Who is the worst of the worst?
We’ve all seen some truly awful athletic performances over the years.
Whether it’s on the field, the court or the ice, there are some teams that are just mind-boggling to watch on television because of their sheer incompetence.
Some teams may be cursed more than others with this issue, but the good thing is that no matter what the team or what the league, each franchise or collegiate program will go through a stretch of hardship.
That can just be simply due a lack of talent on the roster or issues in management or in the locker room.
When I was in college, I was told once you become a reporter, the best years to cover a team are when they are tremendously successful like winning a Super Bowl or a national championship, or when the team is just an absolute debacle full of terrible play and just straight up dysfunction.
Either way, you’re going to have some entertaining stories to tell.
You tend to want to read about the good times in the newspapers or in books because they bring up fond memories and make you want to remember all of the great moments that you missed.
However, the bad ones are just as enticing. You may not want to remember them, but it’s kind of a bonding experience. Reporters and fans can both look at a team and say “Wow, they really sucked.”
Richard Deitsch, who used to write for Sports Illustrated and now writes for The Athletic, has been running a media column all this week where he talked to various reporters about what is the worst team that they’ve covered over their careers.
He divided his findings into the four major leagues –the National Football League, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association and WNBA and the National Hockey League. It was really interesting and that got me thinking about what I’ve watched over my years.
Now I haven’t been in this profession long enough to have covered a professional franchise or even a big-time college football or basketball team, so I can’t really comment from a writing perspective. However, I can write it from a fan perspective and that’s where I’m going to come from.
When it comes to the NFL, I grew up in Minnesota so my thought immediately goes to the Vikings, but I’ll include some other teams as well. Unlike most pro football fans, Minnesota has been pretty decent during my existence as a fan, but in 2011, my mental stamina was finally tested.
The Vikings finished 3-13 that year and were just awful. That was the season with the Donovan McNabb experiment where the former Philadelphia star went 1-5 with Minnesota before getting benched in favor of Christian Ponder, who is quite honestly the worst Vikings quarterback I’ve ever seen. The guy struggled to throw it more than 20 yards down the field and that’s a tad worrisome at the NFL level.
Here’s a fun fact. During that season, I was living in Indianapolis and watching the Colts slog their way through a 2-14 disaster that included an injured Peyton Manning riding the bench on injured reserve all year. So I got to keep track of two horrendous seasons, both as a fan and a reporter. Lucky me, huh?
I definitely wasn’t lucky as a baseball fan. As you’ve probably read by now, I’m a Chicago Cubs fan and a Minnesota Twins fan, which means my fandom has primarily been filled with terrible heartbreak or mind-numbing ineptitude.
The worst Chicago team had to be in 2012. That was the first year of the Theo Epstein rebuild, and boy did that need to happen. The only real highlight was the play of Alfonso Soriano, who hit 32 homers and had 108 RBIs. Nobody else came close to those marks.
The good thing, though, is that awful year would lead to the transformation into the 2016 World Series championship team, so sometimes there’s light at the end of the tunnel.
For the Twins, geez, pick any year from 1994-2000. I guess if I had to pinpoint one year, I’ll go with 1999. Minnesota went 63-97 that year and the home run champ on the squad was Ron Coomer with 16. Yep, you read that correctly.
Also, Matt Lawton got drilled in the face with a pitch, which is something the Twins’ faithful probably mentally experience whenever they came to the Metrodome. Brad Radke was the best pitcher with 12 wins, but would eventually be the Twins’ reliable go-to guy before Johan Santana took over the role in 2004.
However, like the Cubs, Minnesota was building toward something. Three years later, the Twins made the playoffs and began a long string of success that lasted through 2010. So there was some positives that came out of the year, but like most fans, I just didn’t see it at the time.
One thing that I also didn’t see was any form of success from the Minnesota Timberwolves, at least for quite a while. While the WNBA’s Lynx rattle off title after title, the NBA’s T’wolves never seemed to consistently put together anything.
When I think of the worst years, I’d have to go with 1991-92, which ended with a record of 15-67 that was tied by the 2009-10 squad. Now to the Wolves’ credit, they were only in their third season of existence in ’91-’92, but wow, they were bad.
For me, the highlight was watching the Wolves’ mascot Crunch perform dunks at halftime. Unlike the Cubs and Twins, the Wolves’ tunnel was a long one and there wasn’t any true light until the early 2000s, but it all came together in that magical season of 2004 when Minnesota made the Western Conference finals. After that, the Wolves went on a 13-year playoff drought, so (sigh), let’s move on just like I did as a college student.
When it comes to hockey, it’s hard to narrow it down as a Minnesota fan. The North Stars were only around for a little while when I was a kid before they moved to Dallas, and then was an eight-year stretch where there was no NHL team in the State of Hockey, which was just flat-out wrong.
By the time the Wild came about, everybody was so overjoyed by the return of hockey that success didn’t matter right away, and for the most part, the franchise has been pretty decent, so it’s hard to find a bad year.
I’ll give you an example of a bad college hockey year though. When I was at North Dakota, I was primarily the women’s hockey writer and those early teams were really bad. The 2005-06 team was by far the worst, though, and that’s sad considering the following year, the then-Fighting Sioux didn’t win a single conference game.
What made ’05-’06 the worst, though, was that even with some decent talent on that team, there was so much fighting within the program. The ladies loved to party and seeing as my dorm was the go-to place for that on campus, I got to see them quite frequently.
The head coach had zero control over her team and eventually it all came to a head after the season ended. I broke a story that the team was completely fed up with the coach and had zero respect for her. The team’s two best players, who were twin sisters, left the program and moved back to Canada.
Other players quit out of exasperation before making it to their senior years, the two assistant coaches left and recruiting became a nightmare.
Despite all of that and my story, the head coach was brought back the following year but was fired just two months into the season. So I guess I do have a worst-team-I’ve-ever-covered story.
Watching awful teams is just something you have to go through, not only as a fan, but sometimes as a reporter. You may shake your head at what you see in front of you, but one thing is for sure.
You’ll always will have a story to tell at the end.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.