Which sports city is the saddest sports city of all? You're expecting us to say Cleveland. But it is not Cleveland. As it turns out, several Wire staffers come from very sad cities to be a sports fan; cities with the sort of sadness that makes one scoff at the fact that at least Cleveland got its precious (and still terrible) Browns to come back to them. So below, we present to you the best cases for why our hometowns are where sports franchise miracles go to die. And also, David Sims wanted to write about New York City.
New York City
Yeah, I hear you yelling from over here. The Yankees have a gazillion trophies and every time they throw money at stars and it doesn't pay off, the rest of the world celebrates! And the Giants have pulled off two improbable Super Bowl runs in the last seven years. FINE. But I don't care about teams in New Jersey (bye, NFL) and I hate the Yankees. The last time my Mets won the World Series (1986) was the year I was born, and now I root for a team that was bankrupted by Bernie Madoff and doesn't even have fan support from people who live next to its STADIUM.
My truest love is the Knicks, who have won two titles in their history, the last in 1973, and are universally regarded as having the worst owner in the league. [Ed. note: Well, now anyway.] The Knicks are the team that forged me in sports fan misery with their '94 Finals loss to the Rockets and '95 playoffs knockout by the Pacers. Yes, both the Mets and the Knicks have had their chances and blown ridiculous contract after ridiculous contract on over-the-hill superstars. But isn't it worse to have all the potential and money that comes with being a New York team and fail again and again? What's that? You want me to shut up? Oh, okay. - David Sims
What's the fourth-biggest city in the country? Phoenix? Philadelphia? After the Big Three, it gets a little muddled. Enter the self-esteem crisis that is Houston, Texas, a city with no universally recognized skyline, buildings, or attributes. Austin has its music, Dallas has its Cowboys, San Antonio has its Alamo, and Houston has no zoning.
This dearth of regard carries over most forcefully into sports, where Houston is, historically, the saddest of the sad. A football town in a football state, the Houston Oilers never once made the Super Bowl, blew the largest lead ever (in a playoff game no less), and fled town for Tennessee. Their replacements, the Houston Texans, lost 14 straight games last year. Their baseball team, the Astros (or Lastros or Disastros) made the World Series one time in five decades and were swept. In the last three seasons, the Astros became the only team in baseball's modern era to lose 100 games or more in the three consecutive years.
Houston's only championships are known best by their asterisk. Even the greatest glories that the Houston Rockets attained—Olajuwon over Ewing in 1994, Olajuwon over David Robinson on his way to besting Shaq in 1995—are obscured by one simple historical fact: Michael Jordan was off batting .202 in Birmingham when the Clutch City captured its two rings. That was 20 years ago. Meanwhile, Houston itself remains sad and unrecognizable. — Adam Chandler
The entire country of Canada
OK, let's get this out of the way quickly: Canada is not a city. It is, perhaps unbelievably, a rather large country. It does not have enough sports teams across the Big Four leagues to count in this discussion, though, so we consider Canada one solid, sad whole. A solid, sad whole that has not seen a Big Four title since 1993, when the Blue Jays won the World Series and the Montreal Canadiens became the last Canadian team to hoist the country's holy grail, the Stanley Cup. It has been nothing but gut punch after gut punch for the last 21 years. Grantland examined the most heartbreaking times Canada came to ending the Stanley Cup drought, and there are plenty. Read that if you need some schadenfreude to fill your afternoon, and then send it to your favorite Canadian friend and watch his or her face turn bright purple. (Most of my friends will read that and cry like babies. Me? I'm a Rangers fan — I've been public enemy #1 for the last two weeks and it felt great.)
But the heartbreak doesn't stop off the ice. Canada has other major sports teams, too. Or should I say "had"? Vancouver had a basketball team, the Grizzlies, who moved to Memphis in 2001 after seven short years of futility. The Montreal Expos would have been the favorites to win the 1994 World Series, with a roster of names who went on to Hall-of-Fame careers playing for other teams, if a work stoppage didn't cut the season short with the 'Spos in first place. Ten years later, the team moved to Washington, D.C. without ever winning a pennant. The two surviving non-hockey teams, the Toronto Raptors and Blue Jays, haven't fared much better. The Raptors had a hero — and then they ran him out of town, and this year they got punked by Brooklyn in the playoffs. The Blue Jays haven't seen the post season since winning it all in 1993.
