Column: What’s the worst sports city in America?
ATLANTA (AP) It was a question that came up again this week when Atlanta played host to Georgia’s overtime loss to Alabama in the national championship game , complete with the squandering of a double-digit lead.
Is this the worst sports city in America ?
Turns out, the A-T-L has some stiff competition.
To start with, here are the five biggest losers, presented in alphabetical order with their rare accomplishments and plethora of failures.
Congratulations, Minneapolis-St. Paul, you just missed the cut.
Major Pro Championships: One. The Braves won the 1995 World Series.
Flops: The Braves fell short of a championship every other time during their run of 14 straight division titles. The Falcons lost twice in the Super Bowl. The Hawks have never reached the NBA Finals. Two NHL teams – the Flames and the Thrashers – moved to Canada.
Back To School: Atlanta (along with nearby Athens) does get some credit for its college sports. Georgia Tech claimed a share of the football national championship in 1990. The University of Georgia, about 75 miles away, captured the 1980 title and is one of the nation’s most prominent programs.
Biggest Disappointment: The Falcons blowing a 25-point lead in last year’s Super Bowl .
Did You Know? The Chiefs won the 1968 North American Soccer League title, so some Atlantans insist the city has two championships. Nice try.
Major Pro Championships: None (sorry, two titles won by the Bills before the American Football League merged with the NFL fail to qualify).
Flops: The Bills lost four straight Super Bowls in the early 1990s and had the longest active postseason drought of any North American franchise (2000-16) before making the playoffs this season. The Sabres came up short in their two trips to the Stanley Cup final and are now on course to miss the NHL playoffs for the seventh year in a row. The Braves lasted just eight NBA seasons in the 1970s before moving to San Diego.
Back To School: The University of Buffalo football team has only two winning seasons since moving up to the NCAA FBS ranks in 1999. The Bulls men’s basketball team was one-and-done in its two NCAA tournament appearances.
Biggest Disappointment: History might have been a lot different if Scott Norwood had made a 47-yard field goal with just seconds to play in the 1991 Super Bowl. It went wide right, and the Bills lost to the Giants 20-19. Buffalo was blown out in its next three Super Bowls.
Did You Know? Buffalo had a team in the baseball’s Federal League, which attempted to become a third major league in the 1914-15. It didn’t work out.
Major Pro Championships: Eight. A rather high number for this list, but the Indians won the last of their two World Series titles in 1948 and the Browns have never been to the Super Bowl, though they do have four NFL championships from the 1950s and `60s. LeBron James and the Cavaliers really messed things up by winning their first NBA crown in 2016. (Left off this list: the Browns’ four straight AAFC titles and the Cleveland Bulldogs, whoever they were, taking the 1924 championship in the fledgling NFL.)
Flops: The Indians were swept in the 1954 World Series after winning 111 games, and they squandered a lead in the ninth inning of Game 7 in the `97 Series. The Browns went 0-16 this season . The Cavs have lost three times in the NBA Finals. The Barons expired in the 1970s after lasting just two NHL seasons.
Back To School: Best we can come up with is nearby Youngstown State winning four FCS national football titles.
Biggest Disappointment: In the 1987 AFC championship game at Cleveland, John Elway directed the Broncos 98 yards for a tying touchdown in the final minute of regulation, a possession forever known as ”The Drive.” The Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl with a field goal in overtime.
Did You Know? The Rams started out in Cleveland. They even won the NFL title in 1945 – and moved to Los Angeles the very next season.
Major Pro Championships: One. The Arizona Diamondbacks won the 2001 World Series in their fourth year of existence.
Flops: The Arizona Cardinals have made just five NFL playoff appearances since moving to the desert in 1988. The Phoenix Suns lost twice in the NBA Finals. The NHL Coyotes are an attendance-challenged franchise that seems constantly on the verge of moving .
Back To School: In 1996, Arizona State’s bid for a perfect season and its first national football title ended with a 20-17 loss to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The program hasn’t come close to matching that level of success.
Biggest Disappointment: The Cardinals made an improbable run to the 2009 Super Bowl, only to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-23.
Did You Know? The city does have a three-time WNBA champion, the Phoenix Mercury.
Major Pro Championships: None (as with Buffalo, we’re not counting the Chargers’ 1963 AFL title, nor the 10 indoor soccer titles won by the Sockers).
Flops: The Padres were blown out in their two World Series appearances. The Chargers only Super Bowl run ended with a 49-26 rout by the 49ers. A pair of NBA teams, the Rockets and the Clippers, abandoned the city.
Back To School: San Diego State twice reached the men’s basketball Sweet 16 under Steve Fisher. That’s about it for the college game.
Biggest Disappointment: After failing to work out a deal for a new stadium, the Chargers moved to Los Angeles last year .
Did You Know? Wilt Chamberlain was blocked in court when he tried to become a player-coach with the ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors in 1973. The Stilt showed so little interest in a coaching-only role that he once skipped a game in favor of an autograph session.
OK, now you know the contenders.
Which brings us to, do we dare say, the winner?
Drum roll, please.
The worst sports city in America is …
Of course, that city’s long-suffering fans do get to live in San Diego.
So they’ve got that going for `em.
Paul Newberry is a sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at https://twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry