Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not ready for primetime

Maybe some of you have already heard, but we're supposed to have a big professional football contest here in Tampa next weekend. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Puffy, Bruce Springsteen and Rihanna will all be involved somehow. There will be parties and everything.

But honestly, how big can a football game be if the Arizona Cardinals are invited? I mean, this ain't the St. Petersburg Bowl.

As a lifelong football fan, the Cardinals - perennially one of the NFL's worst and worst-run franchises - playing in a Super Bowl seemed about as improbable as a black man with a foreign-sounding name running things in the Oval Office. You really can't believe it, even as it's actually happening.

It got me to thinking, what other professional sports teams would shock the hell out of me and most other sensible sports fans by intruding in the championship round? I'll go with a list of 10 (because I'm cliche like that) and I'm not going to bother with NHL teams since no one cares about that league, especially in Florida. Remember, this is not necessarily a list of the worst franchises. This is mostly a compilation of teams seemingly created to fill out the second half of SportsCenter:

10. Pittsburgh Pirates - From Bill Mazeroski's Game 7 walkoff homer against the Yankees to Roberto Clemente and the first all-black starting lineup in league history to the Killer Bs in the early '90s, the Pirates have something of a colorful, championship-like pedigree. One of their managers even invented the concept of the closer. But since 1992, the Pirates have the longest streak of losing seasons of any team in the country's four major professional leagues. They still have cool gear, though.

9. Cleveland Browns - Since Jim Brown left town, the Browns ain't been worth shit. Well, that's not necessarily true. Those teams with Bernie Kosar, Earnest Byner and Clay Matthews in the mid-80s were good but could never get past John Elway and the Broncos. As a result, the Browns are one of five NFL teams that haven't made it to the Super Bowl since the AFL-NFL merger. In 1970. (Consider, of course, that the original franchise moved to Baltimore in 1996 and won a Super Bowl five seasons later. The Cleveland Curse, indeed).

8. Denver Nuggets - Another team that has experienced intermittent success but nothing worth noting in the postseason. Though it was a nice historical footnote, it doesn't say much for your franchise when the signature playoff moment is a first-round upset of the top-seeded Seattle SuperSonics in 1994.

7. Milwaukee Bucks - Sometimes I forget that the Bucks came within one game of the NBA Finals in 2001, losing to the Sixers. But really, it's been all downhill since Kareem-Abdul Jabbar was traded to the Lakers in 1975. If the Bucks ever do advance to the Finals, David Stern and ABC executives will have an aneurysm.

6. Milwaukee Brewers - It could be that I'm simply biased against teams from Milwaukee. But honestly, the Brewers and Bucks would be ratings poison for any championship event. Also hurts that the Brewers have two playoff appearances in 39 seasons. No one outside of Wisconsin cares about them - I didn't realize they had been switched to the National League until, like, 1997.

5. New Orleans Saints - Another one of those NFL teams to never make it to the Super Bowl, the Saints are pretty much defined by their futility. The Aints. Ricky Williams. Their struggles after Katrina. Hell, it took the Saints two decades before they had their first winning season. But like most things about New Orleans, I can't help but love them a little.

4. Memphis Grizzlies - In their only three playoff appearances in franchise history, the Grizzlies are 0-12. That pretty much says it all, huh? I'm sure Vancouver is glad to be rid of them.

3. Detroit Lions - My father's favorite football player was Barry Sanders. He's somewhere in my top three. And it's a damn shame that he was stuck playing for the Lions, who cemented their status as the worst NFL franchise this season by completing the only 0-16 season in league history. Matt Millen didn't screw things up as much as he carried on the tradition.

2. Kansas City Royals - It's absolutely stunning to think the Royals won the World Series in 1985. But since I was 7 at the time, I'm not surprised that I don't remember much about it. Finishing 12 games under .500 last season was the Royals' best record in five years, which tells the story of their suckitude better than anything I could come up with. Not to mention, Kansas City has the same sort of ratings appeal as Milwaukee. Which is to say, none.

1. Los Angeles Clippers - No question, the reigning doormat of professional sports. At least once, SI agreed with me. Sad thing is, there's no one else to blame it on. They've mostly been victims of their own incompetence and spend-thrift ways.

Here's their first-round draft picks from 1989 to 1999: Danny Ferry, Bo Kimble, LeRon Ellis, Randy Woods, Elmore Spencer, Terry Dehere, LaMond Murray, Greg Minor, Antonio McDyess, Lorenzen Wright, Maurice Taylor, Michael Olowakandi and Lamar Odom. Since then, I guess their best draft choice is ... Chris Kaman?

Now the Clips are going to kill the career of another one of my favorite players, Baron Davis. This will likely be the only time they ever finish No. 1 in anything. Believe that.


mberenis said...

Great blog, check out mine sometime. You can get cheap tickets under $100.00 plenty left but not for long!!

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Jack T. said...

No hate for the Oakland Raiders? They have had good seasons, but recently they've been horrible. Maybe they're better fit for a "worst owners" article.

blackink said...

@Mberenis: Much thanks, and I'll make sure to return the favor. I'm thinking, however, that I'll be watching the game from home.

@Jack T: And you pretty much read my mind on the Raiders. Also, I'm not totally overcome by the thought of the Raiders playing in the Super Bowl. They've done it (correct me if I'm wrong), twice in my lifetime. And other than this recent run, have been generally competitive. They're one of the league's premier teams, even when they suck.

Sad to think of how far the Raiders and 49ers have fallen in recent years. But, hell, I've learned to live without my Oilers, so I don't have that much sympathy.