Some people want to move an NFL team to Toronto, which seems like a great idea on the surface. Toronto could support an NFL team, probably. The city is full of bandwagon fans anyway. But if it means more pain for my dear friend Joe and the city of Buffalo [see below], forget it. They've suffered enough. - Connor Simpson
In most ways, Jacksonville is more of an incredibly lucky place than a sad one. The city, just on that precipice of becoming a Major American Metropolis, has its own NFL team. That's really exciting! But instead of being allowed to enjoy that peacefully, Jacksonville has become a target of mockery across the country for its struggles with attendance and filling out its stadium. The Jaguars had awful attendance problems in 2009, when seven of eight home games were blacked out. Yikes. That essentially made Jacksonville synonymous with blackouts and attendance issues. "Oh hey, look it's the Jaguars' only fan!" is a common lame comeback from trash-talking fans of other teams.
In the proceeding years, though, it's become clear that this was not a problem specific to Jacksonville. Teams across the country — Tampa Bay, Miami, San Diego, Oakland — have had trouble selling out their stadiums, particularly in warm places where the majority of people grew up elsewhere rooting for another team. It's fairly obvious why: going to games sucks. Watching at home is free. There is better internet to check your fantasy teams. Beers don't cost $9.
The Jaguars haven't had any blackouts since 2009, a string of four consecutive years. Still, despite the fact that ticket problems are in every city, the Jaguars remain the butt of every attendance joke. It's unfair and rude, but it still is frustrating when another idiot ESPN talking head says to sign Tebow because he'll put fans in the seats, and Jacksonville really needs that! No. Jacksonville does not need that. Not anymore than a number of other cities and teams. And that makes me sad when people diss Jacksonville for dumb, ignorant reasons. — Eric Levenson
Let me set the scene: It's 1997, and the new owner of Connecticut's single major league team, the NHL's Hartford Whalers, is moving the hockey team to the Carolinas (where of course there's a HUGE hockey fan base, ha ha). Kevin Dineen scores the team's final goal, the Whalers become the Carolina Hurricanes, and Hartford suffers its biggest heartbreak since the team traded Ron Francis. Sad story (see: image at right), especially for a kid who grew up going to Whalers games, right? It gets worse.
Fast forward to one year later. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has agreed to move the Patriots to Hartford from the team's aging Foxboro Stadium in Massachusetts. Although I'm a hockey and not a football fan, this is still pretty cool: unlike the Whalers, the Patriots actually have a chance of doing well (or even getting to the playoffs). The state's governor — whom many suspected always wanted to woo the Patriots, instead of keeping the Whalers — announced the deal in a joint press conference with Kraft. But two days before Kraft's deadline to pull out of the signed deal without penalty, the team announces that just kidding, they'll stay in Massachusetts after all, thanks to a pretty sweet counter offer worked up by the state once the fire was under their feet. What's it like to root for a team that may have used your city as a stepping stone to the deal they always wanted? Hartford knows.
There's a Guy Maddin film called My Winnipeg that is in no small part about the narrator's (and the city's) anguish after the loss of their beloved Jets. I saw it once, in an audience full of Hartford residents, and you could taste the sad empathy in the room. Except Winnipeg eventually got its Jets back. Hartford, on the other hand, is facing the possibility of even losing its minor league hockey team in the near future. But still, fitting with the heartbreaking OFFICIAL MOTTO OF THE CITY OF HARTFORD, "post nubila Phoebus" (after the clouds, the sun), fans still keep watch, hoping that maybe, just maybe, this is the season that an NHL hockey franchise will be lured back home. - Abby Ohlheiser
Buffalo is the saddest, most victimized, most put-upon and tortured sports city in America. I honestly can't believe we're having this conversation. Probably the only reason we are is because the NFL's Bills have been bottom-dwellers for so long that people have started to take their failure for granted. Back in the '90s, Buffalo's four consecutive Super Bowl losses made the city synonymous with sports futility. The true tragedy of the Buffalo sports fan, however, lies in the people who every year come back with the glimmer of hope that this is the year things all turn around. I call those people "Dad."
