The city of Seattle hasn’t had it easy, sports wise. Its former NBA club, the Sonics, left town in 2008. This past year, efforts to get pro basketball back to the city by luring the Sacramento Kings fell short. The NFL Seahawks made a gallant playoff run behind young quarterback Russell Wilson, only to suffer a gut-wrenching 30-28 loss to Atlanta one round shy of the conference championship. The loss marked the Seahawks’ twelfth trip to the NFL postseason in their 37-year history, without a title.
Altogether, Seattle teams have competed in 115 cumulative seasons, advanced to at least the semifinal round of the playoffs 11 times, with just a single ring by the 1979 Sonics to show for their efforts. It’s enough to place Seattle at the top of our Most Miserable Sports Cities list, just a hair ahead of Atlanta, a town whose history is loaded with Braves’ postseason flops and which lost the NHL not once, but twice.
Other towns ranking high: Phoenix, where the NBA Suns have made it to nine western conference finals and two NBA Finals without a ring, and Buffalo, where the Bills are famously 0-4 in Super Bowls and where the Sabres are still looking for their first Stanley Cup despite 29 trips to the playoffs since 1973.
If you’ve seen this list in recent years, you know that misery as defined by sheer futility – losing records, long championship draughts – isn’t what we’re going for. Everyone knows that the Chicago Cubs haven’t won a World Series in over 100 years. This is about misery in the heartbreak sense – cities whose teams have been good enough over the years to win games and make championship runs, only to disappoint in the end more often than not. So we dole out the largest numbers of misery points for poorest records in championship round play – the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and NHL Finals. Right behind come records in semifinal round play, i.e. conference finals and league championship series, and so on back down the line. The closer you come and miss, the more misery points you score.
Figuring that a long championship draught shouldn’t be ignored altogether, we do add points based on the number of years since a city’s last title, and for the overall ratio of a city’s cumulative sports seasons to the number of championships it’s won (some cities have longer sports histories or more teams than others, so , for example, Cleveland’s seven titles in 227 cumulative sports seasons rates very close to Houston’s four titles in 141 seasons). And we toss in a bonus point for city that loses a major sport through relocations – Atlanta losing the NHL and Seattle the NBA, for example.
We limit the candidates to cities with at least 75 years of cumulative NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL seasons on its resume (no, MLS and WBNA don’t count - we’re sticking with the major sports leagues), the better to avoid the apples-to-oranges comparisons that come from including one-team towns like Portland and San Antonio or relatively new pro sports towns like Nashville and Charlotte.
Pre-merger track records from the ABA and AFL, partial forerunners of the modern NBA and NFL, do count. Hence, a team like the Denver Nuggets gets hit with misery points for losing the last ABA final to the New York Nets back in 1976. Same for the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl I loss to Green Bay in 1967, when they were still part of the AFL.
If it keeps plugging, Seattle may yet get its NBA team . The town has also been an oft-mentioned landing spot for struggling NHL franchises. And maybe Wilson and coach Pete Carrol will take the Seahawks over the hump this year. Until then, easy on the coffee. It’s known as a trigger for heartburn.
More on Forbes: