Somewhere in an evil dungeon, a wicked spell master has set a curse across an entire city to endure years of pain and heartache at the hand of their beloved sports teams.
How do we know this? In what other world does Gary Anderson miss a 38-yard kick to blow the Vikings 1998 NFL season? A 100% record in front of the posts vanishes right at the most crucial moment. There is no other explanation.
How does a team find a way to make it to four straight Super Bowls, yet can't manage to pull off one win in those four appearances?
Whether it’s a drought that refuses to break, a failure that defies belief or a string of disastrous seasons, some cities just can’t shake a curse.
There are curses that have endured for so long, they can only be whispered around campfires. From the New York Rangers Curse of 1940, the Curse of Coogan’s Bluff or the Curse of the Billy Goat, one thing we know for sure is that sports fans are superstitious animals.
But don’t despair; there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Boston Red Sox eventually broke the Curse of the Bambino after 86 agonizing years, so hope is not lost.
Occasionally a cursed city will be allowed to taste success, albeit fleetingly and not without a string of hair-pulling moments. Across the major leagues in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL, we have opened the dungeon door, dusted off the black book and discovered the top 15 most cursed sports cities in North America….
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15 Kansas City
The Royals 1985 World Series win feels like a lifetime ago. Two titles since 1960 is what Kansas City has to show for sporting achievement. Bad luck? Maybe. Poor management? A possibility. But don’t rule out a serious case of the curse.
The famous Curse of Hank Stram from 1974 is a reminder of the perils of sports life in Kansas. After a shocking season that year, General Manager Jack Steadman fired Hank Stram. Leaving in a fit of rage, Stram said the Chiefs would never make the Super Bowl until he returned. Stram’s death in 2005 is yet to see the curse lifted. Was there not something supernatural at work in the Chiefs' epic collapse in their playoff tilt with the Colts a couple of years ago?
You know a curse has substance when it overlaps into the marketing department of a franchise. The sorry 10-year chapter of the Charlotte Bobcats (2004-2014) ended with a renaming exercise to the original Hornets, but the trophy cabinet still has ample space available. The Bobcats were so bad they went the 2012 season 7-59, a winning percentage of .106, which remains a record.
Star quarterback Cam Newton has been written off to play big under pressure for the Panthers, and Steve Smith’s defection to Baltimore leaves supporters to wonder whether Charlotte has what it takes to be taken seriously as a sports city. The sports gods’ apathy for Charlotte could go on for generations to come.
The City of Brotherly Love has been tough on its closest siblings down the years. For Philly it has been a case of oh so close, but oh so far. The Eagles somehow managed to lose the 2003 NFC Championship game to the Buccaneers despite the fact Tampa Bay couldn’t win in cold weather. In 1981 they made history by losing the Super Bowl to the wildcard-qualifying Oakland Raiders.
The very same year of 81 cursed the 76ers. Carrying a 3-1 lead in the finals, they conspired to blow big leads to lose the next three games to Boston. Heartbreak for the Phillies during World Series 1993 and ending the 1977 season in agony after 101 regular season wins makes Philadelphia a city with bad sports karma.
The Flyers have been cursed with bad goaltending and haven't brought home a championship since 1975.
One 1995 World Series win is all the Atlanta Braves has to show from 12 attempts at the showpiece of baseball. Three titles in 144 years must leave fans thinking “what did we do wrong?” Despite playing their role in the best World Series of them all against the Minnesota Twins in 1991, Gene Larkin’s hit with loaded bases in the bottom of the 10th broke a deadlock that seemed destined by the gods.
While the Hawks history in the NBA is nothing short of pitiful, any hope that football would step in and be a savior fell to pieces in 1999. Running into a powerful Broncos team in the Super Bowl, Denver ran over the top of the hapless Falcons 34-19. Defensive back Eugene Robinson’s arrest the evening before the game for soliciting an undercover police officer for oral sex gave an indication from above that it wasn’t meant to be.
11 Washington DC
Even with the Wizards in their backyard, the sporting curse surrounding Washington DC lingers. Don’t expect this canny move to pay off anytime soon, as the Wizards and Nationals are as far away from lifting silverware as the day they were created.
The Redskins can’t escape the feeling their identity is about to be changed to fit the 21st Century, but given their wait since the 1992 Super Bowl no one should be up in arms. The city’s best hope came in 1998 when the Capitals reached the Stanley Cup Final, only to be swept by the Red Wings. The Capitals also have a terrible history in Game 7s, with a record of 4-10, with their most recent loss coming in overtime this year against the Rangers.
It’s the hope that kills for Cincinnati. The Bengals have enjoyed recent runs into the NFL playoffs with seeming ease, but are they any closer to winning one? Forget about it. Their 26-10 fizzle of a loss against Indianapolis last season demonstrates this team freezes under an intangible pressure.
The Reds team of 1999 racked up a highly impressive 96 wins for the regular season, but that set a record of a different kind – the highest amount of wins for a team that failed to make postseason. Cities can handle the idea their teams suck, but Cincinnati’s last celebration in 1990 should have been followed by much more. Perhaps there are other forces at play.
Time heals all wounds, which is why Seattle’s 2015 Super Bowl loss stings harder than any other. Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted in the dying seconds with the game poised at 28-24, denying the Seahawks a seldom opportunity to seal two titles in three seasons. The manner in which they lost will always be hard to swallow, as everybody on the planet knew that Marshawn Lynch should have gotten the ball from the one yard line.
Prior to 2013 the city that gave the world grunge felt angst for a host of different reasons, most of them sporting.
If the weather wasn’t bad enough, their basketball team's defection to Oklahoma City in 2008 came at a time when the franchise was building for glory. On the baseball front, the Mariners set the MLB alight in 2001 by winning more regular-season games in a season than any other. Then they met the Yankees in the ALCS, and those wins meant nothing.
Rule Number 1 of the spell master – only he can stir the pot. Apparently rapper Lil B never got the memo, as fans of the Rockets blamed him for cursing star player James Harden and the team for bottoming out in 2015. Harden’s iconic pot-stir celebration was rumored to be cursed by Lil B for supposed copyright breach.
Until The Rockets lifted the NBA championship in 1994, the city of Houston had no idea what success felt like, and it took Michael Jordan to go off to baseball for them to achieve that! With the Texans featuring on this years Hard Knocks series on HBO, the Texas town is doing everything in its power to break the mold. Add to this one World Series appearance by the Astros and The Daily Post concluded in 2015 for Houston to be America’s Most Miserable Sports City.
7 Minneapolis-St. Paul
Gary Anderson could sleep a lot better at night knowing his missed kick for the Vikings at the Super Bowl was due to a curse. To this day the Minnesota Vikings have not won a Super Bowl, losing in all four of their appearances. After the 1975 “Hail Mary”, Darrin Nelson’s dropped touchdown pass of 1987, Anderson’s blunder and Brett Favre’s 2009 interception, football has damaged the psyche of the region.
An ugly twist of fate belies a city cursed for underachievement. When the Lakers relocated the team to LA in 1960, the Timberwolves built a team to challenge in 2004. Phil Jackson, Kobe Bryant at co put paid to any postseason joy and returned to haunt Minnesota. If only to add to the pain, the North Stars relocation to Dallas saw them take the franchise to new heights in the 1999 Stanley Cup, leaving Minneapolis-St. Paul with nothing but the Wild.
When a team hasn't won a Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years, all before the NHL expanded from six teams, there is some force out there. A playoff run in 2013 was squandered in the last 10 minutes of Game 7 against the Boston Bruins while children lifted placards that read, “In my lifetime please.”
Back-to-back World Series wins for the Blue Jays in 1992-93 proved no more than a false dawn, suffering through the longest playoff drought in baseball since. Compiling the misery further are the Raptors, who draft some of the best basketball talent around (Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh) until they trade them to an American franchise. Toronto’s curse is a malaise of epic proportions.
Besides the Arizona Diamondbacks' World Series title in 2001, the city of Phoenix, and the state of Arizona in general, has not enjoyed success. Phoenix teams have made the semifinals 13 times over the last half-century. A decent record for a modestly sized region of the USA, but a return of one championship is a shocking reflection for the Sun Belt city. The Cardinals' switch to Arizona carried heartbreak in their suitcase, going down in the final minute of Super Bowl XLIII.
But what makes Phoenix unique is the pain and eternal suffering in the 1976 NBA finals. A triple-overtime loss to the Celtics was dubbed the greatest finals game in basketball, which left the Suns with no consolation in the years to follow. Even the acquisition of Charles Barkley coincided with the career of Michael Jordan.
4 San Diego
If you believe in the saying “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” you don’t know what it’s like to be a sports fan from San Diego. Their love may endure, but their sports franchises have been left alone at the altar one too many times for it to be a coincidence.
The Padres first visit to the World Series in 1984 ended in embarrassment, losing in five games after gifting 11 walks to the Tigers during Game 3. The team was then swept in their second appearance in 1998.
This poor turn of fate parallels nicely to the Chargers only Super Bowl appearance, copping a 49-26 thrashing at the hands of San Francisco in 1995. Alarm bells must have gone off when the Clippers, a failure of an NBA franchise, packed up and left for LA in 1984. If rumors are to be believed, the Chargers may soon follow suit in an attempt to lift the wretched San Diego curse.
Four consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Four losses. Even the most hateful of football fans could not wish such a horrendous record on their worst rival. It’s a nightmare the city of Buffalo might never recover from because the Bills squandered not one opportunity of a lifetime, but FOUR!
Scott Norwood’s missed field goal in Super Bowl XXV, ending in a one point defeat to the Giants was so bad it inspired the plot of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
If this wasn’t enough, the Sabres continue to wait for that elusive Stanley Cup. They couldn't even win the draft lottery this year despite finishing with the worst record when the rights to Connor McDavid were at stake.
Chicago easily sets the record for sheer quantity of curses throughout their sporting life. While the world breathed a sigh of relief at the conclusion of WWII in 1945, Cubs owner Billy Sianis famously said “Them Cubs, they ain't gonna win no more” when he was told to leave a World Series game because he brought an odorous goat to the stands. The Cubs are still waiting for the glory days of 1908 to return.
A second curse for Chicago’s other baseball team tells a tale of its own. Although the Curse of the Black Sox was broken in 2005, the life bans of eight Chicago White Sox players in 1919 for gambling on the game left a dark cloud over the entire organization. Throw in the Curse of Muldoon over the Black Hawks in the NHL and the debacle of the Honey Bears Cheerleader Curse of 1985 for good measure, and it’s safe to say the Windy City has bad sports juju.
Three Stanley Cups in six years and six NBA titles in eight still can't offset the century-plus curse of the Cubs or the 86-year Black Sox curse.
The crème de la crème of sports curses can only focus on once city, poor old Cleveland. The city's NFL franchise, the Browns, were the focus of the Kevin Costner picture Draft Day but even in that imagined universe all the team could achieve was getting some good deals done over Seattle. That’s it.
Cities that love their sports this much don’t deserve to suffer a drought of this magnitude. 11 championship losses on top of two franchises leaving town paints a picture as to why their fans call their stadiums “factories of sadness.” LeBron’s return to the Cavs tortures Cleveland further, losing the NBA championships while having the best player in the world on their roster. Please spell master, lift the Cleveland curse not just for them, but for us!
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