Poised to become the first franchise in professional sports to tally 10,000 losses, the Philadelphia Phillies are teetering on the brink of record-setting infamy. And a silver lining might seem hard to come by.
But I say there's always a bright side.
In this age of overconsumption, consumer mass collection and even competitive eating disorders, I think we've become a nation that actually has reason to be proud of our biggest losers. Underdogs and bullied bums are the easiest to love these days. And so today -- if only for a day -- I say we take a look at the list of sports' biggest losers and throw a party in the cellar of statistical standings to celebrate the worst franchises of all time.
You're losers, baby. And with our thumb and index finger sympathetically slapped to our foreheads, we salute you.
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
Look what the Philles have done to their fans ... they've lost their minds!
One might say the city of Philadelphia woke up on the wrong side of baseball's bed. The Philadelphia Quakers lost their first game on record, in May 1883, and went on to set the tone for Philly's future with a lackluster 17-81 inaugural season. It's been pretty much all down Phil from there.
The last time the Phillies' all-time franchise record was above .500 was in May 1922 -- stamps cost 2 cents, Reader's Digest was in its first year of circulation, and Herbert McLean Evans had just discovered a little substance called human growth hormone.
Unfortunately, it came too late to juice the Phillies' success rate.
From 1918 through 1948, the Phillies had only one winning season, and 14 100-loss seasons -- including five straight from 1938-42. That'll kill ya. Today, the Phillies' franchise record is frozen at 8,807-9,999. But with guys like Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt on their all-time roster, you wouldn't think of the Phils first and foremost as baseball's most horrible franchise, would you? Forget the 10-grand distinction. Keep your chin up, Philly.
(Other Philadelphia Phlops: The Philadelphia Athletics hold the distinction of posting the worst single-season winning percentage (.235) of the modern MLB era after going 36-117 in 1916. And the worst record in an 82-game NBA regular season (9-73) was racked up by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1972-73.)
NBA: The Clippers (1970-2007)
Though the setting has changed, the results have remained very much the same. The Clippers' incompetence has been proven from East to West, in three different cities -- starting in 1970 as the Buffalo Braves. The squad notched only 259 wins over eight seasons (656 games) in Buffalo. Their worst season there was 1972-73, when they won only 21 of their 82 games.
With futility in tow, the fellas shipped off to Southern California in 1978 for six seasons chock full of more suffering. The San Diego Clips tallied only 186 wins in their 483 games.
In 1984, the Clippers moved north to Los Angeles, but things were hardly looking up. They had to wait until 1991-92 for their first winning season in 13 years. And their stint as the other basketball team in Los Angeles includes the ugly 1986-87 eye sore of a 12-70 record. Even in Hollywood, that kind of pain hurts.
In their 37 years of existence as a franchise, the present-day L.A. Clippers have made only four playoff appearances. Their winning percentage from 1970-2007 is .368 (the overall franchise record: 1,104-1,898). Those figures are the third-worst in the NBA, behind only the expansion-franchise Bobcats and Grizzlies.
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
Cardinals fans are desperately hoping Matt Leinart can turn the franchise around.
The Cardinals are one of only two charter members of the NFL still in existence today, so it's no wonder their loss tally is pretty stout. But you'd think their win total would be considerable too, right? Think again.
The Cards have only two NFL titles to their credit. Their first came way back in 1925, by default (after a somewhat shady disqualification decision by the league). In the 20 years after winning that title, the Cards posted only two winning seasons. Their second championship came 60 years ago, against the Eagles in 1947 (just a little more salt in those Philadelphia wounds).
The roaring '50s were nothing of the sort for the Cardinals, who mustered only 33 wins in those 10 years. In 1960, the team moved from Chicago to St. Louis and managed to squeak out a winning decade, going 67-63-8. But that would mark the end of their winning ways. The Cruds have been sinking successively deeper with each decade since -- posting a .479 winning percentage in the '70s, .408 in the '80s and .363 in the '90s.
Arizona Cards 2K haven't fared any better. They kicked off the new millennium with a sparkling 3-13 record, and from 2000-07 they've won only 35 of 112 games. Some things never change.
I guess the Cardinals are what we thought they were.
(Note: The Bears are the only other NFL team that dates back to 1920. By comparison, the Bears have notched 655 wins to the Cardinals' 455 in as many seasons. That's 210 more wins.
NHL: The Blackhawks (1926-2007)
It's hard to find hockey experts these days, but most will argue that the Blackhawks are the worst franchise in the sport's history. (In fact, in its Ultimate Standings, ESPN The Magazine once named the Blackhawks the worst franchise in all of sports.)
But then again, those folks are probably just salty about the consistently dismal decisions of Hawks owner Bill Wirtz. And rightfully so. The guy refuses to reward Chicago's deep dish of hockey fans. He was once even quoted as saying that Stanley Cups are "too expensive."
Although the Hawks' stats aren't all that bad -- they made the playoffs in 28 straight seasons from 1970-97 and have 13 divisional titles to their credit -- they still get the nod for being the worst on ice. Here's why: Since joining the NHL in 1926, the Hawks have nabbed only three championships (in 1934, 1938 and 1961), meaning Chicago hasn't hoisted Lord Stanley's Cup in more than 45 years. (That's presently the NHL's longest drought.) And that doesn't even make sense, considering Chicago had Bobby Hull -- a.k.a. "The Golden Jet" -- for 15 seasons. The biscuit was in the basket, but the Cup was one-and-done in the Hull years.
Fast-forward to recent history, and Chicago fans still have reason to cry in their sweaters. In the seven years before the 2005 lockout, the Hawks missed the playoffs six times. In the two seasons since, the Hawks missed the playoffs both times.
Hey Chicago, at least you're not subjected to the misery on ice at home via television. That pesky local blackout is just the Wirtz family's way of looking out for you.
Mary Buckheit is a Page 2 columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.