The hardest team to love

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OK, this is not exactly a baseball post … but I got into a bit of Twitter spat about the hardest team to love in sports.To me: There is one and only one correct answer to this. And it’s really pretty easy.

I grew up in Cleveland, so I can say without question that that hardest PLACE in America to be a sports fan is Cleveland. That’s the collective power of the Indians, Browns and Cavaliers, who all have added to the city’s sports misery the last 50 years.

But if we are talking about one team … there’s no doubt in my mind that the hardest team to love is the Kansas City Royals. I don’t think any other team is even close. Yes, sure, it’s hard to love the San Diego Padres and the New York Mets and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes, the Cubs have their endless curse and Washington has a football owner who will break your spirit and teams like the Milwaukee Brewers and Phoenix Coyotes and Toronto Raptors and Miami Marlins (or whatever they are called now) are so forgettable that, well, you forget how hard it is to be a fan.

But the Royals … well, let’s put it this way: If you are 35 or younger, you do not have a memory of the Kansas City Royals making the playoffs. I’m not talking about championships here or reaching the World Series. I’m talking simply MAKING THE PLAYOFFS. What’s worse, the Royals have not even CONTENDED for a playoff spot in 25 years. This is something no other fan — not Cubs fans, not Pirates fans, not Clippers fans, not any other fan — can relate to.

To illustrate this, I put together a list of every team in baseball, football, basketball and hockey and how often them made the playoffs. Obviously, it’s easier to make the playoffs in the NBA and NHL than in the NFL and certainly in baseball. The point, however, holds. You will note the only team at the bottom:

Los Angeles Lakers: 26 (7 titles, 4 runner-up)
Detroit Red Wings: 26 (4 Stanley Cups, 2 runner-up)
San Antonio Spurs: 26 (4 titles, 1 runner-up)

Boston Bruins: 23 (1 Stanley Cup, 3 runner-up)
Utah Jazz: 23 (2 runner-up)
St. Louis Blues: 23

Chicago Bulls: 22 (6 titles)
Portland Trail Blazers: 22 (2 runner-up)

New Jersey Devils: 21 (3 Stanley Cups, 2 runner-up)
Montreal Canadiens: 21 (2 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Philadelphia Flyers: 21 (3 runner-up)
Indiana Pacers: 21 (1 runner-up)
Washington Capitals: 21 (1 runner-up)

Pittsburgh Penguins: 20 (3 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Houston Rockets: 20 (2 titles, 1 runner-up)

Detroit Pistons: 19 (3 titles, 2 runner-up)
Miami Heat: 19 (3 titles, 1 runner-up)
Boston Celtics: 19 (2 titles, 2 runner-up)
Chicago Blackhawks: 19 (2 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Phoenix Suns: 19 (1 runner-up)

New York Rangers: 18 (1 Stanley Cup)
New York Knicks: 18 (2 runner-up)
Atlanta Hawks: 18

New York Yankees: 17 (5 World Series, 2 pennants)
San Francisco 49ers: 17 (3 Super Bowls, 1 runner-up)
Atlanta Braves: 17 (1 World Series, 4 pennants)
Dallas Mavericks: 17 (1 title, 1 runner-up)
Vancouver Canucks: 17 (2 runner-up)
Buffalo Sabres: 17 (1 runner-up)
Denver Nuggets: 17
San Jose Sharks: 17

New England Patriots: 16 (3 Super Bowls, 4 runner-up)
Green Bay Packers: 16 (2 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
Indianapolis Colts: 16 (1 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
Los Angeles Kings: 16 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)
Philadelphia Eagles: 16 (1 runner-up)

Denver Broncos: 15 (2 Super Bowls, 4 runner-up)
Pittsburgh Steelers: 15 (2 Super Bowls, 2 runner-up)
Calgary Flames: 15 (1 Stanley Cup, 2 runner-up)
Philadelphia 76ers: 15 (1 runner-up)
Minnesota Vikings: 15
Toronto Maple Leafs: 15

