A look at the teams in major sports that probably won’t be
playing for the league title this year…
LOSING STREAK: This team is a perpetual cellar-dweller. The Lions have made the playoffs just twice in the last 15 years. In 2008, they set a dubious record with a record of 0-16, the first NFL team to have a perfect imperfect season. (And the next season they went 2-14.)
ALMOST: Before the NFL and AFL merged into one league in the 1960s, the Lions won four NFL championships. But post-merger, the farthest they’ve ever got was the 1991 NFC conference title game. They were steamrolled by the Washington Redskins 41 to 10.
TEAM: Cleveland Browns
LOSING STREAK: Like the Lions, the Browns were very successful in the pre-merger days, with four NFL titles in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Ever since, the Browns have made the playoffs 11 times in 41 seasons.
ALMOST: Of those 11 postseason appearances, the Browns made it to the conference finals three times, in 1986, 1987, and 1989. All three times they were defeated by the Denver Broncos.
TEAM: Minnesota Timberwolves
LOSING STREAK: The team began play in 1989…and finished its first seven seasons with a losing record. After that, it started another streak—making the playoffs for seven straight years…and getting knocked out in the first round every time.
ALMOST: That eighth year, however, looked to be the Timberwolves’ season—they had the best record in the Western Conference and made it to the 2004 conference finals. And then they were knocked out by the Los Angeles Lakers (who used to be based in Minneapolis, where they won five NBA titles).
TEAM: Seattle Mariners.
LOSING STREAK: From its inception in 1977 through to the mid-‘90s, the Mariners had a winning season just once, and barely: 82-80 in 1993.
ALMOST: In 1995, however, Major League Baseball moved to a four-team playoff system, and the Mariners eked in as the “wild card” team. They beat the heavily favored Yankees in the first round, but lost to the Cleveland Indians in the American League finals. They were a playoff contender after that, and were heavily favored to win the World Series in 2001, when they won 116 games, the most in MLB history. Nevertheless, they were knocked out in the first round.
TEAM: Washington Nationals
LOSING STREAK: Only two Major League Baseball teams have never made it to the World Series: the Mariners, and the Washington Nationals. From 1969 to 2004, the team was based in Canada, and played as the Montreal Expos. They made the playoffs once, in 1981, but lost the National League Championship Series to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
ALMOST: The Expos were a favorite to win the 1994 World Series. That year, the team had a .649 winning percentage, and by far the best record in the league. What happened? Major League Baseball players went on strike in August 1994…which ended the season, and the cancelled the World Series.