April 3, 2013

Dubious Distinctions: Losing is What We Do Best

By - Brad Heerschop

To follow up with last week's column, today we are going to delve into the longest losing streaks in the history of the four major sporting leagues; the NBA, MLB, NFL and NHL.

Most sports fans love the story of the underdog. That is, until those dreadful teams flirt with history. Call it what you will, but myself and many others alike live to see records broken. Even if these records are for atrocious play, as opposed to incredible success.

Photo by: Getty Images
In recent years, there have been many historically dismal moments in professional sports. We had the pleasure of watching the 2008 Detroit Lions finish the season at 0-16. We saw the 2003 Detroit Tigers lose 119 games, the most in American League history. Most recently, fans like myself were thrilled to see the sorry 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats go 7-59, for a .106 winning percentage, the worst in NBA history.

Unless you are a fan of these teams, you are lying if you tell me that their dismal play didn't make you happy, in some sick way. If you are adamant that losing streaks have no entertainment value whatsoever, this is your cue to stop reading.

The 2010-11 Cleveland Cavaliers hold the equivocal record of longest winless streak in the NBA, at 26 games. Not coincidentally, this streak began the same year as Lebron James' infamous departure from Cleveland. Under new head coach Byron Scott, the Cavs losing streak stretched from December 20th, 2010 until February 11th, 2011. Cleveland would finish the season at 19-63, the second worst record in the Association. Ironically enough, the Cavaliers broke their own mark, previously set at 24 games.

The 1889 Louisville Cardinals lost 26-consecutive professional baseball games, while playing in the American Association. The club finished the year at 27-111 (last in the league) and became the first team to lose 100 games in a season.

Although the AA would work with the National League to form an early version of the World Series, this is not considered the record in the World Series era of Major League Baseball. The 1961 Philadelphia Phillies are the proud holders of that distinction, entertaining cynical fans with their 23-game mid-season skid.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold the NFL's longest losing streak at 26 games. Although this number is equivalent to the NBA and MLB number, it is perhaps the most laughable streak. Many fans are aware that the Bucs lost all 14 games in 1976, their inaugural season. You may not be aware that they went on to lose their first 12 games of the 1977 season as well. Tampa Bay was long considered the laughing stock of the league, largely in part to their early failures. If you were not lucky enough to witness the '76 and '77 Bucs, I suggest you search for some video of them. What you will find is nothing short of hilarious. Nearly two full seasons of classic NFL bloopers.

In the NHL, the 1980-81 Winnipeg Jets made their place in hockey history with the longest winless streak to date. For a period of 30 games, the Jets came up empty in the win column, with 23 losses and 7 ties. Winnipeg finished the season at 9-57-14, racking up a whopping 32 points along the way. That put them last in the league, 24 points behind any other team.

Notably, since it's the only sport that had ties factor in, two teams share the record for consecutive losses in the NHL. The 1974-75 Washington Capitals and 1992-93 San Jose Sharks both lost 17-straight tilts.

If your favorite team is mentioned somewhere above, I imagine the record is a point of contention for you. Like myself, you can cheer on other brutal teams to one day take their place in the record books.

As a Redskins fan, anytime I see an NFL game start to get out of hand, a large part of me wants to see an 80-0 rout at the hands of any other team. Anything that bests the 73-0 record drubbing the Bears laid on Washington in the 1944 NFL Championship Game would be a very warm welcome. When people talk of teams "running up the score," I sit back and smile. My dream will eventually come true.

One can only hope.


  1. I think the Bucs were the biggest joke of the group. They didn't even remotely resemble a professional sports team those first two years.

  2. Ed, I agree 100%. Andy, thanks man. Appreciate it.