<
>

When fandom goes bad: Most miserable fan bases in pro sports

ESPN Illustration

Since we released the sports misery index in September, the baseball season has concluded. The Boston Red Sox won their fourth championship in 15 years, but they were never that miserable to begin with. Two of the most miserable teams in the original list -- the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies -- made the playoffs, causing one to slip from near the top of the top 25 to barely hanging on and the other to fall out entirely.

We've revised the list heading into the NFL playoffs, where it looks as if the Chicago Bears are set to graduate and move out of the top 25.

Here are the rankings -- which include the four major U.S. pro leagues -- broken out by sport: NFL| MLB | NBA | NHL.

Teams 26-123 are at the bottom of the article. There is a newcomer to the list to replace the departed baseball team.

Positive points mean higher misery, while negative points mean less, just like golf. (Full explanation of the formula can be found in the box below).


1. Sacramento Kings, 27.1 points

Movement: Even

Name a trigger for misery, and a Kings fan can relate, even if you ignore the fact that the franchise hasn't won a championship since moving to Sacramento in 1985. The Kings haven't made the playoffs since 2006 (the longest drought in the NBA) and haven't won a playoff series since 2004, which means that a teenage sports fan can't remember seeing the franchise triumph in anything important.

It gets worse. In the fleeting moment when the Kings were really good, they lost to the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference finals after some controversial officiating in Game 6 (does the name Tim Donaghy ring a bell?) and an overtime loss at home in Game 7. Speaking of the Lakers, Kings fans have had to watch Lakers fans celebrate five championships since 2000 and now have to stomach watching Warriors fans celebrate their current three-championship (and counting) dynasty.

There's nothing worse than being a Kings fan right now (though their start to this season provides a glimmer of hope, maybe?). Help us, Marvin Bagley III.

2. San Diego Padres, 25.51

Movement: Even

It's hard to be miserable living in San Diego, but being a Padres fan is a thankless endeavor. The Padres haven't had a winning season since 2010, haven't made the playoffs since 2006 (though they did lose a one-game play-in to the Rockies in 2007) and haven't won a playoff series since 1998, which no one under the age of 25 remembers.

The Padres have made the World Series twice. They were swept by the Yankees in 1998 and won one game against the Tigers in 1984. Otherwise, it has been 50 seasons of mostly terrible baseball, all while watching the Dodgers make the playoffs constantly and the Giants win three World Series championships since 2010. Heck, even the Diamondbacks have won a World Series. But hey, at least the Padres have the cool brown-and-yellow throwbacks! There are prospects to come, but Padres fans have heard that song and dance before.

3. Cleveland Browns, 23.47

Movement: Even

Going 0-16 in 2017 is the least of the Browns' problems, which is why they're the top NFL team on this list. The Browns have the NFL's longest playoff drought, having last gone in 2002. They have been to the postseason only once in 19 completed seasons since being restarted, haven't won a playoff game since 1994 and haven't won an NFL championship since 1964. Even when they do win a few games, as they have this season, they end up firing their coach and offensive coordinator midseason after the two were feuding.

While all this losing is going on, the Steelers are a perennial playoff team that has won two Super Bowls since 2005, and the Ravens have won two Super Bowls since 2000 (including one with the framework of the old Browns). So how aren't the Browns the most miserable? Their '80s heartbreaks ("Red Right 88," "The Drive," "The Fumble") don't really register to the modern fan. The Browns aren't even the best at being the worst, and the current season has given them some hope going forward.

4. Florida Panthers, 23.17

Movement: Even

The first memory of the Panthers in the NHL was their fans throwing thousands of plastic rats onto the ice in 1996 as the third-year franchise made an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Finals. The problem is that first memory is the only real positive one for the South Florida franchise and is the only season it has won a playoff series. If you're under 30 years old, you're used to seeing the Panthers lose over and over.

Since being swept by the Avalanche in '96, the Panthers have not only not won a playoff series, but they've also made it to the playoffs only four times. Meanwhile, the cross-state Lightning have a Stanley Cup and are a perennial playoff team. South Florida is nice in the winter, but imagine how much better it would be if the local hockey team weren't so miserable?

5. Buffalo Bills, 22.69

Movement: Even

The fact that the Bills are this high despite making the playoffs last season shows just how miserable it has been in Buffalo. Before last season's wild-card loss to the Jaguars, the previous time the Bills had made the playoffs was 1999, and that was the longest drought in the NFL. What happened when the Bills made the playoffs in '99? A little trick play called the "Music City Miracle."

Buffalo has not won a playoff game since 1995, the fourth-longest such streak in the NFL. When the Bills did win playoff games in the early 1990s, they lost in the Super Bowl four consecutive years (including once on a last-second missed field goal) and saw a 30 for 30 piece crafted to account for that misery. And, oh yeah, they've had to watch the rival Patriots win constantly for nearly 20 years.

6. Chicago White Sox, 20.66

Movement: Up 1

As a White Sox fan, you're always overshadowed by your neighbor on the north side of town, even though you had bragging rights from 2005, when your team won the World Series, to 2016, when the Cubs did. But with the Brewers' success in 2018, now White Sox fans are the most miserable fan base not located in paradise, a.k.a. San Diego.

It stinks to root for the White Sox when the Cubs are winning, but that isn't the only reason it isn't fun to root for the Pale Hose. The White Sox haven't made the playoffs since 2010 and have made the postseason only nine times in 116 seasons. And since they are in the midst of a massive rebuild, it doesn't look like the White Sox will hit double digits for a while. But hey, at least Sox fans can enjoy "Eight Men Out."

7. Cincinnati Reds, 20.17

Movement: Up 1

Congrats, Cincy, you're now the most miserable fan base in the National League Central! That isn't exactly the title the Reds were looking for, but actual titles have been hard to come by in Cincinnati, as the Reds haven't won a World Series since 1990 and a playoff series since 1995. Right now, they're in the cellar of a suddenly tough division, and the Big Red Machine days seem further away than ever.

While the Reds have been struggling, rebuilding and having their hearts broken on the rare occasions when they contend (Cincinnati is 13th in MLB in heartbreaks, despite its few playoff appearances), their rivals have been thriving, as the Cardinals have won two World Series since 2006, and the Indians are postseason regulars. The league's oldest franchise isn't exactly thriving.

8. Buffalo Sabres, 19.76

Movement: Up 1

Brett Hull might have been in the crease illegally, but Sabres fans would probably take losing Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Finals over what has happened since then. Buffalo has been toward the bottom of the NHL for much of the 19 years since that Cup loss, as the Sabres haven't made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season and haven't won a playoff series since 2007.

Sabres fans hope players such as Jack Eichel can lead them back to respectability -- and quickly (early returns are looking very good). Sabres fans not only have had to watch their team flounder (they've made the playoffs only twice since 2007), but they've also had to watch the nearby Penguins win three Stanley Cups since 2009. Oh, where have you gone, Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller?

9. Chicago Bears, 19.51

Movement: Up 1

The 1985 Bears and their Super Bowl Shuffle were pretty great, but unless you're 40 or older, there's no way you remember that happening. I can't blame Bears fans for living that far in the past, though, as recent Bears history is depressing. However, this season could change that narrative quite a bit. Before clinching their 2018 playoff spot, the Bears hadn't made the playoffs since 2010, and that appearance was the only time the Bears had made the playoffs since losing Super Bowl XLI to the Colts after the 2006 season.

It has gotten so bad for Bears fans that they haven't been able to look down on the Lions, who have made the playoffs three times since Chicago's 2010 appearance. Having the Packers win the Super Bowl for the 2010 season and be a perennial playoff team is disheartening, as is watching Jay Cutler be a much better reality television star than he was a quarterback at Soldier Field.

10. New York Jets, 19.05

Movement: Up 1

Life has been one big butt fumble for Jets fans the past few decades. That infamous fumble by Mark Sanchez in 2012 is a metaphor for the state of a Jets fan, as they haven't seen their team make the playoffs since 2010, the year the Jets lost in the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year. This is the 50th anniversary of their last Super Bowl appearance (and only championship). Unless you're in your late 50s or older, you don't remember Joe Namath's guarantee.

