San Diego has become ‘most tortured’ sports city

Jan 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 3, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers (17) during the first half against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The city of Cleveland finally has its championship. After waiting over 50 years—since the Cleveland Browns won the 1964 NFL Championship—the city was able to witness the Cleveland Cavaliers outlast the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the NBA Finals last Sunday night.

Now that Cleveland is off the list, San Diego is now the longest suffering city in terms of sports in the United States. At least, that’s what Bill Barnwell of ESPN says.

Barnwell has gone and created a very interesting Sports Misery Index. How does it work? Allow Barnwell to explain:

“One of the problems with figuring out which city has been tormented the longest is that all sports markets aren’t created equal. This isn’t a reflection on fandom or how much a given city cares about its team, but the reality that some cities have more shots at losing (and more chances to get their hopes up) than others. Compare Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville, for example. The Jaguars, Jacksonville’s only professional team, haven’t won a title in their 21 years of existence. That’s hardly out of the ordinary. In Washington, though, there have been teams suiting up in each of the four major sports since the Nationals came to town, and none of those teams has won a title since Washington’s football team won the Super Bowl at the end of the 1991 season. It has been 25 years since a Washington team won a title.

Fans in Washington and Jacksonville have each waited a relatively similar amount of time in terms of years for a title, but Jacksonville’s team is 0-for-21. Washington’s teams are 0-for-84. We need a way to adjudicate for both time and opportunity. The Misery Index scoring system does just that. For each market, the first team to fail to win a title in a given season yields one point. Each subsequent team that comes up short in the same calendar year generates a half-point. So, each year that its respective teams fail to win, Jacksonville receives one point of misery (for the Jags), while Washington receives 2.5 points (one point for its football team and a half-point each for the Wizards, Capitals and Nationals). You keep accruing points until somebody representing your city wins a title”.

Quite interesting to say the least. But also, not all that far off in terms of being quite accurate. It’s a fun idea, but it also makes a ton of sense.

Barnwell goes on to explain that in addition to the four major sports leagues—the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL—the ABA, WHA and AFL were also included when coming up with a scoring system. With that, Barnwell was able to come up with his list, which dates back to every season in professional sports since 1976.

Vancouver, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Buffalo help round out the top five in terms of active streaks but in first place, by a wide margin is San Diego.

San Diego has 83.5 points according to the Sports Misery Index—a full seven points ahead of second-place Buffalo.

Here’s some of what Barnwell had to say about the city of San Diego and its long wait for a championship.

“There’s something undeniably weird about suggesting that San Diego fans are long-suffering. When we think of heartbroken cities, we almost always think of frigid cities that are past their economic prime. We think of Cleveland and Boston, of Buffalo and Minneapolis. The idea of fans suffering in perennially gorgeous weather by the beach feels wrong, like there’s something inherently more meaningful about losing when you have to trod back home and shovel snow for six hours.

There’s not. San Diego fans have suffered for 53 years while barely sniffing a title; there are grandfathers who have spent their entire lives in San Diego rooting for local teams without ever feeling for a moment like they’re close to winning a championship. That’s every bit as depressing as it must have been for Cleveland fans during their dry spell, and with the late-’80s Browns, the mid-’90s Indians and the two eras of LeBron, you can argue that they had much better teams and players to support.

Exit Cleveland. Enter San Diego, now the most tortured sports city in North America”.

San Diego has been waiting for a championship team since the Chargers won the AFL Title with a dominant 51-10 victory over the Boston Patriots. Since, the team has a 10-15 postseason record and was blown out in its only Super Bowl appearance back in 1994.

Just as bad has been some of the team’s heartbreaking playoff defeats, particularly a 24-21 loss to the New England Patriots back in 2007 in the divisional round when the Chargers were arguably the best team in the NFL.

The San Diego Padres have made two trips to the World Series, losing both series by a combined eight games to one. As it relates to them, they figure to add to the Sports Misery Index number in San Diego, what with their current record of 32-43.

How high will that number get? Will the Chargers be the one to finally bring a championship to San Diego and give the city the feeling that those long-suffering fans in Cleveland just experienced?