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

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If it seems like the Milwaukee Brewers reaching the playoffs is a rare occurrence, you're not wrong. The Brew Crew has been one of the most star-crossed franchises in American sports, where dealing with losses is far more frequent than celebrating big wins.

One of the crucial tasks for a sports fan is dealing with those losses. Whether you're coping with defeat in the moment or ruing missed opportunities of the past, working through the stages of grief is an essential part of the sports fan's existence.

But do you know what destroys that therapy? When your winner-team buddy tries to "relate" to your pain. Instead of dealing with defeat with like-minded fans, you're angry at some front-running jerk trying to outsource your misfortune.

We're here to prevent that -- or at least give you ammunition the next time your Patriots-fan buddy complains -- with the sports misery index.

Here are the top 25 most miserable professional franchises to be a fan of at the moment, with teams 26-123 at the bottom of the article.

We also broke out the rankings -- which include the four major U.S. pro leagues -- by sport: NFL | MLB | NBA | NHL

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

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, meaning a teenage sports fan can't remember seeing the franchise triumph in anything important.

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

There's nothing worse than being a Kings fan right now. Help us, Marvin Bagley III.

2. San Diego Padres, 24.61

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

The Padres have made the World Series twice, having been swept by the Yankees in 1998 and winning one game against the Tigers in 1984. Otherwise, it's 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. Even the Diamondbacks have won a World Series. But hey, at least you have the cool brown-and-yellow throwbacks!

3. Cleveland Browns, 23.46

Going 0-16 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've been to the postseason only once in the 19 seasons since the franchise was restarted, haven't won a playoff game since 1994 and haven't won an NFL championship since 1964.

While all this losing is going on, the Steelers are a perennial playoff team who have 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. So yes, the Browns aren't even the best at being the worst.

4. Florida Panthers, 23.17

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. Problem is the 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 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 wasn't so miserable?

5. Buffalo Bills, 22.69

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, the longest streak in the NFL prior to last season. And 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 streak in the NFL. And 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. Milwaukee Brewers, 20.71

The Brewers are in the playoffs and have a good, young team, but forgive Milwaukee fans for being a bit skeptical. It's been tough for Brewers fans since the team arrived in 1970, as they've always had top hitters (Robin Yount, Paul Molitor, Ryan Braun, etc.) but generally have lacked in the pitching department.

That lack of pitching is a big reason why the Brewers have made the playoffs only four times prior to this season and won two playoff series. In the years they won a playoff series, they lost to the Cardinals, then had to watch their St. Louis rivals win the World Series both times. Add those to a recent Cubs title and a couple of Twins titles from the American League days, and being a Brewers fan is not a good time.

7. Chicago White Sox, 19.88

As a White Sox fan, you're always overshadowed by your neighbor on the North Side of town. But for 11 years, you had the bragging rights, as the White Sox won the 2005 World Series while the Cubs were scuffling through a century-plus drought. But with the Cubs getting over the hump and winning in 2016, things got that much worse for the South Siders.

But even excluding the Cubs factor, it is not altogether pleasant to be a White Sox fan. The White Sox haven't made the playoffs since 2010 and have made the postseason only nine times in 114 seasons. And since they are in the midst of a massive rebuild, it doesn't look as though the White Sox will hit double digits for a while. But hey, at least Sox fans can enjoy "Eight Men Out."

8. Cincinnati Reds, 19.77

The Big Red Machine might be one of the most famous teams of all time, but it's been 40-plus years since Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, Johnny Bench & Co. were the toast of baseball. There has been very little for Reds fans to toast about in the last two decades, as they haven't won a World Series championship since 1990 or a playoff series since 1995. Since then, the Reds have made the playoffs only three times.

While the Reds have been struggling, rebuilding and having their hearts broken on the rare occasions when they contend (Cincinnati is 10th in MLB in heartbreaks despite its few playoff appearances), their rivals have been thriving, as the Cardinals have won two World Series since 2006, while the Indians are a postseason regular. The league's oldest franchise isn't exactly thriving.

9. Buffalo Sabres, 19.76

Brett Hull might have been in the crease illegally, but Sabres fans would probably take losing Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final over what has happened since. 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 like Jack Eichel can lead them back to respectability, and quickly. 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?

10. Chicago Bears, 19.51

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. Chicago has not made the playoffs since 2010 and has finished in last place in the NFC North the last four seasons. And that 2010 appearance is the only time the Bears have made the playoffs since losing Super Bowl XLI to the Colts after the 2006 season.

It's gotten so bad for Bears fans that they can't even look down on the Lions, who have made the playoffs three times since Chicago's most recent appearance. Seeing the Packers win the Super Bowl in 2010 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.

11. New York Jets, 19.05

Life has been one big butt fumble for Jets fans over the last few decades. That infamous gaffe by Mark Sanchez in 2012 is a metaphor for the state of a Jets fan, as supporters haven't seen their team make the playoffs since 2010, when the Jets lost in the AFC Championship Game for the second consecutive season. The Jets are approaching 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, the frequency of losing seasons or the fact that the Patriots have almost as many Super Bowl titles (five) as the Jets have playoff wins (six) since 2001, it's never been very fun to be a Jets fan, which makes one respect Fireman Ed even more.

