Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Top Five Most Hated Sports Franchises

Sports Illustrated just published a list of the 25 most hated teams in sports history, and that reminded me of my own little mental list, composed as the Lakers and Celtics were sucking all the joy out of the NBA playoffs. A Lakers/ Celtics finals might have been great for the NBA, but to me it just meant that we'd have to suffer between one of those two teams winning a championship again, certainly not something to embrace. Now, I don't hate the Celtics, just dislike them, so I suppose I was pulling for them. But it was a tepid support, kind of like accepting Russia as an ally against Nazi Germany. Sometimes, the fight against evil makes for strange bedfellows.

There's really nothing worse as a sports fan then watching a team you truly despise march towards a championship. I'm sure that every Red Sox fan will tell you that the Curse of the Bambino years were made all the worse by watching the Yankees win some two dozen championships at the time. Yet, somehow, the Red Sox 2004 championship, seeing as it included the Sox vaulting over the Yankees in about the most humbling way possible, somehow seems to even things up. Yankees fans won't admit it, but I think they'd trade at least, oh, five or ten of those titles to get that one back. And this is something Sox fans don't get: to the rest of us, now, you guys are even. That was it, you slayed the dragon. You're not the good guys against the Evil Empire any more; you're both Evil Empires now.

Anyway, back to the SI list for a moment. It's a decent list, though it seems like they, for the most part, chose the 25 most hated franchises (or colleges, or countries, or whatever) and chose their most hated teams. I don't, for example, hate the '92 Dallas Cowboys any less then I do the '93 or '95 Cowboys that also won the Super Bowl, or, for that matter, the 2009 Cowboys. Well, maybe a little bit more. Plus, in the interest of being inclusive, there's things like the 1976 East German women's Olympic swim team, for whom I suspect the venom has mostly faded. There's even an honorable mention for an America's Cup sailing team. But not one Lakers or Celtics team. Nor the Lawrence Phillips-era Nebraska Cornhuskers. Hell, how about the 2010 French World Cup team, that was seemingly reviled by even the members of the 2010 French World Cup team? Now that's hatred.

So while there may be high spots in hatred for certain teams, and there are certain, otherwise harmless franchises that have the misfortune of assembling a truly despicable team (the 2000-01 Trail Blazers is a great call), I think it's really the year-in, year-out hatreds that stick with us. My list, of course, is biased from the perspective of a Philadelphia sports fan. There are teams on here (well, one team) that the average fan probably doesn't hate. Conversely, there are several other teams, such as the aforementioned Celtics, not to mention the Yankees, Red Sox, Steelers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and Duke Blue Devils that just don't raise my ire like they do others, though I fully accede to them being eminently hatable (the Blue Devils, I must note, get a pass because I married into the family of a graduate). I encourage you to make your own list!

1. Dallas Cowboys. Oh hell yes. If you're a sports fan from outside the southwest, and you don't hate the Cowboys, there's just something wrong with you. They are, without a doubt, the most despicable organization in the Western Hemisphere not named the Tea Party. Though, let's face it, a lot of Tea Party members are probably Dallas Cowboy fans. I hate the Cowboys so much that, when it looked like they were heading back to the Super Bowl in 2007, I found myself desperately rooting for anyone to beat them, even the Giants. Only a team like the Cowboys can inspire mortal enemies to put aside their differences for the greater good. Oh, and don't even get me started about Tony Romo. I want to get some sleep tonight.

2. Los Angeles Lakers. I'm honestly a little surprised that they placed so high on my list, because I care so little for basketball in general and the NBA in particular that it seems odd to so hate an NBA team. Perhaps it's just the glow of their second straight championship, and the public redemption of Kobe Bryant, but the fact is that the Lakers get me stirred up more then just about anyone else these days. My dislike of them stems from the 2000-01, when they cruised through the Western Conference playoffs without loosing a game to meet the Sixers, whom were pretty beaten up by this point. I will maintain to my dying day that the Sixers would have won that series had the Lakers been even remotely challenged at any point along the way to the finals and weren't fresh as daisies. But whatever. Most of my hatred, really, is for Kobe, whom I never did like, but c'mon. He's a rapist. We all know it. He should be in jail right now, not staring back at me with come-hither eyes. You're still a scumbag, Kobe, no matter how many rings you have.