What Jets fans do remember is lots of pain. Whether it's the lack of good quarterbacking (though there's hope that Sam Darnold can reverse this despite another lost season), the frequency of losing seasons or the fact that the darn Patriots have almost as many Super Bowl titles (five) as the Jets have playoff wins (six) since 2001, it has never been very fun to be a Jets fan, which makes one respect Fireman Ed even more.

11. Arizona Coyotes, 18.95

Movement: Up 1

The Coyotes haven't been in Arizona long -- 22 years, to be exact -- but they've already caused a lifetime of misery for Phoenix fans, even without considering the franchise's involvement in a bizarre gambling ring in the mid-2000s. The Coyotes have missed the playoffs six years in a row and 12 times in 15 seasons, and they had only one year when they won a playoff series, as they made a run to the Western Conference finals in 2012.

Of course, that glimmer of hope turned to pain when the Coyotes were taken out by the rival Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup. Arizona's rivals have thrived while the Coyotes have capsized; the Kings have won two Stanley Cups this decade, and the Ducks hoisted it in 2007. Even the brand-new Golden Knights made the Cup Finals before the Coyotes.

12. Detroit Lions, 18.61

Movement: Up 1

It looks like the Lions will go back to their customary role as NFC Central/North punching bag, one that has been rightfully earned. Detroit has one playoff win since its most recent NFL title in 1957, a divisional playoff victory over the Cowboys after the 1991 season. Since then, the Lions have lost nine straight postseason games, an NFL record. They also were the first team to go 0-16 in a season, "accomplishing" that mark in 2008.

The reason the Lions aren't in the top 10 is that they've made the playoffs three times this decade, a prodigious run of success among this motley group. The Lions have also had some entertaining players on their losing teams (Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson). That doesn't make it any better when the rival Packers win playoff games and Super Bowls, though, and this season hasn't exactly increased hope in Detroit.

13 (tie). Phoenix Suns, 18.25

Movement: Up 1

The Suns are on the entertaining side of bad, as they've had star players such as Charles Barkley, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. But Phoenix has also seen every sort of misery in the book, which is why it has the second-most depressed fans in the NBA. Right now, Suns fans are despondent about watching terrible basketball, as the team hasn't qualified for the playoffs since 2010, has lost 58 or more games the past three seasons and seems well on its way to that type of season again.

Phoenix has actually been a frequent playoff participant, having made it 29 times. But good Suns teams have always been firewalled by slightly better teams, with the Bulls and Rockets blocking them in the '90s and the Spurs and Lakers killing good Suns runs in the 2000s. Watching the rival Lakers and Warriors combine for eight championships since 2000 has also been depressing.

13 (tie). Seattle Mariners, 18.25

Movement: Up 4

For most of this past season, it looked like the Mariners had the juice to break the longest playoff drought in baseball, which dates to 2001. But Seattle faded down the stretch and spent another October at home, piling on the misery for one of the two franchises never to make the World Series (the Nationals are the other).

The Mariners have had great players to watch in the past, such as Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki, but that doesn't exactly make things better for the franchise. Even though Seattle has been competitive the past few seasons, it is stuck in the same division as the powerful Astros and resurgent A's. That isn't the ideal formula for breaking playoff droughts and moving off this list, which is why the Mariners are eradicating their current foundation and are back to rebuilding.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 18.09

Movement: Even

The Warren Sapp-Derrick Brooks era in the late '90s-early 2000s is the only thing keeping the Bucs from being higher on the list, as most of their 42 seasons have been terrible. The franchise started out by losing 26 consecutive games and hasn't gotten much better since, as the Buccaneers haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2007 (the second-longest streak in the NFL behind the Browns) and have made it only twice since winning Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season.

That one glorious moment is also the last time the Buccaneers won a playoff game, and they combined for as many playoff wins that season (three) as they've had in their other 41 years of existence. That's bad enough, but Super Bowl appearances by each of their NFC South rivals (including a championship by the Saints) make things even worse.

16. Miami Dolphins, 18.03

Movement: Even

From 1970-99, it was hard to find a franchise more consistently good than the Dolphins. Starting with Don Shula and ending with Dan Marino, the Dolphins went to five Super Bowls and won back-to-back titles in 1972 (the last undefeated season in the NFL) and 1973. But it has been an awful road for Dolphins fans since Marino retired after the 1999 season, and no Miami fan under the age of 50 can remember the Dolphins hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy.

