The Cavaliers are NBA champions, and the City of Cleveland has been bumped from a dubious list it dominated for decades.
With the Cavs' improbable seven-game series victory over the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland earned its first major pro sports championship in 52 years, finally rebuking Bill Simmons' once-plausible claim that God hates that city.
Less than 24 hours after the Cavs' Game 7 win, ESPN compiled a list of nominees for the new saddest sports city in America.The cities considered: San Diego, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.
Not pictured: Phoenix.
Why? Because ESPN made its list based on the number of years since that city's last world championship among its Big 4 (MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL) teams. Since the Arizona Diamondbacks won a World series "just" 15 years ago, Phoenix is disqualified.
Sorry, ESPN, but that's a tad shortsighted. A number of other factors should be considered when compiling such a list -- and when all of those factors are considered, Phoenix has a rightful claim as the saddest of the sad. Here's the full argument I made before the Cavs won the Finals.
Look: If you want to argue that San Diego, Buffalo, Atlanta (which should also be considered) or another city has it worse than Valley sports fans do, no one will stop you. But here are five reasons why Phoenix has a compelling case for moniker of Saddest Sports Town in the United States.
1. Quantity over quality.
With all due respect to San Diego, Buffalo and Cincinnati: Our Big 4 teams do twice as much losing as yours do, simply because we have twice as many.
Each of those cities has just those two Big 4 teams apiece. We in Phoenix -- one of 13 cities/regions with at least one of each Big 4 squad -- are constantly reminded of our teams' year-round futility, especially when our NBA and NHL teams are out golfing and fishing before the first round of the postseason begins.
Yes, you can argue it's more painful to not have a team to root for -- but 25 U.S. states don't have any Big 4 pro teams to speak of. It can always be worse.
2. The total lack of titles.
No, Arizona's championship drought hasn't been as long as those in other cities -- but the D-backs' 2001 title remains the one and only Big 4 title in Arizona state history.
For comparison's sake, Minneapolis' last championship came in 1991 via the Twins, who had already won a title four years earlier -- and in D.C., the Redskins have won three Super Bowls (1982, '87 and '91) and the then-Washington Bullets won the 1978 NBA championship. There's something to be said for nostalgia, something the Valley has very little of in terms of sports success.
3. What might have been...
This mostly applies to the Suns, who have a brutal number of what-ifs in their history that we documented here.Specifically, the 1992-93 Suns and 2006-07 Suns made one writer's list of the top 20 NBA teams that didn't win it all.
But we can also talk about the Cardinals, who were less than a minute away from their first-ever Super Bowl victory in 2009 and perhaps a Carson Palmer injury away from a championship in 2014. The Valley's sports history is filled with more regret than championships.
4. What have you done for me lately?
If it wasn't for the Cardinals, we AZ sports fans wouldn't have much to look forward to right now. The Suns and Coyotes have missed the playoffs six years and four years in a row, respectively -- an alarming fact when you consider a majority of NBA and NHL teams make the postseason each year. The new-look D-backs were supposed to be NL West contenders, but nearly midway through the season, they're well below .500.
For Valley sports fans, it's not just the losing that hurts; it's the lack of hope -- well, realistic hope -- that things will turn around in the near future. Save us, Bruce Arians.
Is the Arizona Coyotes' saga ever really over? Every year since 2009, loyal Yotes fans -- and yes, there are plenty of them -- have made an emotional investment in the club in spite of the very real possibility that it could leave for Ontario, Seattle, Quebec, Las Vegas and a host of other North American locations yearning for hockey.
But that's not the only possible relocation scenario that has loomed over the heads of AZ sports fans. If Arizonans hadn't voted in favor of Proposition302by a narrow 52-48 percent margin 16 years ago, the Arizona Cardinals might have become the L.A. Cardinals. For Valley sports fans, the fear of abandonment has been a constant one.