3. Atlanta Braves. This is a bit of a weird one, that I know most people don't share. It comes, mostly, from watching the Braves dominate the NL East for 14 straight years. But it also comes from their horrible, milquetoast fans, that can barely sell out a playoff game, and from years of watching excruciating Braves broadcasts on TBS. Oh, and that !@#$ tomahawk chop. Oddly, they've had several players over the years that I've liked, especially the big three of Greg Maddox, Tom Glavine, and John Smolz, but also guys like Ron Gant and Fred McGriff. But I still can't stand them. This year, I've found my anti-Braves passions renewed once again, particularly on the day they came back from a seven-run deficit in the ninth inning to beat the Reds, punctuated by a game winning grand slam. I think we were all happier when the Braves were also-rans, don't you?

4. New York Giants. My hatred of them has tempered a bit recently, since several of the players that most especially struck a nerve- Strahan, Shokey, Barber- are gone. They do still have Eli Manning, though, so there's that. For a couple years there, when the Cowboys were down and the Giants were peaking, I honestly thought I hated the Giants more. But I can see now that I was mistaken. I can't believe that Eli Manning is a Super Bowl winning quarterback and Donovan McNabb is not, though.

4. New York Mets. This might be a bit stronger if the Mets hadn't embarrassingly collapsed several times of the last few years, to the benefit of the Phillies. It's hard to hate a team when they pratfall into a pie repeatedly. But they are the Mets, our biggest rival, so I can't not hate them. And that 1986 team really was a bunch of scumbags. Not that the 1993 Phillies weren't....


  1. A good twist on SI's idea that sounds a bit senstationalized and lacking in the Laker department. In aggreement with all franchises, though I have to say despite the Giants beating the up to that point perfect Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl, it was such an exciting game and nutty "catch" for some reason I just don't hate the Giants.

    My list in no particular order:

    1. Lakers. In the 80s, I learned from my father to vilfy Pat Riley but respect MJ, Kareem and the gang. Now I simply despise the whole lot from "focused" Kobe to "guru" Phil Jackson (His mystical triangle offense can be boiled down to this: "Here's the play guys, give Michael, I mean, Kobe the ball") Even good guy Steve "Ish" Fisher gets under my skin.

    2. Detroit Pistons. Bill Lambier, Dennis Rodman, I Thomas and company Bad Boys ushered in a new era of physical street ball that the Eastern Conference still abides by (including my beloved Celtics) but ultimately dimished the finesse and team play of the pro game. I did root for them against the Lakers in 2004 but that's it.

    3. Cowboys and Raiders and Steelers and Packers. These franchises fan base are so tedious to me. Other long time fanbases seem quaint to me (Bills, Browns, Vikings for instance) and do not make my stomach churn like the Raider Nation or Jer's team or Cheeseheads or whatever stupid Iron Curtain community Steeler Fans are called. Too much hype.

    4. Yankees. Ken is absolutely right to say that any Red Sox fan who bemoans and feels persecuted by further Yankee championships or regular season wins is ridiculous. However, they are still a blood rival and losing 4 hour 9 inning games to them even in May can instill slight insanity in me.

    5. TB Rays. Good ball team, horrible franchise. I would love to have position players like they do yet the Tampa Bay fanbase, like the Atlanta Braves, seems indifferent at best. Move to Durham already.

    Honorable mention: The St Louis Cardinals. LaRousa has a bad haircut, Puljous has a bad attitude and their pitching coach fixes bad pitchers. Their fans golf clap at games because they "know the game" and "love their Cardinals." That deserves a Bronx cheer!

  2. I really became less bullish against the Giants during that Super Bowl run. Like I said, I was rooting for them soooooooooo hard to upset the Cowboys that I couldn't fully turn on them in the Supe. I wasn't until it dawned on me that Eli was a Super Bowl winning quarterback, Coughlin a Super Bowl winning coach, ect, that I really got annoyed.

    Tampa? Really? They seem like such a flash in the pan that it's hard to think of them as hatable. Don't worry, all their good players will be playing in New York and Boston in the next 3-4 years.

    Good call on the Cardinals. Their fan base's smug "we're the best fan base in baseball!" attitude really gets on my nerves as well.