The millennium stats are ugly. The Dolphins have made the playoffs once since 2009 and only twice since 2002, though they have some hope of making the postseason this season. Their last playoff victory came in 2000, their first season post-Marino. The Fins have been bad and mostly unwatchable (though the "Miami Miracle" was pretty fun), as they've struggled to find a quarterback since Marino left. Having the rival Patriots create a dynasty doesn't sit well, either.

17. Charlotte Hornets, 16.95

Movement: Up 2

The first rendition of the Hornets weren't world-beaters, as Charlotte never got out of the second round from 1988 to 2002, despite having players such as Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. But those four second-round defeats would seem like gold to the contemporary Hornets fan, as the Charlotte franchise has mostly seen misery since it was rebooted as the Bobcats in 2004 and renamed the Hornets in 2014.

Not even having arguably the greatest basketball player of all time as their GM has been enough to get the Hornets on track, as Michael Jordan has seen the team make the playoffs only three times in 14 seasons, and Charlotte's 7-59 record in 2011-12 is the worst in NBA history in terms of wins and win percentage. Watching the rival Heat, who joined the NBA the same year as the Hornets, win three titles since 2006 is also a sore spot for Charlotte fans.

18. Tampa Bay Rays, 16.83

Movement: Up 23

The Rays are the newcomers to the list, and on the surface it seems to be a surprise, as they are coming off a 90-win season in 2018. But the Rays' success came with a huge grain of salt, as they were never seriously in the playoff hunt due to the dominance of the Red Sox and Yankees. Winning 90 games doesn't seem so cool when one of their primary rivals has won four championships since 2004 and the other is the most decorated franchise in the sport.

As for the non-rival factors, it has been five years since the Rays have been to the playoffs and a decade since the franchise lost to the Phillies in the 2008 World Series, which is the only time Tampa advanced past the divisional round. Those memories are fading, and there isn't much else besides a love of bullpenning and Blake Snell for Tampa fans to fall back on (though, to their credit, they're being more aggressive than usual this offseason), especially with the Boston/New York firewall as strong as ever.

19. Washington Redskins, 16.7

Movement: Up 1

It's hard to believe that the Redskins were one of the NFL's marquee franchises in the 1980s and early 1990s, as they won three Super Bowls between 1982 and 1991 and played in a fourth. If you're a Redskins fan 30 or younger, all you know is pain and misery, and you probably hate Daniel Snyder with a passion. Since Joe Gibbs retired as coach after the 1992 season, the Redskins have made the playoffs only five times. They looked like they were primed for a sixth this season, but in typical Washington fashion, the top two quarterbacks suffered season-ending injuries.

It isn't just a matter of rarely making the playoffs, though. The Redskins have won two playoff games since Gibbs left in 1992, with one of those coming when Gibbs briefly returned to coaching. They haven't won a playoff game since 2005 and haven't advanced past the divisional round since their 1991 title. Worse yet, they've had to watch the Eagles and Giants celebrate Super Bowl championships this decade.

20. Milwaukee Brewers, 16.66

Movement: Down 14

The Brewers were the focus of this article when it was originally released in September. But due to their success this season, which not only netted them an NL Central Division title (in a tiebreaker over the hated Cubs, no less) but also saw them win only their third playoff series since the franchise moved to Milwaukee in 1970, the Brewers rightfully moved down quite a bit.

Why are they still in the top 25? Simple: the Game 7 loss to the Dodgers in the NLCS. Losing in a winner-take-all game at home with a World Series berth on the line was a shot of misery (and heartbreak points) in an otherwise great season for the Brew Crew and has delayed their graduation from this list. But if Christian Yelich & Co. repeat their success in 2019 (and the Brewers bring in some better starters to go with their killer bullpen), Milwaukee will be out of the top 25 for good.

21. Carolina Hurricanes, 16.65

Movement: Even

The Hurricanes get very good bang for their buck when they qualify for the playoffs, as their past three playoff appearances have seen them go to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009, win a Stanley Cup in 2006 and lose in the Cup Finals in 2002. But having only three playoff appearances in 16 seasons (and five since they left Hartford for the Research Triangle in 1997) makes this fan base justifiably jaded and morose.

