The criteria for this list involves franchises who have not changed cities or nicknames and have never made it to a championship final in their respective sport. A minimum of 35 years is used to gauge a “futile” existence.
You just know the Browns will be on this list somewhere.
Teams reviewed were picked from the NFL, NBA and MLB. The NBA Finals, World Series and Super Bowl are the significant events being evaluated. (NFL Championships prior to Super Bowl I are not considered for the purposes of this list.)
These teams have never felt the face-to-face time with the American public that an organization gets by reaching the last game of the season.
National Football League
In the NFL, the Browns and Lions top the list.
Without a doubt, the greatest possible futile Super Bowl match-up would be between the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions. Two of the greatest franchises in pro football history, and winners of past NFL Championships, have never made it to a Super Bowl in 46 seasons.
The Browns have made it to a Conference championship three times, losing each one to the Denver Broncos. The Lions made one Conference championship game during the Barry Sanders era.
National Basketball Association
In the NBA, the all-time futile match-up would be between the Atlanta Hawks and Denver Nuggets.
The Hawks have been in Atlanta and part of the NBA since 1968. The Denver Nuggets joined the NBA in 1976. Neither has made it to an NBA Finals.
The Nuggets made the Conference Finals a few seasons back with Carmelo Anthony leading the charge. The Hawks have made several playoff pushes.
Major League Baseball
In MLB, the Seattle Mariners get the prize. They entered the league as a new franchise in 1977.
Seattle did make it to three American League championship series in the 90s when they had the lethal combination of Randy Johnson, Junior Griffey, and Alex Rodriguez.
The opponent for Seattle in the ultimate futile World Series would have to include the Chicago Cubs, an organization that last made a World Series appearance in 1945.
The Cubs are an honorable mention to the list.
Though the Cubs don’t officially make the list because they have made World Series’ appearances and have won a couple of them more than 100 years ago, they get recognition for their current futile longevity and cult status.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com