Sports fans love winners. That's why teams like the New York Yankees, Detroit Red Wings, New England Patriots and that's why the Golden State Warriors are so popular now. It helps that most of those teams are in large markets, but they all have a history of winning (except for the Warriors who are just starting) and cheering for a successful team is a lot more fun than rooting for a losing one.
Perhaps the only thing that people enjoy in sports as much as a winner is a good story. The most unique and/or uplifting narrative is often the one that piques our interest The Jamaican bobsleigh team was able to captivate us at the 1988 Winter Olympics because their story was unheard of and unexpected. They were a team from a tropical country competing in a premier winter sport on the grandest stage. The uniqueness of their story made them a household name and inspired the 1993 film Cool Runnings. Although the four-man team's appearance at their first Olympic Games in Calgary ended in a crash, they still got back up, picked up their sled, and continued to embrace the sport. Five of the seven Winter Olympics since have featured a bobsleigh team from Jamaica.
We tend to focus much of our attention on the premier sports teams in the major sports leagues, but as the Jamaican bobsleigh team showed us, there are interesting sports stories happening all over the world at many different levels, many of which involve team's we've never heard of. Whether it be a story of triumph against the odds or simply an interesting story of how a team got it's unique name, there are many notable reasons to take interest in a team you otherwise would have no knowledge of. Here are the top 15 sports teams you didn't know existed:
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15 Las Vegas Posse
The four major professional North American sports leagues all have yet to gain a foothold on the Las Vegas market, although the NHL looks like they are planning to be the first, but the Canadian Football League actually attempted it in 1994. During the league's failed southern expansion era of the '90s, Las Vegas was rewarded with the Posse franchise. The team's lone season ended up being a disaster. They played in a stadium far from the city and practiced in a small field in the parking lot of a casino, and head coach Ron Meyer and many of the players were unfamiliar with the rules of the Canadian game. The team finished with a record of just 5-13.
The team's most infamous moment came prior to their first home game where Dennis KC Parks who was unfamiliar with "O Canada" sang the anthem, under the name Greg Bartholomew, in a way that sounded very much like "O Christmas Tree". The Posse folded after just one season in Las Vegas and are most notable for featuring rookie quarterback Anthony Calvillo who would go on to became professional football's all-time leader in passing yards.
14 FC Midtjylland
Founded in 1999, FC Midtjylland is a small team from Denmark that plays in a stadium that seats just 11,800 people. In 2014-15 the team finished atop the Danish Superliga for the first time in their brief history. This past February the team faced off against the English titans of Manchester United in the Europa League round of 32 and pulled off a major upset in the first leg with a 2-1 victory. Unfortunately for FC Midtjylland, their success against one of England's top teams was short-lived as Manchester United went on to win the second leg, beating them easily 5-1.
13 Toronto Blueshirts
Unless you're well versed in hockey history, you probably aren't aware of the Toronto Blueshirts and how the creation of the National Hockey League led to their demise. Founded in 1911 as a member of the National Hockey Association, the Blueshirts began playing in the 1912-13 season and won their lone Stanley Cup in 1914 with a victory over the Montreal Canadiens. After Eddie Livingstone took over ownership of the team in 1915, he began feuding with the league's other owners and midway through the 1916-17 season they decided they'd had enough.
The team's operations were suspended and after the season the other owners decided to abandon the NHA and form a new league, the NHL, leaving Livingstone and the Blueshirts alone in a league with no opponents. Many of the Blueshirts players would join the new Toronto franchise in the NHL on the team that would ultimately become the Maple Leafs.
12 Sheboygan Red Skins
They may have had a racist name that no one other than Dan Snyder would possibly justify in 2016, but Sheboygan, Wisconsin's former basketball team will forever be remembered as one of the founding members of the NBA in the smallest market in league history. The team won a National Basketball League title in 1943 and continued to be one of the NBL's top teams until the 1949 merger with the Basketball Association of America to form the National Basketball Association.
In the NBA's first season, the team from Sheboygan finished with a record of just 22-40 which included a win over the Minneapolis Lakers who would go on to become the inaugural champions. They actually made the playoffs, but got knocked out in the first round. After one season, the team left the NBA and tried to continue playing independent ball, but they ultimately folded within two years.
11 Akron RubberDucks
The Double-A Eastern League affiliate of the Cleveland Indians were named the Akron Aeros from 1996 until 2013 when owner Ken Babby decided it was time for a change after his first season in charge. A name change had previously been considered in 2009, but 67% of fans voted to keep the Aeros name as it paid homage to Neil Armstrong and the Wright Brothers all of whom were from the state of Ohio.
The new owner decided to change the team's name to honor the city's heritage as the "Rubber Capital of the World" and renamed them the RubberDucks. Unfortunately, the team's logo does not resemble the similarly named bath toys, but instead features an angry duck face with a neck that doubles as a streak of tire tracks.
10 Fort Wayne TinCaps
Formerly known as the Fort Wayne Wizards, the long time class-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres changed their name to the TinCaps in 2008. The new name is a reference to pioneer John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, who is said to have walked around with a tin cap on his head, although some historians will dispute that fact. Chapman spent the end of his life in Fort Wayne, Indiana and is his body is laid to rest there. The team, whose logo is a smirking apple wearing a tin cap, won the Midwest League title in their first season as the TinCaps in 2009.
9 The Irish Women's National Curling Team
Curling is not a major sport in Ireland. In fact, the country doesn't have a single curling rink and the sport receives exactly zero financial support from the government. However, that hasn't stopped Ireland from putting together a national women's curling team. Many of the team's players have Irish backgrounds but come from other countries like Spain and the United States and thesquad's training and home games are held in Scotland. The team is only two years old, but they already have a bronze medal in the European Championships C-Division and are looking to improve upon that mark as they head into the 2016 European Curling Championships.
8 Indian National Baseball Team
India isn't exactly a country known for its baseball prowess, but that didn't prevent sports agent J.B. Bernstein from creating a reality show, titled The Million Dollar Arm, in hopes of finding the next Major League pitcher. Bernstein figured that in a country of 1.2 billion people he could find someone capable of throwing a fastball at least 85 mph. Out of 37,000 contestants, two victors emerged - Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel – both of whom had never thrown a baseball prior to their appearance on the show. The pair were then trained to pitch in the USA and signed contracts to join the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
Since then, the sport has continued to grow in a country where cricket is the dominant sport. Last September, the Indian National Baseball team made history winning their first ever international baseball gold medal after defeating the teams from Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq at the Presidential Cup Friendly Baseball Tournament.
7 Norwegian National Sledge Hockey Team
Given Norway's proximity to great hockey playing nations in Sweden and Finland, it would seem natural that they'd develop an affinity for the game as well, but so far that hasn't really happened. Just eight Norwegian born players have ever played a game in the NHL and only Mats Zuccarello and Espen Knutsen have reached the 200 game mark. When you think of great hockey countries, Norway doesn't jump to mind. However, when it comes to great sledge hockey countries, the Norwegians are one of the best.
The sport of sledge hockey was invented in 1961 in Sweden by a group of athletes who didn't want their physical disabilities to prevent them from enjoying the game they loved. The sport quickly developed and soon the players in Sweden introduced their Norwegian brethren to the game. It has since become a world wide sport and while the usual suspects – Canada, the USA, and Sweden – are among sledge hockey's elite, Norway leads the all time Paralympic medal count with five– one bronze, three silver, and a one gold from Nagano - in six Paralympic tournaments.
6 Orlando Solar Bears
Everyone loves a good pun and the Solar Bears are a great one. An obvious reference to their polar counterparts, the original Solar Bears played in the International Hockey League from 1995 until the league folded in 2001 winning the Turner Cup in their final season. When Orlando was awarded an ECHL franchise in 2012, the name was revived and their logo, which features a hockey playing polar bear wearing sunglasses, was modernized. The new version of the team is currently affiliated with the NHL's Toronto Maple Leafs and the AHL's Toronto Marlies. The Solar Bears finished the 2015-16 season with a 33-30-4-5 record and missed the postseason.
5 Las Vegas 51s
Originally named the Las Vegas Stars when they began as the triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres in the Pacific Coast League in 1983, the team changed names in 2000 when they became the affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The name 51s was adopted as a reference to Area 51, the top secret military base located roughly 80 miles away from the city that has long been a central location for UFO conspiracy theories. The 51s' logo features an alien head with baseball stitching and their mascot is an alien like creature named Cosmos.
When the Stevens Baseball Group purchased the team in 2008, CEO Derek Stevens intended to change the name but missed the deadline as the team was preparing to move their affiliation to the Toronto Blue Jays. The 51s have since gone through another ownership change and another shift in affiliations – they're currently affiliated with the New York Mets – while maintaining their name and extra terrestrial appearance.
4 Albuquerque Isotopes
If you are fan of The Simpsons, you may be familiar with the episode titled "Hungry, Hungry Homer" in which Homer Simpson goes on a hunger strike to protest the Springfield Isotopes baseball team's potential move to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Well, in 2002 the name came to life when the triple-A Calgary Cannons of the Pacific Coast League moved there in time for the 2003 season. A fan poll to name the franchise ended with 67 percent of people in favour of adopting the Isotopes name rather than the Dukes name which had been a staple of Albuquerque's minor league baseball team from 1915 until the previous team's departure in 2000.
The team had no qualms about adopting the new name, deeming it appropriate due to the number of nuclear technology facilities in New Mexico, and they even put statues of Homer, Marge. Bart, and Lisa Simpson up around the team's stadium. The Isotopes are currently the affiliate of MLB's Colorado Rockies.
3 Leicester City FC
In 2004 Leicester City FC was demoted from England's Premier League to the Football League. The team spent the next decade in the inferior league going through 17 different managers and two ownership changes and they even spent one season in League One, the lower division of the Football League. In 2014 the team was finally promoted back to the Premier League and since then they've had a meteoric rise. The little known team plays a simple style that opponents haven't been able to stop. They've dominated their way to the top of the Premier League standings and have qualified for the Champions League. Soon, Leicester City will likely be a household name.
2 AFC Wimbledon
In 2002 the owners of Wimbledon FC decided to move their team roughly 70 miles to Milton Keynes as the English Football Association believed it was “not in the wider interests of football” to keep a team in Wimbledon. The move upset the team's local fans who protested the decision to no avail. Once the decision was finalized to make the move, a group of fans decided to start their own team despite having no experience running a football club. They hired coaches, got sponsorship from a video game company, rented a stadium, held tryouts in a public park and began the 2002-03 season playing in the ninth tier league.
The new team, AFC Wimbledon, began winning quickly and went on an undefeated streak from February of 2003 until December of 2004. They rose up the football ranks and just nine years after the team began, AFC Wimbledon was promoted to League Two, the fourth tier of English football, where they continue to play today. In 2013, they beat the Wimbledon FC team that had been taken away from them.
1 Harlem Rens
The New York Renaissance, also known as the Harlem Rens, were an all-black barnstorming basketball team that began playing in 1922 and last for nearly 30 years compiling a record of 2,588-529. The Rens took on anyone who would play them including the Original Celtics who were the dominant team at that time. Racial tensions prevented the Rens from joining the American Basketball League in 1925, but the Original Celtics showed their support for the team by refusing to join the ABL.
The Rens enjoyed their most success in the 1930s. They won the world basketball championship after defeating the Original Celtics and they finished the 1932-33 season with a 112-8 record. Their record breaking season featured an 88-game winning streak that doubled the previous mark set by the Celtics.
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