Blessed be the poor in team spirit

by Eric Nelson

Seattle’s still basking in the glow of winning the Super Bowl, the city’s first major sports title in decades. The 12th Man has swelled with pride, a victory lap downtown was the largest public event since the 1979 Seattle SuperSonics’ NBA crown, and most importantly, the Lombardi Trophy dropped Seattle’s fans from the list of most miserable.

Suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, hope—but it feels quite nice to eventually have a winner.

Arguing over which fan base suffers the most isn’t simple. There are levels of losing, whether the pain of coming so close to a title without satisfaction (say, the recent Texas Rangers) or the persistent failure to sniff the playoffs (i.e., the Kansas City Royals, going on 30 years of early winters).

So what city has suffered the longest? Whose perseverance deserves a big shiny trophy?

Let’s examine Atlanta: The baseball Braves enjoyed many successful seasons, but last won the World Series in 1995, the one title despite more than a dozen playoff appearances. Atlanta’s bird-themed teams, the Hawks and Falcons, have never seen the top of the mountain. The Peachtree state had a hockey team called the Thrashers that didn’t win anything—and subsequently flew the coop for Winnipeg.

Then there’s San Diego: The last championship was in 1963 — so long ago that I’m not sure what it was for. The Padres disappointed fans twice in the World Series (not to mention those brown-and-yellow jerseys, whew), the Chargers are a notorious early NFL-playoff exit, and the old pro basketball team moved up I-5 to LA. On the other hand, you can’t feel too sorry for these fans — come winter, they still live in San Diego.

And finally, Cleveland: Yes, it’s Cleveland who is due. Fifty years since the last championship. The beloved Browns left town — and then won two Super Bowls as the Ravens. Homeboy LeBron James, savior of basketball’s Cavs, who could hardly glimpse a winning record before he arrived, left the fans shivering in the snow and ice to go win NBA titles in Miami. And the Indians—either a laughingstock (the movie Major League) or punched in the gut to quell rising hopes (with the 1995 World Series in their grasp, a ninth-inning collapse did the Tribe in).

These poor souls in the cheap seats have felt every type of losing, and for that Cleveland rises to the top of the sympathy list. The Sports Prophecy feels your pain, northern Ohio—but just wait until you get to have your party. You’ve earned it.

Eric Nelson is Pietisten's sports prophet.

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