Point/Counterpoint: Which pro sports franchise has the saddest fans?

BY DI STAFF | MAY 10, 2013 5:00 AM

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Chicago Cubs

If there’s life after death, I hope I don’t come back as a Chicago Cub fan.

I can’t imagine how agonizing it is to be a Cub fan — beginning every year with hope and optimism, only for the aspiration of a World Series title to be stamped out by mid-May. I mean, they’re known as the “Loveable Losers.”

As a Chicago White Sox fan, I was fortunate enough to be alive to witness their most recent World Series win, in 2005. I’m not even sure there’s anybody on this Earth who was around in 1908 — the last time the Cubs won the World Series.

The Cubbies haven’t always been miserable, though. In 2003, the Cubs were five outs away from getting to the World Series for the first time since 1945. Shots of old women crying for joy inside Wrigley Field were shown on TV — they were finally going to see their team in the Fall Classic. Then the infamous “Bartman play” happened.

Steve Bartman deflected a foul ball in the left-field stands, possibly taking a catch away from a leaping Moises Alou, who was furious. The Cubs went on to lose Game Six, though more because shortstop Alex Gonzalez botched a tailor-made double-play ball. And lost Game Seven. So not only do Cubbie fans deal with a bad team traditionally, but when they were so close to the World Series, it was ripped away.

This year’s squad won’t see postseason baseball, either. For the past few years, the Cubs were saved by the Astros from last place in the NL Central, but now that the Astros have begun stinking up the AL West, the Cubs find themselves 8.5 games out of first place and alone in the cellar.

Theo Epstein took over as president of Baseball Operations in 2011, but who knows if he can turn the Cubs around, given their record since his takeover. Only time will tell if and when he does it. Until then, I’m thankful I don’t have to suffer like Cub fans.

— by Kevin Glueck

Pittsburgh Pirates

If there are more depressed fans in all of North American pro sports than those of the Pittsburgh Pirates, I have yet to find them.

Let us get the obvious out of the way: In my 18 years of life, I have never witnessed a winning season by the Pirates. Not a World Series championship, not a postseason win, not even a postseason berth. One winning season. One game above .500. It has never happened since I have been alive. In fact, the Pirates record of 21-straight losing seasons is more than any other team in the MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL, ever.

That alone is enough to make even the most loyal Bucs fan (the few that still exist) want to jump off the Clemente Bridge. Unfortunately, their history of sucking goes far beyond just the record.

In the past 10 years, GM’s Dave Littlefield and Neal Huntington have passed on perennial All-Stars like Zack Grienke, Prince Fielder, and Cole Hamels and instead have drafted some of the biggest busts in MLB history. Guys such as John Van Benschoten and Brian Bullington — never heard of them? Neither has anyone else. Bullington is second in the rotation for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp of the Nippon Pro League in Japan. Van Benschoten has been out of pro baseball since 2008.

Making it worse is that the Pirates have managed to tease their fans rather cruelly in the past few years. Each of the past two seasons, the Bucs have been atop the NL Central at the All Star break, only to take a nose dive at the end of the season and finish well below the .500 mark.

In the past 15 years, the Pirates have had their games broadcast on national TV all of two times: once was a three-hour rain delay against the Nationals that ended at 2 in the morning and featured the début of National phenom pitcher Stephen Strasburg. Few saw it. The second was a 19-inning marathon with the Braves that ended with Atlanta winning on one of the worst blown calls you will ever see by umpire Jerry Meals.

Forget hotdogs, PNC Park should start selling antidepressants.

— by Ryan Rodriguez

New York Knicks

New York Knick fans have it rough.

Really rough.

Life has been hard for the New York faithful since the 1972-73 season, where the team, led by Willis Reed and head coach Red Holzman, earned the organization its last championship and appearance in the NBA Finals.

It’s been early playoff losses or not making it into the playoffs at all ever since, and it’s sad. The Knicks play in arguably the best basketball arena on Earth at Madison Square Garden. Fans flocks out in droves, cheer wildly for their team, and make the Garden an extremely hostile basketball environment for all.

But despite all this support, the effort, the money spent, how have Knicks teams in the last 40 years responded? By continually choking in the playoffs. The Knicks thought the answer to this problem would be Carmelo Anthony, but the “sharp” shooter has just as bad of a playoff record as the team that signed him.

It’s difficult to say what’s more saddening: that the Knicks, two-time NBA champions, have struggled in the playoffs for the last 40 years, or the celebration they had after their Game Four win over the Miami Heat in 2012. Confetti fell from the ceiling, and Knicks players celebrated as if they had won their third championship.

In reality, it was just their first playoff win since 2000.

Now, things might be looking up for the ol’ Knickerbockers. They advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals and are tied in their series with the Pacers after two games.

That’s progress, but it will take nothing short of a championship to make it up to the fans for the organization’s 40 years of playoff atrocity.

— by Matt Cabel

Cleveland Browns

It’s very gratifying to write about why Cleveland Browns have the saddest fans in professional sports. Cleveland fans are familiar with their fair share of disappointments in professional sports.

The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t won an NBA title, which caused LeBron James to bolt out of town for Miami in 2010. The Indians’ last World Series title came in 1948, and the Cleveland Browns have failed to make a Super Bowl appearance.

Brown fans’ heartaches began when John Elway and the Denver Broncos defeated them in consecutive AFC Championship games in 1987-88. In the first game, Elway destroyed the city’s morale by leading the Broncos on a 98-yard game-tying drive with five minutes separating the Browns from the Super Bowl. Denver went on to win 23-20 in overtime. The Browns had their shot for revenge the following season, but running back Ernest Byner fumbled away the opportunity to score the game-winning touchdown with 1:12 left in regulation.

The pain for Browns fans continues when you fast-forward into the next decade, when owner Art Modell decided to move the franchise to Baltimore for the 1996 season. The Baltimore Ravens have gone on to win two Super Bowl titles after the move, while the new Browns have swum in a pool of mediocrity for the last 14 seasons.

The franchise is now a shell of itself, being a quarter of a century removed from its last AFC Championship game appearance. The Browns hired their seventh different coach since 1999 this past off-season. Cleveland’s archrival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, have gone through three coaches since 1969. So far, the Browns have made one playoff appearance after returning to Cleveland. They continually waste first-round picks in the draft by selecting such busts as Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Braylon Edwards, and soon to be Brandon Weeden. Even the great Mike Holmgren couldn’t turn things around for the struggling franchise.

Cleveland did get a new owner recently, but Jim Hasslam is under investigation for his alleged involvement in a Ponzi scheme, and he’s an admitted lifelong Steelers fan, to make things worse. Browns fans don’t have much to celebrate right now, and the future doesn’t look bright. I would suggest turning their attention to the Cavaliers or Indians, but that might only make matters worse.

— by Dominick White

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