Boston Red Sox: 14 (3 World Series, 1 pennant)
Edmonton Oilers: 14 (3 Stanley Cups, 1 runner-up)
Orlando Magic: 14 (2 runner-up)
Cleveland Cavaliers: 14 (1 runner-up)
Ottawa Senators: 14 (1 runner-up)
Milwaukee Bucks: 14

Colorado Avalanche: 13 (2 Stanley Cups)
Dallas Stars: 13 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)

New York Giants: 12 (4 Super Bowls, 1 runner-up)
St. Louis Cardinals: 12 (2 World Series, 3 pennants)
Kansas City Chiefs: 12

Oakland A’s: 11 (1 World Series, 2 pennants)
Seattle Seahawks: 11 (1 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
New York Islanders: 11

Anaheim Ducks: 10 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)
New Orleans Saints 10 (1 Super Bowl)
Buffalo Bills: 10 (4 runner-up)
Chicago Bears: 10 (1 runner-up)
Miami Dolphins: 10
Sacramento Kings: 10

Baltimore Ravens: 9 (2 Super Bowls)
Washington Hogs: 9 (2 Super Bowls)
Atlanta Falcons: 9 (1 runner-up)
San Diego Chargers: 9 (1 runner-up)
New York Jets: 9
Charlotte Hornets/Bobcats: 9
Washington Wizards/Bullets: 9

San Francisco Giants: 8 (2 World Series, 2 pennants)
Minnesota Twins: 8 (2 World Series)
Cleveland Indians: 8 (2 pennants)
Los Angeles Dodgers: 8 (1 World Series)
Golden State Warriors: 8
Minnesota Timberwolves: 8
Phoenix Coyotes: 8

Los Angeles Angels: 7 (1 World Series)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 7 (1 Super Bowl)
Tampa Bay Lightning: 7 (1 Stanley Cup)
Cincinnati Bengals: 8 (1 runner-up)
Houston Astros: 7 (1 pennant)
Detroit Lions: 7
Los Angeles Clippers: 7
Memphis Grizzlies: 7
Nashville Predators: 7
Winnipeg Jets: 7 (none so far as NEW Jets)

Philadelphia Phillies: 6 (1 World Series, 1 pennant)
Texas Rangers: 6 (2 pennants)
Tennessee Titans: 6 (1 runner-up)
Oakland Raiders: 6 (1 runner-up)
Cleveland Browns: 6
Jacksonville Jaguars: 6
Toronto Raptors: 6

New York Mets: 5 (1 World Series, 1 pennant)
Carolina Hurricanes: 5 (1 Stanley Cup, 1 runner-up)
Cincinnati Reds: 5 (1 World Series, 1 pennant)
St. Louis Rams: 5 (1 Super Bowl, 1 runner-up)
Arizona Diamondbacks: 5 (1 World Series)
Detroit Tigers: 5 (2 pennants)
Carolina Panthers: 5 (1 runner-up)
Oklahoma City Thunder: 5 (1 runner-up)
Chicago Cubs: 5
Minnesota Wild: 5 (North Stars 5 more including 1 runner-up)
New Orleans Pelicans/Hornets: 5

Toronto Blue Jays: 4 (2 World Series)
Chicago White Sox: 4 (1 World Series)
Florida Panthers: 4 (1 runner-up)
San Diego Padres: 4 (1 pennant)
Tampa Bay Rays: 4
Seattle Mariners: 4
Pittsburgh Pirates: 4

Colorado Rockies: 3 (1 pennant)
Arizona Cardinals: 3 (1 runner-up)
Baltimore Orioles: 3

Miami Marlins: 2 (2 World Series)
Houston Texans: 2 (Houston Oilers another 7)
Brooklyn Nets: 2 (New Jersey Nets another 11 including 2 runner-up)
Columbus Blue Jackets: 2
Milwaukee Brewers: 2

Washington Nationals: 1

Kansas City Royals: 0

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.