Buffalo is merely a two-sport town, so sometimes their futility gets lost amid cities like Cleveland and Minneapolis who have been failing in more sports. But sports failure is about quality, not quantity. And between the Bills and the NHL's Sabres, Buffalo has reaped the following: Four consecutive Super Bowl losses, one of which occurred after an agonizing missed field goal on the final play, a game so notorious it managed to inspire the plots of a Jim Carrey movieand a Vincent Gallo movie, not to mention a throwaway line in one of the most famous X-Files episodes of all time, wherein it was revealed that the Cigarette Smoking Man was responsible for the Bills' historic failures; Suffered a six-month span in 1999-2000 wherein the Bills lost a playoff game via the most improbable [Ed. Note: probably illegal] football play since the Immaculate Reception AND lost the Stanley Cup Finals via a goal that VERY CLEARLY should not have been allowed. The Bills won back-to-back AFL titles in 1964 and 1965 ... the last two years before the Super Bowl existed. The Sabres squandered the best record in the NHL in 2006/07. They've failed to deliver titles to all-time great athletes like Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, and Dominik Hasek. The most famous athlete to have ever played in Buffalo was O.J. Simpson. We're constantly victimized by weather bigotry, where talented players won't play in the cold weather. We're constantly under threat of our team leaving the comparably small and less prosperous Buffalo for apathetic nightmare towns like Toronto and Los Angeles. Jon Bon Jovi and Donald Trump want to buy the Bills AS WE SPEAK. I honestly could go on, but let's boil things back down to the basics: four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Vincent Gallo. O.J. Simpson. — Joe Reid
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
Five days after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, its devastating impact is becoming clearer.
Five days after Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, its devastating impact is becoming clearer. Most of the U.S. territory currently has no electricity or running water, fewer than 250 of the island’s 1,600 cellphone towers are operational, and damaged ports, roads, and airports are slowing the arrival and transport of aid. Communication has been severely limited and some remote towns are only now being contacted. Jenniffer Gonzalez, the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, told the Associated Press that Hurricane Maria has set the island back decades.
The greatest threats to free speech in America come from the state, not from activists on college campuses.
The American left is waging war on free speech. That’s the consensus from center-left to far right; even Nazis and white supremacists seek to wave the First Amendment like a bloody shirt. But the greatest contemporary threat to free speech comes not from antifa radicals or campus leftists, but from a president prepared to use the power and authority of government to chill or suppress controversial speech, and the political movement that put him in office, and now applauds and extends his efforts.
The most frequently cited examples of the left-wing war on free speech are the protests against right-wing speakers that occur on elite college campuses, some of which have turned violent.New York’s Jonathan Chait has described the protests as a “war on the liberal mind” and the “manifestation of a serious ideological challenge to liberalism—less serious than the threat from the right, but equally necessary to defeat.” Most right-wing critiques fail to make such ideological distinctions, and are far more apocalyptic—some have unironically proposed state laws that define how universities are and are not allowed to govern themselves in the name of defending free speech.
A small group of programmers wants to change how we code—before catastrophe strikes.
There were six hours during the night of April 10, 2014, when the entire population of Washington State had no 911 service. People who called for help got a busy signal. One Seattle woman dialed 911 at least 37 times while a stranger was trying to break into her house. When he finally crawled into her living room through a window, she picked up a kitchen knife. The man fled.
The 911 outage, at the time the largest ever reported, was traced to software running on a server in Englewood, Colorado. Operated by a systems provider named Intrado, the server kept a running counter of how many calls it had routed to 911 dispatchers around the country. Intrado programmers had set a threshold for how high the counter could go. They picked a number in the millions.
A growing body of research debunks the idea that school quality is the main determinant of economic mobility.
One of the most commonly taught stories American schoolchildren learn is that of Ragged Dick, Horatio Alger’s 19th-century tale of a poor, ambitious teenaged boy in New York City who works hard and eventually secures himself a respectable, middle-class life. This “rags to riches” tale embodies one of America’s most sacred narratives: that no matter who you are, what your parents do, or where you grow up, with enough education and hard work, you too can rise the economic ladder.
A body of research has since emerged to challenge this national story, casting the United States not as a meritocracy but as a country where castes are reinforced by factors like the race of one’s childhood neighbors and how unequally income is distributed throughout society. One such study was published in 2014, by a team of economists led by Stanford’s Raj Chetty. After analyzing federal income tax records for millions of Americans, and studying, for the first time, the direct relationship between a child’s earnings and that of their parents, they determined that the chances of a child growing up at the bottom of the national income distribution to ever one day reach the top actually varies greatly by geography. For example, they found that a poor child raised in San Jose, or Salt Lake City, has a much greater chance of reaching the top than a poor child raised in Baltimore, or Charlotte. They couldn’t say exactly why, but they concluded that five correlated factors—segregation, family structure, income inequality, local school quality, and social capital—were likely to make a difference. Their conclusion: America is land of opportunity for some. For others, much less so.
