Having emerged victorious in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seattle Seahawks have finally banished the monkey from their back, winning their first championship in convincing fashion. The win is great for a city that has probably always felt slightly undervalued. Seattle, the grunge-capital of America, recently lost its NBA franchise, and the baseball team’s recent acquisition of Robinson Cano does not look like it will push the club over the top. The Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory then, has been a boon for fans who know too well the doldrums that accompany losing.
It is not a stretch to say that championships can have a beneficial effect on a city. It sounds overblown, but city patrons tend to share a common interest in their sports franchise’s vicissitudes. The collective spirit that sports franchises strengthen or break feels like a uniquely North American phenomenon. A sports cap and a jersey worn by rank and file patrons of a city are not frivolous; they are signs of allegiance. Triumphant high-fives with fellow fans may exist in the fleeting moments between a team’s success and failure, but these small connections are not insignificant. Indeed, a sports franchise’s ascent and descent are always felt most forcibly by the city’s fans.
In some cities, fans have had to wait a long time for that seemingly elusive championship, and some fans continue to wait. When the Boston Red Sox finally overcame the “Curse of the Bambino,” longtime fans were probably more gratified than the always-transient players. In 2014, Boston fans now look like the lucky ones, as votaries of other sport franchises continue to live on a prayer, hoping that next season will be theirs—not just the team’s, but theirs.
This list looks at ten North-American sports franchises that desperately need a championship. Of course, “desperation” can be hard to judge and quantify, but fans of the following franchises will probably agree that they are indeed due for a championship. Since this is a cross-sport list, there is no rhyme or reason to the order in which teams appear, and this list cannot touch upon every franchise in North America that needs a championship. These ten cases, though, represent a variety of situations, as some of these teams have yet to reclaim their now-ancient pre-eminence, and others are still looking for that first championship.
10 Buffalo Bills
Buffalo Bills fans have experienced a host of letdowns over the years. In the early 90s, the team had one of the league’s premier offenses, with Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, and Andre Reed leading the way. The Jim Kelly-led Bills made it to four consecutive Super Bowls, but lost all four (Scott Norwood, anybody?). The last time the team made the playoffs, the Tennessee Titans beat them on the next-to-last play of the game with a fluky lateral pass on a kickoff return. The city continues to struggle to retain the team, and the Bills currently hold the longest playoff drought in the league. Given the franchise’s current state of affairs, no one can be certain if a championship is on the horizon, but the fans and the city deserve a Super Bowl.
9 Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have not won a World Series since 1988, a drought that pales in comparison to the Chicago Cubs’ drought. But the Dodgers are the only baseball team in one of the biggest sport markets in the world, and when the team plays at home, the stadium is always glutted with rabid fans. The team, moreover, cannot escape its historical significance, as Jackie Robinson broke the colour barrier in American professional sports when the team was still in Brooklyn. Indeed, the club’s storied history makes their World Series drought doubly vexing for fans. The Dodgers look poised to be an elite team in 2014, though, and there is still time for the front office to add more studs to the roster.
8 New York Knicks
Basketball, New York City, and Madison Square Garden are hard to separate; some of the sport’s most passionate fans hail from New York City, and there is something ineffably satisfying about watching basketball played at MSG. And yet, the New York Knicks have not won a championship since 1973, and fans have had to sit back and watch their team repeatedly come up short. In the 90s, Michael Jordan played his best ball against the Knicks, and Reggie Miller always saved his most torrid shooting performances for New York fans. In a city where people are not inured to finishing second, the New York Knicks desperately need to win a championship before the media labels the franchise cursed.
7 New York Mets
The New York Mets have not won a championship since 1986, and their cross-town rivals' success only exacerbates the pain that fans have felt. In 2000, the Mets had a chance to exact revenge against the seemingly indomitable Yankees, but the team fell short. Since then, the team has spent considerable amounts on high-profile free agents but to no avail. Mets fans have not wavered, though, and each year without a championship probably makes them hungrier for one. No one can take their eyes off the pinstripes, but if the Mets play their cards right, no one will be able to disregard New York’s other baseball team.
6 Chicago Cubs
Although Chicago Cubs fans know how long it has been, they should avert their eyes from the following sentence: it has been 105 years since the Cubs last won a World Series. Generations of Cubs fan have come and gone without seeing their team win the all-important prize. As the years continue to mount, this World Series drought seems less like a monkey on the team’s back and more like a ton of bricks. Critics have begun to argue that the team needs to ditch Wrigley for a more hitter-friendly ballpark, as the foul lines are the deepest of any ballpark in the MLB. Irrespective of what the team decides is best for its future success, the Chicago Cubs need to put an end to their World Series drought, if only for the sanity of the fans.
5 Toronto Maple Leafs
Anyone who has been to Toronto during a run of success by the Maple Leafs knows too well the hyperbole that the team’s fans indulge in: “This is our year, baby!” But who can blame them? The team holds the longest Stanley Cup drought in the league, which, if they do not win the cup this season, will extend to forty-seven years without a championship. The team’s notoriety compounds the situation, as Toronto is to the NHL what New York is to the MLB. This year’s team does not look poised to win the Stanley Cup, but if the squad can start controlling its opponents’ attack, the team could surprise people come playoff time.
4 Montreal Canadiens
It may seem odd that the team that has won the most Stanley Cups in NHL history is in “desperate” need of a championship. Like Toronto, however, Montreal fervently supports its hockey team, and fans have not had the pleasure of celebrating a Stanley Cup victory in over twenty years. A new generation of fans has had to sit back and listen to their elders regale them with stories of the team’s former glory. The Canadians continue to stay relevant, though, and almost made the finals in 2010. Nevertheless, early exits from the playoffs have become familiar for the diehard fans in Montreal.
3 Los Angeles Clippers
Tinseltown is no stranger to basketball glory, as the Lakers have been the most dominant franchise in the NBA since 2000. But the Lakers’ success casts a shadow on the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that has shared a market with the Lakers since 1984 and has not won a championship. In a big city like Los Angeles, cross-town rivalries can be fierce and contentious, but the Clippers do not have much past success to invoke in the ongoing battle for supremacy. This year, though, the Clippers are head and shoulders above the Lakers, but the Western Conference has remained hyper-competitive. Still, the Clippers are making the right moves, and a championship might be just around the corner.
2 Cleveland Browns
When the Cleveland Browns had Jim Brown circa 1964, the team won an NFL championship, but in the Super Bowl era, the Cleveland Browns have yet to appear in the finals. The team even went inactive for a brief period in the nineties before resurfacing. Since returning, the Browns have struggled, and in 2013 they finished the season with a 4-12 record, obviously missing the playoffs. Since Lebron James’ highly publicized and acrimonious split from the Cleveland Cavaliers, the city seems to be in dire need of a championship. For Cleveland Browns fans, the situation has been dire for many years.
1 Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions are one of four NFL teams to have never played in a Super Bowl, and the franchise has struggled through some pitiful seasons. Although other professional sport franchises in the city have won several championships respectively, the Lions continue to struggle. With the city still trying to emerge from underneath the pall that its economic collapse cast upon it, a Lions Super Bowl victory could bring relief to diehard fans. With Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, anything is possible.