New Orleans and Twin Cities share championship hopes -- and droughts
New Orleans and the Twin Cities are connected by more than the Mississippi River alone. While the two (or rather, three) American cities are geographical beneficiaries of the Old Man's bountiful waters, the cities' pro sporting markets are inversely connected as two of the nation's driest destinations for championship hardware.
When the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series in 2008, our T.C. adopted the ignominious title of being the country's four-sport totting market with the longest championship drought. Of course, it's been since the Twins' World Series win in 1991 that we've been able to celebrate a title.
When the Vikings and Saints meet for Sunday's (5:40 Central) NFC Championship, the showdown will offer more than just two teams who stomped their respective opponent in the
Divisional round, and the NFL's two highest-scoring offenses. It will also present two of the league's six longest droughts for a Super Bowl appearance. Since the first Super Bowl in 1966, only Detroit and Cleveland have waited longer than the Saints to play on Super Sunday. While the Lions appeared in the NFL Championship (and won) in 1957 and the Browns appeared in the 1965 NFL Championship (and lost) those teams, like New Orleans which joined the NFL in 1967, have never appeared in a Super Bowl. Ironically, the longest drought after the Saints goes to the New York Jets, who vie for the AFC title in Sunday afternoon against the Colts. Past the Jets, come the Kansas City Chiefs (who beat the Vikings in Super Bowl IV) and then the Purple, whose last act as Sisyphus came in their 1976 loss to the Raiders in S.B. XI.
Championship futility here in the T.C. has received no pause from our winter offerings, as neither the Wolves nor the Wild has ever made a Finals appearance in their 20 and eight previous years of respective existence. Their predecessors had more success, but of course have since departed Minnesota: before moving to the coast in 1960, the Minneapolis Lakers donned five NBA crowns between 1948-54, and, before leaving for Dallas in 1993 the North Stars made two Stanley Cup appearances (1980-81 and 1990-91 seasons) but were felled on each occasion.
Yet, in New Orleans, losing has become as cliché as showing your chest for a string of beads. While the Vikings have gone 0-for-4 in Super Bowls, at least we have enjoyed the consistent fruits of a 55 percent regular season win clip since the franchise was founded back in '61. Saints' fans have endured a mere 42 percent win rate since their team's inception and waited a crazy 21 years for their first playoff appearance -- which they lost at home to the Vikings 44-10 in the '87 Wild Card round. Their first playoff win? That didn't come until 2000, when they beat St. Louis in the Wild Card. Their next opponent in that second-season? The Vikings -- who won 34-16 at the Metrodome to advance to what stands as the Purple's last appearance in an NFC Championship. The Saints made their last (and only) appearance in the NFC title game in 2006, losing to the Bears, 39-14.
But the losing doesn't end there down on the Bayou. New Orleans' other pro offering, the Hornets of the NBA, has never made the Conference finals since moving from Charlotte in 2002. Prior to that, New Orleans had the then aptly-named "Jazz" who strung together five losing seasons between 1975-79 before leaving for Salt Lake City. Unearthing further hardwood history: New Orleans had their Buccaneers of the ABA from 1967-70, a team that made the Finals in their birth year, although lost that title campaign and never again reached a title shot.
Could it get worse for those losers? Sure. While New Orleans has never had a National Hockey League or Major League Baseball franchise of which to boast, they have sported high-level minor league affiliates in each sport. And while the now-defunct New Orleans Brass of the ECHL (a former San Jose Sharks affiliate) never won a title, the New Orleans Zephyrs (now the AAA affiliate of the Florida Marlins) actually did win a Triple-A World Series back in 1998. Yet, for good measure, let's also note that New Orleans' former pro soccer team, the Riverboat Gamblers, never won a USISL or USL title in their seven years of existence between 1993-99.
Recent postseason (or elimination) showdowns for our Twin'd Cities has pit our clubs against opponents for which we've held no empathy: the White Sox and Yankees playing the Twins the last two years; the Eagles and Cowboys versus the Vikings in that same window of time.
The objective herein is not to search for reasons why we don't want to roll the Saints out of the Superdome -- I'll get to that breakdown later this week. Rather, it's merely to observe that we don't stand alone in both our futility and desire. And also to suggest that oftentimes, the devil you know, beats the devil you don't.
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