth 41-0 in the worst blowout in NFC history.
- The Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas after 26 season in Bloomington that included two Stanley Cup finals appearances. The Dallas Stars won the Stanley Cup six years later.
- The Minnesota Wild have advanced past the first round only twice in their 16 years, losing each time to the Blackhawks.
- The Timberwolves have only advanced past the first round once – in 2004 when Kevin Garnett led to them the conference finals. They have not made the playoffs since then.
- The Twins have not won a pennant in 25 years and have won only one series (the 2002 ALDS against Oakland) in that time. Other than the Oakland series, the Twins are 3-19 in six series.
- In 2001, MLB owners voted to eliminate the Twins but the unions and the Metrodome vowed to fight it, with the latter winning an injunction forcing them to honor their lease for the 2002 season.
- The Minnesota Kicks lost the 1976 NASL Soccer Bowl.
Only 7 NFL teams have won 15 or more games in a season and only three of them failed to go to the Super Bowl. In 1998, the Vikings finished 15-1 and were 11-point favorites over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship. With 2:11 seconds left, the Vikings were only leading 27-20 and sent out Gary Anderson to attempt a 38-yard field goal to clinch the win. Anderson had not missed all season, but missed that day and the Falcons stormed back to win 30-27.
- The Twins won the World Series in 1987 and 1991.
#3 – Atlanta
Teams: Atlanta Braves (MLB), Atlanta Falcons (NFL), Atlanta Hawks (NBA), Atlanta Flames and Atlanta Thrashrs (NHL), Atlanta Chiefs (NASL).
- Under Bobby Cox, the Braves won their division 14 times in 15 years and had the second best record in baseball (with only one win less than the New York Yankees). Despite this, the Braves won only one World Series. In 5 World Series, their record was 11-18.
- In the Falcon first 30 years (1966-1995), they made the playoffs only 5 times and had a 2-5 post-season record. In their last 20 years, they have made the playoffs only 7 times, with a 5-7 record.
- Falcons are 1-2 in NFC Championship Games and lost in only Super Bowl appearance 34-19 to Denver Broncos.
- The Hawks made the conference finals 2 of the first 3 years they were in Atlanta (1968-1970) and have been only once since in 2015 where they got swept by Cleveland despite having the best record in the conference.
- The Hawks have not been to the NBA Finals since moving to Atlanta.
- Lost the Flames after 8 seasons to Calgary. Made the playoffs six times but had a 2-15 post-season record. Since moving to Calgary, the Flames have had 3 Stanley Cup Finals appearances, winning in 1989.
- Lost the Thrashers after 5 seasons to Winnipeg. The Thrashers had only one playoff appearance, their first year in 2007, and were swept by the New York Rangers.
- The Chiefs were NASL runner-ups in 1971.
In 1991, the Braves faced the Minnesota Twins in a classic World Series where 5 of the 7 games were decided by one run. The Braves had a 3-2 lead in the World Series against the Minnesota Twins, with the last two games in the Metrodome. They lost Game 6 4-3 in 11 innings and then, in the greatest pitchers duel in World Series history, lost Game 7 1-0 with Jack Morris pitching 11 scoreless innings.
The game, however, would never have gone into extra innings had Lonnie Smith not botched a scoring opportunity in the 8th inning.
- The Braves won the World Series in 1995.
- The Chiefs won the NASL Championship in 1968.