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Berry Tramel

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Cleveland's futility ranks at the top of major-league cities

by Berry Tramel Published: July 15, 2014
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LeBron James is back with the Cavaliers, and Cleveland’s quest for a championship has resumed. Not since the 1964 Browns won the NFL title has Cleveland won a championship. That’s 50 years and counting. For the Tuesday Oklahoman, I wrote about LeBron’s return. You can read that column here.

One city, San Diego, has waited longer than has Cleveland. But San Diego hasn’t gone through as many teams as has Cleveland. Let’s see; 49 NFL seasons, 49 baseball seasons, 44 NBA seasons. That’s 142 teams that have failed to win it all for Cleveland. And since we ought to count hockey, add two from the NHL — the Cleveland Barons played two seasons before folding in 1978.

The count is at 144. So where does that rank? Way in front of any other city.

Now, San Diego hasn’t won a championship since the 1963 Chargers won the old AFL. But except for four years hosting the NBA Rockets, San Diego has been a two-sport town. Cleveland has been a three-sport town. Plus, San Diegoans don’t much care. They live in San Diego.

The cities that never have experienced a championship haven’t had franchises that long. Charlotte got the NBA in 1988 and the NFL in 1995. Jacksonville got the NFL in 1995. Nashville got the NFL in 1998 and the NHL in 1997. Salt Lake City got the NBA in 1979. Sacramento got the NBA in 1986. Orlando got the NBA in 1989. Columbus got the NHL in 2000. Vancouver got the NHL in 1969 and the NBA in 1995. Winnipeg got the NHL in 1978. Oklahoma City first got the NBA in 2005.

Sometimes it’s difficult to decide how to group cities. Do Green Bay and Milwaukee go together? I decided yes. How about San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose? I put them all together, although if you want to split them up, Oakland becomes a futile city. Oakland hasn’t won a title since the 1989 Athletics won the World Series; that’s 74 team seasons of heartbreak. I lumped New York/New Jersey together, because who knows what to do with the Giants and the Jetropolitans. But it doesn’t really matter. The Yankees won the 2009 World Series, the 2011 Giants won the Super Bowl and the New Jersey Devils won the 2003 Stanley Cup.

Here are the rankings of current cities with the most individual-team seasons without winning a championship, plus their most recent champion:

1. Cleveland 144; 1964 Browns

2. San Diego 99; 1963 Chargers

3. Buffalo 91; 1965 Bills

4. Minneapolis 82; 1991 Twins

5. Washington 77; 1991 Redskins

6. Atlanta 68; 1995 Braves

7. Toronto 62; 1992 Blue Jays

8. Kansas City 56: 1985 Royals

9. Houston 53; 1995 Rockets

10. Denver 52; 2001 Avalanche

11. Phoenix 51; 2001 Diamondbacks

12. Vancouver 50; no titles

13. Cincinnati 47; 1990 Reds

14. Charlotte 43; no titles

15. Portland 37; 1977 Blazers

16. Salt Lake City 35; no titles

17. Montreal 33; 1993 Canadiens

18. Nashville 32; no titles

19. Tampa 30; 2004 Lightning

20. Sacramento 29; no titles

21. Ottawa 28; 1927 Senators

22. Orlando 25; no titles

23. Calgary 25; 1989 Flames

24. Edmonton 24; 1990 Eskimos

24. Detroit 24; 2008 RedWings

26. New York/New Jersey 23; 2011 Giants

27. Jacksonville 19; no titles

27. Winnipeg 19; no titles

29. Philadelphia; 2008 Phillies

30. Pittsburgh 15; 2009 Penguins

31. Indianapolis 14; 2006 Colts

31. Columbus 14; no titles

33. Dallas 12; 2011 Mavericks

34. San Francisco/Oakland 10: 2012 Giants

34. Green Bay/Milwaukee 10; 2010 Packers

36. New Orleans 9; 2009 Saints

37. Raleigh 8; 2006 Hurricanes

37. Oklahoma City; no titles

37. St. Louis 8; 2011 Cardinals

40. Chicago 5; 2013 Blackhawks

41. Miami 4; 2013 Heat

42. Boston 3; 2013 Red Sox

43. Baltimore 2; 2012 Ravens

44. Seattle 0; 2013 Seahawks

44. San Antonio 0; 2014 Spurs

44. Los Angeles 0; 2014 Kings.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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