One hundred years ago, a retail giant that shipped millions of products by mail moved swiftly into the brick-and-mortar business, changing it forever. Is that happening again?
Amazon comes to conquer brick-and-mortar retail, not to bury it. In the last two years, the company has opened 11 physical bookstores. This summer, it bought Whole Foods and its 400 grocery locations. And last week, the company announced a partnership with Kohl’s to allow returns at the physical retailer’s stores.
Why is Amazon looking more and more like an old-fashioned retailer? The company’s do-it-all corporate strategy adheres to a familiar playbook—that of Sears, Roebuck & Company. Sears might seem like a zombie today, but it’s easy to forget how transformative the company was exactly 100 years ago, when it, too, was capitalizing on a mail-to-consumer business to establish a physical retail presence.
The foundation of Donald Trump’s presidency is the negation of Barack Obama’s legacy.
It is insufficient to statethe obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact. With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them. Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it. Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House. Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds. No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.
How could six senior presidential aides mimic the strategy for which Trump lacerated Hillary Clinton? Only if they believe they are as immune to the usual rules as he is.
Updated on September 25 at 8:20 p.m.
Late Sunday night, Josh Dawsey of Politico dropped a story that, in any other administration, would have been cause for concern but hardly surprise.
“Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner has corresponded with other administration officials about White House matters through a private email account set up during the transition last December,” Dawsey wrote. “Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, set up their private family domain late last year before moving to Washington from New York, according to people with knowledge of events as well as publicly available internet registration records.”
Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy sparred with Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar on CNN hours after their bill dismantling Obamacare appeared to collapse.
Ordinarily, you debate to stave off defeat. But for Senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy on Monday night, the defeat came first.
By the time the two GOP senators stepped on CNN’s stage Monday night for a prime-time debate over their health-care proposal, they knew they had already lost.
A few hours earlier, Senator Susan Collins became the third Republican to formally reject the pair’s legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, effectively killing its chances for passage through the Senate this week. Graham and Cassidy had hoped to use the forum to make a closing argument for their plan, and to line it up against Senator Bernie Sanders and his call for a single-payer, “Medicare-for-All” health-care system. Instead, the two senators found themselves defending a proposal that was no less hypothetical—and probably much less popular—than Sanders’s supposed liberal fantasy.
His delicate new song makes the problems of fame shockingly relatable.
If ever there were a time when the world could use more songs about the stresses of being rich and famous, the era of Drake and Taylor Swift 2.0 would not seem to be it. And yet even the most played-out topic can be made interesting again through talent and craftsmanship, as Chance the Rapper reminded America Monday night on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
The 24-year-old Chicagoan told Colbert, with whom he recently collaborated on the politically-charged opening medley for the Emmys, that the song he was about to premiere was written entirely in the last few days. On one hand, a quick turnaround might explain the spare sound and straightforward structure of the untitled track. But on the other, it’s mindbendingly impressive if the tune’s bracing poetry and melody wereindeed just tossed-off.
More comfortable online than out partying, post-Millennials are safer, physically, than adolescents have ever been. But they’re on the brink of a mental-health crisis.
One day last summer, around noon, I called Athena, a 13-year-old who lives in Houston, Texas. She answered her phone—she’s had an iPhone since she was 11—sounding as if she’d just woken up. We chatted about her favorite songs and TV shows, and I asked her what she likes to do with her friends. “We go to the mall,” she said. “Do your parents drop you off?,” I asked, recalling my own middle-school days, in the 1980s, when I’d enjoy a few parent-free hours shopping with my friends. “No—I go with my family,” she replied. “We’ll go with my mom and brothers and walk a little behind them. I just have to tell my mom where we’re going. I have to check in every hour or every 30 minutes.”
Those mall trips are infrequent—about once a month. More often, Athena and her friends spend time together on their phones, unchaperoned. Unlike the teens of my generation, who might have spent an evening tying up the family landline with gossip, they talk on Snapchat, the smartphone app that allows users to send pictures and videos that quickly disappear. They make sure to keep up their Snapstreaks, which show how many days in a row they have Snapchatted with each other. Sometimes they save screenshots of particularly ridiculous pictures of friends. “It’s good blackmail,” Athena said. (Because she’s a minor, I’m not using her real name.) She told me she’d spent most of the summer hanging out alone in her room with her phone. That’s just the way her generation is, she said. “We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”