If you live in Cleveland, you don't need any scientific study to tell you you've suffered through some miserable seasons. But what about the rest of the United States and Canada? The blog Urban Sports Suffering has one post, and one post only, but it addresses the issue of the most successful sports cities. Jason has compiled the results of teams from the four major North American professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA) over the past 40 years. He determined whether a team made it to its league's semifinal game and whether the team won the league championship for each year. These results were standardized for the number of teams in each league (ie, in a league of 30 teams, you'd expect your team to win the championship 1.3 times in a 40 year span) and grouped based on urban centers. His results are below the fold.
The X-axis measures the number of semifinal appearances for teams from a particular city standardized for the number expected if each team in the league had an equal chance of making the semifinals. A team that makes the expected number of semifinals scores a zero using this metric, less than expected is less that zero, and greater than expected is greater than zero. The Y-axis shows the number of league championships for a city standardized for the number of teams in each league; once again, zero is the expected value based on random sampling. The diagonal line shows the expected relationship between semifinals reached and championships won if a team wins the championship once every four times it makes it to the semifinals. Cities above the diagonal have teams that come up clutch in the big games, and cities below the diagonal are chokers.
Cleveland sports fans will take comfort (or self-pity) in the fact that they make it to the semifinals less that any other city besides San Diego, and they win fewer championships per team than any other city in the past 40 years. Philadelphia stands out in its choke-tacular performance. They are on the high end of semifinals reached (with the Eagles, Sixers, Flyers, and Phillies disappointing fans by coming oh so close), but they underperform when it comes to the big game. On the other hand, Montreal teams (especially the Canadians) don't make the finals much more than expected, but when they do, they win. And the New York/New Jersey area teams are mind-boggling successful, buoyed by the great success of the Yankees. This also offers further proof that Boston really needs to ditch the suffering image, as they have seen all four of their major sports teams (Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, and Red Sox) win championships in the past 40 years.
more stats to throw
Philadelphians are among the most stentorian of frustrated fandom, always ready to remind the viewing public that the '83 76ers made the most recent contribution to the civic trophy case.
Actually, in the 40-year view, the city is only slightly below par for expected titles ... but remarkable for its ability to churn out championship-caliber teams in every sport (its ratio of championship game appearances to expected appearances is an impressive 4 to 3) without garnering titles. Philly franchises are 5-13 in title games/series, and working on a seven-set losing streak to which each has contributed:
The 1983 Phillies
The 1984-85 Flyers
The 1986-87 Flyers
The 1993 Phillies
The 1996-97 Flyers
The 2000-01 76ers
The 2004-05 Eagles
Less exhibitionistic in their despair, Minnesotans have likewise had more than their share of contenders but made like Walter Mondale on the big stage. They make the title round in only 36% of their semifinal appearances and win it all in only 25% of their finals appearances. That's a painful 8.9% conversion rate of semifinals into titles. Every other city with twenty or more semifinals appearances has at least five championships. No other city with such a deficit of titles earned is actually in positive territory for semifinal berths.
Adding insult to injury, Minnesota has gifted other locales with big winners that should have been theirs: the Lakers, whose legend bestrides the sporting scene while their name harkens to their Midwestern roots; hockey's North Stars, who, after falling short in six semifinals appearances, relocated to a city where ice is only found in sweet tea and lifted the Stanley Cup as the Dallas Stars five years later; and the early 90's Cowboys dynasty, founded on the king's ransom of draft picks heisted from the Vikings in the Herschel Walker deal.
Indianapolis is heading in that direction with the television-punching combination of good teams and a proclivity for bungling golden opportunities: the Pacers lost in the Eastern Conference finals in both the seasons Michael Jordan spent playing minor-league baseball, and in the first season after his second retirement; the 2005 Colts, a mere month after threatening an undefeated season, gagged away a home game against Pittsburgh and the likelihood of steamrolling through the Super Bowl.
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