Carolina's nine consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs is the longest such streak of futility in the NHL and has overshadowed all memories of Eric Staal and Bret Hedican bringing the Cup to Tobacco Road. It doesn't help that the rival Capitals are partying with the Cup and another Southeast foe, the Lightning, are consistent playoff competitors.

22. Oakland Raiders, 16.6

Movement: Even

The Raiders' "Commitment to Excellence" has been severely lacking since they moved back to the Bay Area in 1995, as they've gone to the playoffs only four times in 23 seasons (about to be four out of 24) and only twice when Jon Gruden hasn't been the head coach. That's probably why Chucky is back in Silver and Black, but he has to deal with a fan base that has gone from being heartbroken ("The Tuck Rule" game and Rich Gannon throwing three pick-sixes in the Super Bowl) to simply beaten down (this season isn't helping).

The Raiders haven't won a playoff game since the 2002 AFC Championship game and have qualified for the playoffs only once since 2003, a far cry from the franchise that was a force in Oakland during the 1970s. Of course, no fan under the age of 45 remembers any of that, but they remember seeing the rival Broncos win the Super Bowl three years ago.

23. Baltimore Orioles, 16.32

Movement: Even

The Orioles maintain their position just inside the top 25 despite their disastrous 115-loss season and resulting fire sale. They stayed steady (for now) because they have a bit more recent playoff success than the Rays, as Baltimore last made the postseason in 2016 and last won a playoff series in 2014. But like the aforementioned Rays, they have the Boston/New York firewall ahead of them, not to mention a complete rebuild from square one.

The Orioles used to be one of the top franchises in baseball (a common theme among teams in this portion of the rankings) but haven't been back to the World Series since Cal Ripken & Co. ousted the Phillies in 1983. It has been pretty miserable for most of the 35 years since, as the Orioles' fleeting success hasn't been nearly enough in comparison to that of the hated Red Sox and Yankees. Needless to say, this fan base is justifiably sullen.

24. Toronto Maple Leafs, 15.98

Movement: Even

How does a team with 13 championships end up this high on a misery list? When all of those championships occurred more than 50 years ago -- that's how. It's a chore to find highlights of Maple Leafs glory on YouTube, as Toronto hasn't won the Stanley Cup (or even been in the Cup Finals) since 1967. To put some perspective on that statement, there were only six teams in the NHL in 1967. There are 31 now (with a 32nd fast approaching).

Even minor playoff success has been fleeting for the Leafs. Toronto hasn't won a playoff series since 2004, losing four in a row, including blowing a three-goal lead to the Bruins in Game 7 in 2013. They missed the playoffs 10 times in 11 seasons from 2005 to '16, haven't made a conference final since 2002 and had to watch the rival Red Wings and Bruins combine to win three Stanley Cup titles since 2002. That said, John Tavares and Auston Matthews could have this team completely off this list in a few months.

25. LA Clippers, 15.95

Movement: Even

The Clippers would have been much higher on this list in 2010, as they made the playoffs six seasons in a row from 2011 to '17 and have been superior to the crosstown Lakers for the past five seasons. That said, even this recent run of success left a bad taste in the mouth of long-suffering Clippers backers, primarily the squandering of a 3-1 lead to the Rockets in 2015. The Clippers still haven't made a conference final since moving to Southern California in 1978.

Prior to the semi-renaissance powered by Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan (who have all left, by the way), the Clippers were putrid. They made the playoffs only four times from 1978 to 2011, winning just one postseason series. When compared to the success of the Lakers (five championships since 2000) and the Warriors, it still stinks to support the Clips.

Moving on out: Colorado Rockies, down 23 (18 to 41).

Although the Rockies fell to the Brewers in the NLDS, they fell out of the top 25 for two main reasons. This year's trip to the playoffs was two in a row for Colorado, and how can you truly be miserable about back-to-back playoff appearances? Not only that, but the Rockies won a playoff round for only the third time in franchise history by beating the Cubs in the NL wild-card game -- in extra innings to boot. Congrats, Colorado, you join everyone else below: