Before you start reading this article, yes, I’m a Tampa Bay Rays fan. Yes, we do exist. Yes, people don’t attend Rays games. Yes, the Trop is a dump. Yes, we really don’t have a fan base. Anything else I missed?
The one thing that keeps me going is that we still have the one of the best third basemen in baseball, Evan Longoria…wait, he left? So we still have one of the best pitchers in baseball, David Price…he’s gone? Seriously? Well, we still have Ben Zobrist and Logan Forsythe, right? Oh come on, we lost all of them too?
This is the daily struggle of being a Tampa Bay Rays fan. I have to deal with a baseball team that can’t fill seats, make money, play in a nice stadium or keep star players.
The Rays have made me feel the highest of highs when we won the 2011 AL Wild Card on the last day of the season. They’ve also made me feel the lowest of lows, like when the front office traded away Evan Longoria towards the end of this past December.
A team has never made me cry tears of joy and sadness until the Rays came into my life. I’m not alone, though. The Rays are just one example of a team in sports purgatory.
What is sports purgatory you may ask?
It’s a collection of teams that are neither good or bad; they’re average franchises that basically hover around mediocrity. Sometimes they’ll make you think they could become an elite franchise, but they manage to let you down annually. In particular, several states and cities dominate this space.
The State of Florida
Take the two-time World Champion Florida Miami Marlins for example. The Marlins have been to the playoffs twice, thanks to the Wild Card, in 1997 and 2003, also their World Championship years, and the only times they’ve won 90 plus games in a season.
Yet, they had plenty of money to build a $600 million stadium where they leave the upper deck empty for most games because they can’t sell enough tickets.
For this, thank Jeffrey Loria. The art dealer turned owner who essentially kept the Marlins in mediocrity by fire selling the good players. The Marlins’ new regime, with Derek Jeter at the helm, has continued this by trading NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton and NL All-Star Marcell Ozuna in the 2017-2018 offseason, so enjoy an even emptier Marlins Park next year. Eerily similar to when the team got rid of future hall of fame Miguel Cabrera in the early 2000’s
The Marlins exemplify sports purgatory because even with championships, the franchise has found a way to remain mediocre for years.
There are currently nine professional Floridian sports teams in the Big Four (NHL, NFL, MLB, NBA) leagues. Four haven’t won a championship and two haven’t won a conference title.
We’re not including the Heat because of the “LeBron Rules”, since they had Lebron from 2010-2014 and went to four straight NBA Finals. We’re also not including the Lightning because they are a good hockey team with legitimate championship aspirations. However, the state if Florida is home to many franchise stuck in sports purgatory. The Magic just make you go, “bleh” every year, the Dolphins started JAY CUTLER at quarterback and the Buccaneers went from a team destined to make the playoffs to one fighting to hire Jon Gruden. Sports averageness at its finest.
Florida has a rival, Arizona. There are four Big Four professional sports teams in the state. Combined, they’ve won four conference championships and one world championship, that being the Diamondbacks in 2001, their fourth year of existence.
Even though the D-Backs and Marlins both defeated the Yankees in the World Series, the teams have a combined 15 winning seasons out of their 45 seasons of existence in the MLB.
Two-thirds of the time, they have finished the regular season with a losing record. They have a combined .480 winning percentage, showing that one championship is not enough to save you from purgatory.
The Coyotes have no titles because as a hockey team in the middle of a desert, it just really wouldn’t make sense for them to win one. The Suns are more like the Sunsets since Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire left, and the Cardinals have relied on quarterbacks who are too old and are hurt most of the time.
So congrats Arizona, you also have found a way to put all your franchises into purgatory. At least Arizona and Florida have Spring Training so they become tolerable one month of the year. Florida also has Walt Disney World while Arizona has sand. No competition there.
The District of Crumbling Hopes
While we’re in sports purgatory, let’s look at Washington D.C. sports, specifically the Capitals and Nationals. The Nats haven’t gotten past the NLDS even though everyone is always saying they’re “so good” and that Bryce Harper is the savior of the franchise.
The Caps haven’t gotten past the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs the last eleven times they’ve reached the playoffs even though everyone says they’re “so good” and that Alex Ovechkin is the savior of the franchise. It’s almost like the Caps and Nats are the same team. Also, D.C. is a cursed sports city, and by cursed I mean they’re choke artists.
We also can’t forget the Redskins, who have one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL and yet still find a way to only go 8-8 at best. Hail to the averageness.
The team that can’t even get to purgatory
Although there are plenty of other teams sitting in purgatory, we have to acknowledge a team so bad, they don’t deserve to be in sports purgatory: the Cleveland Browns. The Browns made the Cavs and Indians look good at their worst times.
The Browns have never been to a Super Bowl. This season, they became the second team in NFL history to record an 0-16 season, somehow making their 1-15 record last year seem way better.
Since their first year back to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have recorded two winning seasons and have reached the playoffs once.
The Browns are the definition of mediocrity and disappointment in sports. People that aren’t Browns fans feel bad for the Browns because they are so bad. If you are throwing a parade for not winning a game, you know something is going wrong.
Sports purgatory is a miserable place for both franchises and fans to spend their lives. For these places in particular, being mediocre seems to be as good as it will get.