Unless you’re a Boston fan, chances are one of your favorite teams is not that great. It’s unrealistic for every professional team from the same city to be playoff contenders every season. You can call it “lack of competitive balance within cities.” I’ve decided to try and pinpoint the teams with the biggest gap of success, leading to this question:
Which two professional sports teams from the same city have had the biggest difference in dominance/success over the past decade (using only teams from the four major professional sports: NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL).
1. Ravens and Orioles
2. Steelers and Pirates
3. Lakers and Dodgers
4. Yankees and Knicks
5. Red Wings and Lions
Baltimore: For the longest time, this has been the classic “can’t wait for football season” city. Here’s how the trend has been for most of the last decade – by the time August rolls around, the Orioles are 15-20 games out of first in the hardest division in baseball, and fans slowly start to put the Markakis jersey back in the closet in exchange for some purple. True Baltimore fans stay loyal to both birds, but the Orioles don’t necessarily make it easy.
However, although we have yet to even hit the All-Star break, this season has a much different feel to it. There’s a certain buzz around Baltimore. The Orioles are competing and surprising critics everywhere. While they aren’t expected to make the postseason like the Ravens are each year, it is safe to say the team is on the rise. In the meantime, Baltimore remains one of the top seeds for cities in the “lack of competitive balance” department.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates have 19 consecutive losing seasons, so they’ve been bad for ultimately two decades. The Steelers, like the Ravens, have been the complete opposite. Over the last decade, they’ve been one of those rare teams that have been expected to go far in the playoffs each year, no excuses. They’ve tacked on two more rings to the list in the 2000’s, finding a way to get it done like all the elite franchises tend to do.
The Pirates have slowly been improving these past two seasons and are currently over .500, but let’s not get carried away. When you think Pittsburgh, you think football. The Pirates have had pretty solid names pop up every once in awhile, but fans want more than the occasional Jason Kendall or Jason Bay. Maybe up-and-coming Andrew McCutchen can be the guy that brings a little more balance to the Steel City.
Los Angeles: The Lakers, thanks to Kobe Bryant, Shaq, and Phil Jackson, have had an outstanding decade. The Dodgers have been average at best. Put it together and you get a city that only gets excited during hoops season. Matt Kemp is arguably the best all-around player in the entire league when healthy, but Dodger fans want a World Series ring. Kobe has spoiled them, and the Dodgers haven’t done much in a long time, other than being slightly better than the Pirates and Orioles.
New York: The Yankees are better than the Mets, the Giants are better than the Jets, and the Rangers are better than the Islanders. That was easy. But this question lets you go cross-sports to find the biggest gap, and the Knicks may just be the biggest disappointment to Knickerbockers. After making it to the playoffs consistently in the 90’s, the Knicks have been the complete opposite this past decade. Stoudemire and Melo have had the Big Apple talking recently, but it’s going to take a lot more to make basketball in New York relevant again.
Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, A-Rod, and the other well-paid players in pinstripes will most likely get their division-leading team into the playoffs once again. The Knicks have made the playoffs the last two years in a row (ending one of the longest droughts in franchise history), but haven’t made it out of the first round. Call it baby steps, but the Knicks still aren’t competitive enough to keep New York off this list.
Detroit: Take away last season, and the Lions haven’t had much to be proud of in a long time. They were most recognized for being the first team to go 0-16 during the 2008 season. However, Megatron has transformed this team as of late. That dynamic Calvin Johnson/Matthew Stafford combination isn’t a joke. Fans may start to actually watch more games other than that one time a year when they’re stuffing their faces with turkey.
The Red Wings, like most of the “good” teams in these examples, are the same deal. It’s the team in the city that’s become expected to compete for a championship, a Stanley Cup .
My pick: All of these cities force fans to make sacrifices; if they wait through one dreadful season they can at least look forward to one of their more dominant teams. I’m going with Pittsburgh on this one, though. Those two franchises have been polar opposites of each other over the last decade. The Steelers have made it to three Super Bowls during that stretch, winning two of them. The Pirates are just trying to be respectable at this point.