With the Chicago Cubs making history this week by winning their first World Series since 1908, it begs the question of which cities have the longest championship droughts. Though the Cubs struggled throughout the 20th century, the Bulls had Michael Jordan and quite a few titles.
Chicago may not be up there among the country’s most struggling sports cities, but even the ones who haven’t won a major championship are still winners — maybe just not in the ways you’d expect.
Cleveland, for example, is coming off an Indians’ World Series appearance and a Cavaliers’ NBA title in June. With this high-profile success Cleveland has risen from its moniker as one of the worst sports cities in North America in recent memory.
Yet this is not the only recent success Cleveland has had, even if you haven’t heard of it. In fact, it could be argued that its status of titletown began a week before the Cavaliers hoisted Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.
Cleveland’s American Hockey League representatives, the Lake Erie Monsters, took home their first-ever Calder Cup at Quicken Loans Arena in June, preceding owner Dan Gilbert’s championship with his other team.
The Monsters’ championship wasn’t Cleveland’s only accomplishment. The Cleveland Gladiators of Arena Football had a 2014 title run before falling to the Arizona Rattlers in the title game.
Other than Cleveland, the most hapless sports city crown possibly belonged to Buffalo. The city is home to the Bills, losers of four consecutive Super Bowls in the 1990s and no playoff experience in over a decade, and the Sabres, with a 1999 Stanley Cup loss and 2011 postseason appearance all they have to claim lately.
If one were to expand the broader sports scope, however, Buffalo isn’t as pathetic of a sports city as it might be perceived. The Buffalo Bandits of the National Lacrosse League are coming off a Champions Cup appearance this past season after winning it all in 2008.
The Toronto Rock, also of the NLL, brought in a 2011 championship despite the lack of production from the Blue Jays, Raptors and Maple Leafs. While the Jays and Raptors have begun to find some success at least reaching the postseason, the city still has not seen any pro sports championships from those teams since 1993.
Arizona has also been title-less since 2001, when the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the New York Yankees in the Fall Classic. The Arizona Cardinals have themselves a Super Bowl appearance, but the Arizona Coyotes and Phoenix Suns have had minimal success, leaving a title drought of 15 years.
Minnesota, with the lack of success from the Twins, Vikings, Wild and Timberwolves, might be an overlooked city with minimal success, but the Lynx of the WNBA have been a dynasty with titles in 2011, 2013, and 2015.
Philadelphians, with the Phillies’ 2008 title being their first since 1983, have seen their hearts broken many-a-time by the Eagles in Super Bowl and NFC title games. Additionally, the Philadelphia Flyers fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals, and the 76ers have consistently been in the NBA’s basement (not for long — looking at you, Joel Embiid).
However the City of Brotherly Love has had more recent success, with the Philadelphia Soul downing the Arizona Rattlers in the 2016 Arena Bowl.
Even Jacksonville looks like an ample sports city in the Arena Football world, with an appearance in the 2015 championship game against San Jose, which they still managed to lose. The lone other pro team in Jacksonville, the Jaguars, has been one of the worst teams in the NFL over the past five seasons.
If your city hasn’t had recent sports success, take a deeper look. You might be surprised how close you are to being a City of Champions.