Sports fandom can be a wonderful thing. But let’s face it, mostly it is just pain, suffering and sports call-in shows full of self-loathing and neuroses that would make Frasier Crane hang himself. This is especially true if you’re a fan of one of the following teams, all of whom challenge their fans in new and unique torturous ways every year. Some of them are just perennially awful, while some manage to contend every once in a while only to fall short in some ridiculous yet all too familiar manner. But no matter how they get there, what they all have in common is that they are nine of the worst sports teams to root for.
The Blue Jackets might be the most pointless franchise of any of the big four American sports leagues. They’ve never done a thing. They’ve only been to the playoffs once – a first round exit – and they’ve never managed to win more than half of their games in a season. There is just nothing here to even root for. Sure, there’s an ambiguous sort of hope, the kind born out of the fresh start every expansion franchise gets, but with each failed season, that hope becomes more and more a diminished memory, and the realization that it might always be this way starts to set in. They are the most unsuccessful franchise in American sports, and the only thing keeping them from a higher spot here is their relatively young age, which means that their fans haven’t had to suffer for as long as some other teams. But at least those other teams have tradition, and even a tradition of failure is better than the utter nothingness that is the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are an existential nightmare.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Browns fans. It’s not that the Browns have always been awful, it’s just that… well, they aren’t really the Browns, are they? The real Browns are off winning Super Bowls in Baltimore after Art Modell moved them there in the ‘90s. This Browns team, meanwhile, is the equivalent of an old skeleton found in a lab somewhere that a jilted lover slapped a wig on so he could pretend he never broke up at all. Browns fans are having dinner conversations with and grinding away on the faux-Browns skeleton, and all the while that skeleton’s bones keep falling out of its sockets and the neighbors keep debating about whether they should finally call the police. No matter how much you Photoshop those old pictures and records, Browns fans, she’s never coming back. It’s time to let this one go.
The only thing keeping the Cardinals from a higher spot on this list are two things: one, they actually went to the Super Bowl a few years ago, and two, thanks to their vagabond, homeless nature, they don’t really have any diehard, lifelong fans. Look, when one of your selling points is that at least you don’t stick around long enough to break hearts, you’re not so much a football team as a deadbeat dad. As for their lone Super Bowl appearance, well, that doesn’t really erase an almost century long tradition of failure. In 93 years, the Cardinals – whether it was in Chicago, St. Louis, or their soulless new home in the Arizona desert - have only made the playoffs eight times. That’s roughly once every twelve years. They also have racked up more losses than anyone in NFL history. In fact, they’ve lost so much that the next closest team – the Detroit Lions - is almost 100 losses behind them. Look, when your historic futility is so awful that even the Lions can’t compare, you are not gonna be a fun team to follow. No wonder everyone makes meth in the desert.
Look, at least Columbus Blue Jackets fans can hang on to some tenuous idea that their team might be good someday, and Columbus is far enough North that at least a hockey team makes sense. The Florida Panthers, meanwhile, have been even worse than the Blue Jackets in the time the two teams have been in the league. The Panthers have been around for seven years longer, though, and so whatever fans they have left have pretty much abandoned all hope. Of course, it doesn’t help that the Panthers are a hockey team in Miami, which is a ridiculous enough concept all on its own before you even take into account that Miami is a notoriously fickle sports city. The bad news is that being a fan of the Panthers is a hopeless endeavor and quite possibly a sign of insanity. The good news is that soon there won’t be any Panthers fans left. So at least you have extinction to look forward to.
The Royals haven’t been to the playoffs since 1985. That’s almost 30 years of nothing. That’s the longest streak by far in sports. And what’s worse is that the Royals have never even been particularly close in those nearly 30 years of wandering in the desert. They’ve only finished even second in their division three times over that period, and the last of those relative oases was in 1995. Their record that season? 70-74. Yeah. And thanks to their consistently low payroll, things probably aren’t getting better anytime soon. Not even Moses could lead them out of this desert of despair.
Jaguars fans – all 12 have them – are basically that dude who knows his girlfriend is going to leave him, he just doesn’t know when it’s gonna happen. Every year, people speculate that the Jaguars are on their way to a new city, and because that new city is called Los Angeles, there’s not much of an argument that Jacksonville fans can put up. It would be like knowing that your girlfriend was going to leave you for a movie star who could give her everything she ever wanted and all you can counter with is that amateur alligator wrestling pit you crudely rigged up in the backyard. She’s gone man, but the worst part is that she’s still hanging around, telling you you’ve got a shot. That’s no way to live, dudes.
The Cubs might not be as fundamentally hopeless as some of the teams on this list, but Cubs fans suffer from a completely different form of torture. They are always allowed a glimmer of hope, and there is something attractive about the whole Cubs package – Wrigley Field, Harry Caray, Ernie Banks, getting shitfaced in the bleachers without a shirt in summer in the middle of one of the coolest cities in America – but that just makes the inevitable failure that much more heartbreaking. The Cubs make you care, and then at the end of the season, you’re left remembering that this is a team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908. That’s 105 years. There are millions and millions of Cubs fans. None of them has seen the Cubs win. Okay, maybe one or two, but their memories are made of old-timey newsreels by now and they can’t even eat applesauce on their own anymore.
Don’t be suckered into believing that the Clippers have finally got it going. True lifelong Clippers fans certainly haven’t been. They know that at some point, Chris Paul’s knee is going to collapse into dust or Blake Griffin will be abducted by aliens. That’s the sort of certainty born of being fans of a franchise that has an all-time winning percentage of .377. That’s by far the worst mark in any of the four major sports. It works out to an average record of 31-51. They’ve lost over 2,000 games in 43 years, over 800 more than they’ve won. How could anyone believe in this team? Furthermore, why would anyone? Maybe Clippers fans are masochists. I don’t know. What I do know is that this kind of thing becomes baked into your nature, and expecting it to change is like expecting your DNA to somehow spontaneously rearrange itself. How do I know this? Well…
I’m a Lions fans. This means I have particular insight into not only the Lions' legendary failure, but the nature of failure and its effect on fans in a larger sense. Being a Lions fan pretty much gives you a PhD in that subject. The Lions aren’t just a bad team, they are that worst sort of team that somehow suckers you into believing that this time will be different, only to watch a dude hit a 61 yard field goal to beat your team in a must-win game. They are a team that’s won one playoff game – one! – since 1957. That’s 56 years. 56 years of absolute failure of the most wretched kind. The last time the Lions were any good, my grandpa was younger than I am now. And my grandpa is dead. It doesn’t get much more depressing than that. And that’s what it means to be a fan of the Detroit Lions, and it’s why they are number one on this list.