Fans live and die based on the successes and failures of their favorite teams. In some cases, unfortunately, some fans do not see the day their team finally wins the big one. After years turn to decades without that crowning moment, “there’s always next year” is a cruel taunt and not wide-eyed optimism.
Being a dyed in the wool, diehard fan of any franchise that has endured continuous heartbreak is not an easy task. You beg, bargain, and plead for one lousy winner. Eventually, doubts creep in that it will never happen. Faith in the hometown club wanes and pessimism takes root. However, in the end, you cannot shake your fandom out of your DNA.
The Kansas City Royals have a chance to end a 29-year wait for a second world title. However, their drought pales in comparison to ones endured by other franchises. The ten professional franchises on this list have either come very close to ending the suffering or have rarely had the opportunity to be the last team standing.
The frequency by which these clubs have failed is only part of the story. It is the way they have fallen flat in the big moments that make the wait all the more excruciating. Sometimes, they become the source of legend. Even a source of misdirected superstitious spite can be found amongst the misery. Both of which are companions to the collection of wait ‘til next years that total up to an empty place in the trophy case.
10 San Diego Chargers - 51 Years
The peak of the Super Chargers’ powers came during the Air Coryell days of 1979 through 1982. The Chargers, behind a high flying passing attack, won three straight AFC West titles. Then, the bottom dropped out after 1982, resulting in nine straight years without a postseason appearance.
The Chargers' return to prominence came in 1994, which resulted in their lone Super Bowl appearance. However, the monkey was off of Steve Young’s back and not San Diego’s in what was a 49-26 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
9 Texas Rangers - 53 Years
In the 53-year history of the Texas Rangers franchise, the club has made two trips to the Fall Classic, the most exciting of which was their second of back-to-back trips to the World Series in 2011. The Rangers came within one strike of claiming their first title in game six. However, Cardinals third baseman David Freese came through with a game-tying triple in the 9th inning and the game winning home run in the 11th. The Rangers were denied ultimate glory, dropping game seven to St. Louis.
8 Tennessee Titans - 53 Years
The former Houston Oilers won the 1960 and the 1961 AFL championships. Post-1970 AFL-NFL merger, the franchise has reached the title game once in 44 years. Since then, the team has departed the Lone Star State for Music City. The miraculous hook and ladder in the 1998 AFC Wild Card game against the Buffalo Bills is indelible. So is the image of Kevin Dyson’s outstretched arm, two yards away from glory in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XXXIV. Winless in the postseason since 2002, the Titans have been mired in the bottom of the AFC South for much of the last decade.
7 Philadelphia Eagles - 54 Years
Eagles fans are often media targets, especially when their team is not playing well. The legend of snowballs being hurled at Santa Claus is go-to ammunition for pundits. 54 years without a championship would make anyone cranky. Two Super Bowl appearances, coupled with a total of four conference title game losses only add to the angst.
The peak of frustration came in the 2004 Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. The agonizingly methodical pace by which the Eagles offense worked in the 4th quarter down 24-14 is a sore spot for this fan base and is the lasting memory many will have of the Andy Reid era. Flash forward to 2014 and the Eagles are lauded for their breakneck offensive speed. Time will tell if this is missing piece to the championship puzzle.
6 Atlanta Hawks - 56 Years
Since winning the 1958 NBA title, the Hawks have been one of the most consistent playoff participants in the league. However, that consistency has been met with more than a half century of disappointment. Just getting into the tournament has not been enough to soften the blows of defeat. 39 trips to the postseason in 56 years is an impressive ratio. However, the Hawks last advanced to at least the conference finals in 1970.
5 Detroit Lions - 57 Years
Before the days of becoming the laughing stock of football, the Detroit Lions were a proud franchise. The 1950s were their greatest era, winning three NFL titles in six years. After backup quarterback Tobin Rote led the Lions to the title, injured starter Bobby Layne was unceremoniously traded to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the offseason. After delivering two NFL titles, the disgruntled Layne was rumored to have said that the Lions “would not win for 50 years” on the day that he was dealt. 55 years and one playoff win later, the Curse of Bobby Layne is paying extra dividends at the expense of Lions fans.
4 Sacramento Kings - 63 Years
It has been 63 years since the Sacramento Kings have been NBA royalty. The former Rochester Royals won the NBA championship in 1951 in seven games over the New York Knicks. A pattern of failure to retain star players led the franchise down the path to mediocrity.
Despite bringing future hall of famer Oscar Robertson into the fold in 1960, the decade was wrought with close, but no cigar playoff finishes. Eventually, Robertson’s name would be added to the list of castoffs from the Royals franchise. Robertson was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in 1970, and, in a cruel twist of fate, won the NBA title that year.
Hopping from Kansas City, where they became the Kings, to Sacramento, the franchise has been in search of the glory days ever since. The Kings’ resurgence from 1998 to 2006 was highlighted by a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2002, which they dropped in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers. Sacramento last saw a winning season in 2006.
3 Cleveland Indians - 66 Years
Since winning their last world championship in 1948, the Cleveland Indians are synonymous with the word, slump. From 1960 to 1993, the club only managed a best finish of third place once. Other than that, the club inhabited the bottom of the standings for much of those thirty three years. The perpetual losing made the franchise an easy mark for the “Major League” movie franchise.
Cleveland returned to the Fall Classic in 1995, losing to the Atlanta Braves. Since then, the closest the club came to a return trip was the 2007 American League Championship Series, losing to the eventual world champion Boston Red Sox.
2 Arizona Cardinals - 67 Years
Being the oldest continuously run NFL franchise, you are bound to accumulate an exorbitant amount of losses. Going strong since 1898, the Cardinals have migrated from Chicago to St. Louis and, finally, to their current nest in Arizona. In 1925, the Chicago iteration won their first NFL Championship. However, their first title was not won in a head to head championship. The Pottsville Maroons, who were suspended by NFL commissioner Joseph Carr for playing in an unapproved game against the University of Notre Dame All-Stars, claimed to be the rightful champions. The Maroons not only had the best record in the NFL, but beat the Cardinals that year, too.
The first true championship won by the Cardinals came in 1947. Since then, the franchise has endured six decades of losing seasons and the longest championship drought among active NFL franchises. In the 67 years since their last title, the Cardinals have won a total of six playoff games. Half of those victories came in 2009 en route to Arizona’s lone Super Bowl appearance, a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.
1 Chicago Cubs - 106 Years
Curses are supposed to haunt the cursed until the day they pass on. In the case of the Chicago Cubs franchise, whatever bad mojo that has been working against them for 106 years is of the ultra-strength variety. It seems that no amount of cleansing practices will ever get rid of the mark of the “Lovable Losers” from the head of the Cubs.
Lost in the shuffle of all of the losses are the years 1929 through 1938 in which Chicago won the National League pennant every three years for a total of four NL titles. In 1945, the Cubs made the World Series once again, but the prophetic words of Billy Sianis live on to this day: “The Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” Sianis, the fan ejected from Wrigley Field after refusing to remove his goat from the ballpark, is believed to be the source of the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat. For the next two decades, the Cubs were the bottom feeders of the National League.
No overview of the Cubs’ uncanny misfortune would be complete without the Bartman game, or as it is officially known, the 2003 National League Championship Series game number six. However, minutes after the infamous moment occurred, Cubs shortstop Alex Gonzalez’s error on a surefire inning-ending double play proved to be the killer. After eight Florida Marlin runs in the eighth inning, post-Bartman and Gonzalez flubs, the Cubs went on to drop both games six and seven. Thus, another curse was etched into the Cubs’ long legacy of losers.