12. Arizona Coyotes, 18.95

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 only had one year where 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, as the Kings have won two Stanley Cups this decade while the Ducks hoisted it in 2007. Even the brand-new Golden Knights made the Cup Final before the Coyotes did.

13. Detroit Lions, 18.61

I'm guessing Lions fans are surprised they are this low considering the struggles the franchise has had since it won its last NFL championship in 1957. It's not pleasant to be a Lions fan, as Detroit has had one playoff win since that '57 title, a divisional-round victory over the Cowboys after the 1991 season. Since then, the Lions have lost nine consecutive postseason games, which is an NFL record. They also were the first team to go 0-16 in a season, "accomplishing" that mark in 2008.

The reason why the Lions aren't in the top 10 here is that they've made the playoffs three times in the last seven seasons, a prodigious run of success in this motley group. They've also had 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.

14. Phoenix Suns, 18.25

The Suns are also 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 and has lost 58 or more games the last three seasons.

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.

15. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 18.09

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 victories that season (three) as they've had in the other 41 years of the franchise. 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

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's 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 only once since 2009 and only twice since 2002. Their last playoff victory came in 2000, their first season post-Marino. The Fins have been bad and unwatchable, as they've struggled to find a quarterback since Marino left. And having the rival Patriots create a dynasty doesn't sit well, either.

17. Seattle Mariners, 17.98

In the late '90s and early 2000s, the Mariners were a cool team to be a fan of, as they boasted generational stars such as Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. But those stars accounted for only four playoff berths from 1995-2001, the only four in Mariners history. And the Mariners have the distinction of winning 116 games in a season and not making the World Series in 2001.

It'd be easy for Seattle fans to complain about the lack of World Series titles or the fact that the Mariners are one of two franchises to never play in the Series. But Mariners fans are begging and pleading just to make the playoffs as a wild card, as their 17-year playoff drought is currently the longest in the major leagues. And despite a winning season in 2018, the M's are on the outside looking in -- again.

18. Colorado Rockies, 17.97

Like the Bills up top, the Rockies are one of the few teams on this list that actually made the playoffs last year. Problem is that the postseason is extremely rare in Colorado, as the thin air has made it almost impossible for the team to develop a solid pitching staff to go with its constant supply of power hitters. They also have never won a division title.

While the Rockies are entertaining, the results in their quarter-century of existence have been substandard. Last year was only the fourth time that Colorado has made the playoffs, and the Rockies have only won two playoff series in their history. Both came in 2007, when the Rockies made an unlikely run to the World Series before being swept. As Colorado has scuffled, two of its three rivals (the Giants and Diamondbacks) have won titles since 2001 while a third (the Dodgers) is a playoff mainstay.

19. Charlotte Hornets, 16.95

The first rendition of the Hornets weren't world-beaters, as Charlotte never got out of the second round from 1988-2002 despite having players such as Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning. But those four second-round defeats would seem like gold to a 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 owner has been enough to get the new 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 winning percentage (.106). 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.

20. Washington Redskins, 16.7

It's hard to believe 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. But if you're a Redskins fan who's 30 or younger, all you know is pain, misery, and you might just hate owner Daniel Snyder with a passion. Since Joe Gibbs retired as coach after the 1992 season, the Redskins have made the playoffs only five times.

It's not just a matter of rarely making the playoffs, though. The Redskins have won only 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.

21. Carolina Hurricanes, 16.65

The Hurricanes get very good bang for their buck when they actually qualify for the playoffs, as their last three postseason appearances have seen them go to the Eastern Conference finals in 2009, win a Stanley Cup in 2006 and lose in the Cup Final 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 also doesn't help that the Capitals are partying with the Cup and another Southeast division foe, the Lightning, are a consistent playoff competitor.

22. Oakland Raiders, 16.6

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 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'll have 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.

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 fans do remember seeing the rival Broncos win the Super Bowl three years ago.

23. Baltimore Orioles, 16.17

If the yet-to-be-completed season had any bearing, the Orioles would likely move up this list, as their 110-loss-plus campaign this year has made an already-jaded fan base want to curl up in the fetal position. The lack of success on the big stage since winning the 1983 World Series is the main reason why Baltimore is this high on the list.

The Orioles used to be one of the top franchises in baseball (a common theme among teams in this portion of the rankings), but they haven't been back to the World Series since Cal Ripken & Co. ousted the Phillies some 35 years ago. While the Orioles have had brief upticks in the decades since, including three playoff berths between 2012 and 2016, their lack of big-time success -- especially compared to the rival Red Sox and Yankees -- has made the fan base sullen.

24. Toronto Maple Leafs, 15.98

How does a team with 13 championships end up this high on a misery list? When all of those championships occurred over 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 Final) since 1967. To put some perspective on that statement, there were only six teams in the NHL in 1967. There are 31 now.

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. The Leafs missed the playoffs 10 times in 11 seasons from 2005-16, 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.

25. LA Clippers, 15.95

The Clippers would have been much higher on this list in 2010, as they made the playoffs six seasons in a row from 2012-17 and have been superior to the crosstown Lakers for the last five seasons. That said, even this recent run of success left a bad taste in the mouth of long-suffering Clippers backers, primarily their squandering of a 3-1 lead to the Rockets in the 2015 playoffs. 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 1976-2012, 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.

And here is everyone else: