T.J. Berka

Since we updated the sports misery index in December, the football season has concluded. The New England Patriots continued to torment the rest of the NFL by winning again, increasing their lead as the least miserable fan base. But enough about them. The teams in the top 25 remained the same, as the Chicago Bears couldn’t quite graduate (thanks again, Cody Parkey), but there was some shuffling in the football ranks.

As for the NHL and NBA seasons that are concluding, teams like the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes could be in line for big drops after this update, while the Toronto Maple Leafs and LA Clippers are virtually assured of moving 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).

The five primary factors in the Fan Misery Index formula:

1. Championships: The more (and more recently) you win championships, the less you have to complain about. However, if your most recent championship was 25-plus years ago, it’s almost as if you’ve never won at all.

2. Playoff berths: How are you going to win a championship if you don’t make the playoffs? It’s bad enough to not hoist the big trophy at the end of the year, but not even putting yourself in the postseason is cause for a venting session or 10. We won’t tolerate too much bellyaching from teams that are always in the postseason.

3. Playoff wins: Great, you’re in the playoffs, but what’s the point if you don’t do anything once you’re there? Seeing your team go one-and-done in the postseason is quite painful — almost as bad as not going in the first place. But if you win playoff games every year, you have less reason to complain.

4. Heartbreaks: It’s one thing to lose — it’s another to get your heart ripped out of your chest “Temple of Doom” style. Whether it’s blowing a big lead, losing a Game 7, losing at the last second or simply losing a title game, it’s OK to be miserable. However, some winning teams scored high in this metric because you’re going to have more “bad beats” the more you play at the final table.

5. Rival comparison: Having your team stink and break your heart is bad enough, but having the fans of the teams you hate celebrating championships and playoff wins is salt in the wound.

Note that this formula takes into account the recency factor: Winning a championship in the past five years does not allow you to be miserable, nor does anyone care about some heartbreak that happened 30-40 years ago (cough, Bill Buckner, cough). Stuff that happened last season is factored more than stuff that happened two-to-five years ago, which means more than stuff six-to-10 years ago, which means more than stuff 11-20 years ago, which means more than … you get the picture.

Significant relocations are also downplayed. For example, an Indianapolis Colts fan should not bellyache about the heartbreaks of the Colts in Baltimore, and a Los Angeles Rams fan does not get to strut his stuff about what “The Greatest Show on Turf” did in St. Louis. The Los Angeles Chargers get to own San Diego’s misery because (a) L.A. and San Diego are quite close and (b) I’m pretty sure most of the Chargers’ fans still live in San Diego. Also, Houston Texans fans don’t get to complain about the Houston Oilers, but we’ll allow new Winnipeg Jets fans to complain about the old Winnipeg Jets.

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 hasn’t won a playoff series since 2004, meaning that 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 have to stomach watching Warriors fans celebrate their current three-championship (and counting) dynasty.

But for the first time in a while, there’s hope. The Kings’ young core jelled nicely this season. The Kings didn’t make the playoffs and will remain in this spot for now, but there’s actually hope.

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 game to the Rockies in 2007) and haven’t won a playoff series since 1998, which no one under the age of 27 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. Heck, even the Diamondbacks have won a World Series. But Manny Machado is now a Padre, and there are several top prospects ready to emerge. Is there actually hope in San Diego?

Movement: Up 2

The Bills leapfrogged the Browns and are now the most miserable fan base in the NFL. This happened mainly for two reasons — Buffalo predictably backslid after making the playoffs in 2017, and their fans had to deal with the horror of a sixth Patriots Super Bowl title since 2001. Buffalo has now missed the playoffs in 18 of the past 19 seasons.

The rival Patriots have been to 10 Super Bowls since the Bills last won a playoff game (which came in 1995, by the way). In the meantime, the Bills have been through seven head coaches, two interim coaches and countless quarterbacks, were the victims of the “Music City Miracle” and now have to cross their fingers and pray that Josh Allen is their long-awaited franchise quarterback. It’s not a fun life, and losing four straight Super Bowls doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

Movement: Even

The first memory of the Panthers in the NHL was their fans throwing thousands of plastic rats on to the ice in 1996 as the third-year franchise made an unlikely run to the Stanley Cup Finals. Problem is that 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, and they did it again this season.

Since being swept by the Avalanche in those ’96 Finals, the Panthers have not only not won a playoff series, but they’ve only made it to the playoffs four times after missing the postseason again this year. Meanwhile, the cross-state Lightning have a Stanley Cup and look like favorites for another this spring. South Florida is nice in the winter, but imagine how much better it’d be if the local hockey team wasn’t so miserable?

Movement: Down 2

The Browns, for the first time since Bill Belichick was their coach in the mid-1990s, are actually looking up as a franchise, and the misery recalculations reflect that. While non-playoff improvement doesn’t directly factor into the formula, the fact that none of their AFC North rivals set the world on fire while the Browns went from zero wins to seven helped move Cleveland out of the top NFL spot.

However, we have to be jerks and point out that the Browns haven’t made the playoffs since 2002 (worst streak in the NFL), haven’t won a playoff game since 1994 (when Belichick was their coach) and older fans still have shakes remembering their playoff meltdowns of the 1980s. There’s still a lot of misery that needs to be dealt with, but perhaps Baker Mayfield, Myles Garrett, Odell Beckham Jr. and friends are capable of doing that in the near future.

Movement: Up 4

Another entry in “The Patriots are ruining our lives” club, the Jets are on the cusp of the top 5 after another lost season that ended with their sworn enemy hoisting the Vince Lombardi Trophy. That makes eight consecutive non-playoff seasons for New York, the third-worst drought in the NFL behind the Browns and the Buccaneers.

What’s even more painful is that the Jets had Bill Belichick as their coach for 24 hours in January 2000, only for him to leave and go to New England. The years since have seen disappointment, heartbreak, agony with an extremely embarrassing butt fumble as the cherry on top. The Jets are now 50 years removed from Joe Namath’s guarantee and Super Bowl victory. Quite frankly, we have no idea how Fireman Ed can keep going with this franchise, in costume or not.

Movement: Down 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 you won the World Series, to 2016, when the Cubs did. But with the Brewers’ success this season, now White Sox fans are the most miserable fan base not located in paradise, aka San Diego (which stole Machado from the Pale Hose).

It stinks to root for the White Sox when the Cubs are winning, but that’s not the only reason it’s not fun to root for the ChiSox. The White Sox haven’t made the playoffs since 2010 and have only made the postseason nine times in 116 seasons. Even though they’re trying to make moves, they’re still rebuilding, and it doesn’t look like they will hit double digits for a while. But hey, at least Sox fans can enjoy “Eight Men Out.”

Movement: Up 8

The “Miami Miracle” was the most exciting thing that’s happened to the Dolphins in roughly 20 years, which highlights the funk this franchise has been in since Dan Marino retired. For the second consecutive year and for the ninth time in 10 seasons, the Dolphins — who used to be a playoff staple under Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson — failed to make the postseason. They also find themselves starting over at coach again — and at QB. Not even Nick Saban was able to win here.

Whatever the direction the Dolphins go from here is up for debate, but what isn’t is the fact that the franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000, qualified for Super Bowl since 1984 and won a championship since 1973. Adding to that misery is the fact that the Patriots have … yeah, you already know how that sentence is going to end. Unfortunately, Dolphins fans do, too.

Movement: Down 2

Congrats, Cincy — you’re now the most miserable fan base in the National League Central! That’s not 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 while the Indians are a postseason regular. The league’s oldest franchise isn’t exactly thriving, though they were aggressive this offseason.

Movement: Down 2

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. Buffalo has been toward the bottom of the NHL for much of the 20 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. This season showed some promise early before Buffalo ran out of juice and missed the postseason again. Sabres fans not only have had to watch their team flounder, but they’ve also had to watch the nearby Penguins win three Stanley Cups since 2009. Can Eichel be the spark that eventually reverses that bothersome trend?

Movement: Even

The Coyotes haven’t been in Arizona long — 22 seasons, 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 seven years in a row and 13 times in 16 seasons and only had one year where they won a playoff series, as they made a run to the Western Conference finals in 2012. They did show improvement this season before barely missing the playoffs.

But back to the bad stuff, as that 2012 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 Finals before the Coyotes did. And the franchise, long the subject of relocation rumors, could be in Houston soon.

Movement: Up 1

The Suns used to be on the entertaining side of bad, as they’ve had star players such as Charles Barkley, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. But Phoenix is just plain awful right now, as the Suns missed the playoffs for a ninth straight season and are one Kings playoff berth away from having the top misery spot in the NBA. The Suns are currently, by a huge margin, the worst team in the Western Conference and lost 58 or more games for the fourth consecutive season.

Phoenix used to be a frequent playoff participant, having made the postseason 29 times. But even 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.

Movement: Up 1

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 like Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson and Ichiro, but that doesn’t exactly make things better for the franchise. Even though Seattle was competitive the past few seasons, it’s also stuck in the same division as the powerful Astros and resurgent A’s. That’s not the ideal formula for breaking playoff droughts and moving off this list, which is why the Mariners are changing course and rebuilding at the moment.

Movement: Down 2

The Lions are officially back to being the low team on the NFC North totem pole, as they were passed by the rival Bears. That’s just another blow in a franchise that’s used to pain, as the Lions haven’t won an NFL championship since 1957, a playoff game since 1991 or a division title since 1993. Detroit has missed the playoffs three of the past four seasons, but the lack of playoff success by its NFC North rivals allowed the Lions to move down this list a bit and get passed by the Dolphins.

Another 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 in this motley group. They’ve also had some entertaining players on their losing teams (Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson). That doesn’t make their one playoff win in 61 seasons look any better, though, and this season didn’t give Detroit fans a feeling that things were going to change anytime soon.

Movement: Up 4

The Redskins were once of the NFL’s marquee franchises, as they won three Super Bowls between 1982 and 1991 and played in a fourth. But if you’re a fan in your early 30s 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 only made the playoffs five times. They looked primed for a sixth this past season, but in typical Washington fashion, their top two quarterbacks got injured, with Alex Smith‘s career in jeopardy less than a year after the Redskins traded for him.

It’s not just a matter of rarely making the playoffs, though. The Redskins have only won two playoff games since Gibbs left, 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.

Movement: Down 1

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 43 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 only made it twice since winning Super Bowl XXXVII after the 2002 season. This past season started nicely with FitzMagic but fizzled out in an annoyingly familiar manner.

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 the other 42 seasons 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.

The NFL misery rankings have been updated after the 2019 season, and there’s a new “leader” in the clubhouse. Also, how far did the Bears fall?

Has another World Series title made the Red Sox the least miserable team in sports? And how far did the Brewers, Rockies and A’s drop in the updated index?

Which NBA teams have bragging rights, and which are the most miserable? And what could change after this season? The Sports Misery Index rates the NBA 1-30.

2 Related

Movement: Even

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 new Hornets on track, as Michael Jordan has only seen the team make the playoffs three times in 15 seasons. The Hornets were in the mix for the Southeast Division title but now are scrambling for the last playoff berth in the East. And who knows if Kemba Walker will be back next season. 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.

Movement: Even

The Rays being on this list seems like a surprise on the surface, 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’s 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 has advanced past the divisional series. Those memories are fading, and there’s really not much else besides a love of bullpenning and Blake Snell for Tampa fans to fall back on, especially with the Boston/New York firewall as strong as ever.

Movement: Up 1

The Brewers were the focus of this article when it was originally released in September due to their success in 2018, 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. So the Brewers rightfully moved down quite a bit from their original No. 6 spot.

The Game 7 loss to the Dodgers in the NLCS kept them in the rankings, while the NFL shuffling moved them up a spot in this installment. 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 delayed their graduation from this list. But if Christian Yelich & Co. repeat their success this season, then Milwaukee will be out of the top 25 for good.

Movement: Up 1

The Hurricanes get very good bang for their buck when they actually qualify for the playoffs, as their previous 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) before this year makes this fan base justifiably jaded and morose.

Carolina’s nine consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs was the longest streak of futility in the NHL and overshadowed all memories of Eric Staal and Bret Hedican bringing the Cup to Tobacco Road. It also doesn’t help that the rival Capitals are partying with the Cup and another Southeast foe, the Lightning, are a consistent playoff competitor. That being said, they’re in the postseason this year and could be off this list entirely come fall.

Movement: Up 2

The Orioles are comfortably in the top 25 in part due to their 115-loss 2018 season and ensuing fire sale. They aren’t in the top 20 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 their sport (like a lot of 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’s been pretty miserable for most of the 35 years since, as the Orioles’ fleeting success hasn’t been nearly enough in comparison to the hated Red Sox and Yankees. Needless to say, this fan base is justifiably sullen.

Movement: Even

The Raiders will fall off this ranking soon no matter what happens, as they’ll make the move to Las Vegas and see their score reset to zero. That doesn’t really help the Silver & Black loyalists who still support the team in the Bay Area, though, as the Raiders have spent 20 of their 24 years since moving back to Oakland at home in the postseason. Hiring back Jon Gruden, who led the Raiders to two of those playoff berths, didn’t really help a fan base that’s gone from heartbroken (2001 “Tuck Rule” game) to simply beaten down.

The Raiders haven’t won a playoff game since the 2002 AFC Championship Game and have only qualified for the playoffs once since then, 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 do remember seeing the rival Broncos win the Super Bowl three years ago.

Movement: Down 14

The Bears were all set to leave this list entirely, as first-year coach Matt Nagy and defensive superstar Khalil Mack keyed a resurgence that saw the Bears win the NFC North with a 12-4 record and go to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. But Nick Foles did his playoff clutch thing and Cody Parkey nailed an upright on a last-second, game-winning field goal attempt, giving Chicago the shot of misery it needed to stay on this list.

So Parkey’s clang means that we have to go over the lowlights again — only two playoff appearances the last 12 seasons, only three playoff wins this millennium, a general résumé problem when compared to the rival Packers, a Super Bowl title that is relegated to 30 for 30 retro status for anyone under the age of 40, yada yada yada. At least the Bears don’t have the embarrassment of being ahead of the Lions anymore, though.

Movement: Even

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 Finals) since 1967. For some perspective, 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 being said, John Tavares and Auston Matthews have the Leafs pointed toward a third straight playoff appearance and likely graduation from this list.

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 2012 to ’17 and have been superior to the crosstown Lakers for the past six seasons. That being said, even this recent run of success left a bad taste in the mouths of long-suffering Clippers backers, primarily their 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), 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, though they surprisingly made the playoffs while retooling their roster and will disappear off this list in the next update.

Here are teams 26-123, some of whom could be in the next update of this article (cough, New York Knicks, cough).


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