Where the titles haven’t been (and other twists)


There are four teams that have never played in a Super Bowl: The Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

Only two teams have never played in the World Series: The Washington Nationals and Seattle Mariners.

These and other thoughts were ringing around in my head as the release date for Title Town approached. General thoughts and unique scenarios about the world of sports that occasionally slip under the radar or aren’t often brought up.

Consider the Cleveland Browns.

The funny reality is, you could argue they have been to the Super Bowl. You could even argue they’ve won it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Baltimore Ravens.

Sure… sure… small comfort to the folks in Cleveland. And yet, it also generates two pretty funny twists:

(1) The Ravens arrived in Baltimore for the 1996 NFL season. They brought the entire roster of the Browns along (with a new head coach, but we don’t need to wander down the Bill Belichick connection right now). Officially, they left everything related to the Cleveland Browns behind… team logo and colors, the records and history, and so on. Officially, the Browns basically took a break. But yeah… the entire roster, the ownership group, all of that moved. A continuity without continuity.

(2) Baltimore is one of the few cities that can claim two Super Bowl championship organizations, with the Colts winning Super Bowl V more than a decade before leaving the city for Indianapolis.

So… an organization basically moves its entire recognizable staff from one place to another, including the owners. In order to do that they supposedly leave the history behind… for an organization that doesn’t exist. And then… after more than a decade with no NFL team, a new city ends up with a title.

In one of the notes in the “Title Town” essay found in the book, Title Town (and other tangents), I point out that the Oakland Raiders are the only team to win a title for their city of… of course… Los Angeles. In fact, leaning for just a moment into that story, just as the Colts have titles for both Baltimore and Indianapolis, the Raiders have provided titles for Los Angeles and Oakland.

Want some more fun in LA? Ok. The Rams played there… went to a Super Bowl but lost, then moved to St. Louis. While in St. Louis, they played in two Super Bowls (winning one). Oakland in to LA, won a title, and then moved back out. The first team eventually filling the void in the LA market? The Rams. So, the Rams have spent more years in LA during the Super Bowl era than any other organization, won their title elsewhere, and yet LA does indeed have a Super Bowl win.

Sports can indeed by crazy, messy, chaotic and infuriating. And fans wouldn’t have it any other way.

The triumphs are sweet, but more often than not, it’s the misery of the losses that provide some of the best material.

The Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs all overcame incredible runs of championship frustration in the past fifteen years. The Cleveland Cavaliers brought a championship to their city for the first time in more than fifty years.

From those frustrations strengthen the hopes during the good times. The San Diego Chargers were leveled by the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XXIX. Steve Young tossed six touchdown passes in a 49-26 romp. And yet… before the game… there were people that fully believed Junior Seau was leading in a San Diego defense headed to victory.

Often, people say you don’t remember the losers. They’ll do things like asking you to name the five teams New England has defeated in their Super Bowl wins… or to quickly name four of the last five losers in the World Series. And there’s a lot of truth in such an accusation. (Because I’m mean, I’m not giving you the answer. Look it up on your own.)

But ask the fans of the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings about losing. Ask the fans of the Cleveland Indians how the fall season felt in 1995, 1997 and 2016. You’ll learn some fascinating things from the answers… and these are things that the fans of those teams are not the only ones to know.

(Ok… fine… I’m not mean. New England has defeated St. Louis, Carolina, Philadelphia, Seattle and Atlanta. As of this writing, the five World Series also-rans are Cleveland, New York (Mets), Kansas City, St. Louis and Detroit.)

Yes… the wins are memorable. Yes… we celebrate the winners. But it truly is the sour that creates the strongest of sweets.

We ask for that… the sweet and the sour. Or, more precisely, the winners and losers… heroes and villains. The higher the mountain to climb, the greater the view from the top. We want to believe Cinderella and underdogs and more can happen, even when they don’t.

One hundred years from now, some of these stories will have changed and swirled and become something else entirely. But rest assured… there will be stories. Only one team can win a championship every year. It would take, at best, thirty-two years for every NFL team to win one Super Bowl… thirty years for every MLB team win a World Series… thirty years for every NHL team to win a Stanley Cup… and thirty years in the NBA.

That means even in the most balanced of scenarios, there will be decades of frustration for some. And since “at best” is nice in theory but reality doesn’t work out that way, those decades will be amazing. Honestly, we probably should be fascinated by results such as out of thirty-two NFL organizations… with moves and expansion and so on… only four of the current teams have failed to claim at least one of the one hundred and two participant slots in a Super Bowl.

Will the Lions, Browns, Texans, Jaguars, Nationals, Mariners and more finally reach the final round and play for titles in professional sports? I don’t know. I would guess yes… but let’s face it, the Browns know first-hand that sometimes you might just win a Super Bowl without winning it… teams move, history continues.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com