The Ten Most Dysfunctional Franchises In Professional Sports

#10) Minnesota Vikings

What can I say about the Vikings that I haven’t already said? Go over to the tag cloud on the right, click on the “Minnesota Vikings” tag, and you will see that I’ve written the Vikings’ football miasma time and time again. But that’s because there’s so much to write about. Even in their heyday in the first half of the Bud Grant era, this team simply couldn’t push the sled over the hill. Over the past half-century, this team has had more talent and more opportunities and has less to show for them than any other franchise in the history of professional football.

There’s a simple reason for this. Pro football is a quarterback driven league, and the Vikings historically have had no idea how to handle that position. In 1967, the Vikings traded future Hall-of-Famer Fran Tarkenton to the New York Giants for a bag of magic beans. In 1969, Joe Kapp led them to an NFL Championship, threw 7 touchdown passes in one game, and the Vikes let him walk after that season. There’s Tommy Kramer, who earned the nickname “Two Minute Tommy” for many late game come-from-behind victories. Kramer, who was the first quarterback to throw for over 450 yards in a game twice, also ended up with a drinking problem. The Viking’s ham-fisted handling of the situation led to the demise of his career.

If those three were the bricks in their quarterback wall, the Vikings’ mortar in that wall has been an amalgam of over-rated talent (Daunte Culpepper, Brad Johnson, Wade Wilson, Rich Gannon, Jeff George),  somebody’s else cast-offs (Gary Cuozzo, Bob Berry, Gus Frerotte, Bob Lee, Norm Snead) and a bouquet of faded roses from days gone by (Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Jim McMahon, Brett Favre).

#9) Chicago Cubs

This past winter illustrates the Cubs quite nicely. If Major League Baseball were the block you grew up on as a kid, the Cubs would be that rich, childless older couple who always had a new Cadillac in the driveway and a lawn covered in dog shit. The Cubs go out and look for a landscaper who can clean up the mess that is their lawn, their nephew Ryne Sandberg shows up as member of the family who is the perfect candidate and wanting the job, and the Cubs give the job to the paperboy because as child  little Ryno farted in their house once 30 years ago.

#8 ) Oakland Raiders

Let’s face facts. The Raiders have become the North Korea of the NFL and Al Davis it’s Kim Jong-Il. Davis has sunk into some sort of self-deluded alternate reality that has him believing he can get a coach better than Tom Cable and that JaMarcus Russell was an NFL quarterback. Finally they stopped drinking the Kool-Aid, or Purple Drank in the Russell case, but there have been so many other bizarre tales emanating from Oakland that all have one thing in common: Al Davis has total control of this organization, as it clearly mirrors his dysfunctional personality. This is why Cable is no longer the head coach, and why they had to promote from within; nobody else will take the job.

#7) New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets seem to have all the characteristics of franchises on this list. Some teams are owned by morons, failed in more than one city, failed in cities where a team in the same sport already failed, are on the verge of being assumed by the league, have a history of making terrible player personnel decisions, or have just plain sucked forever. The Hornets have it all.

#6) Atlanta Thrashers

The Thrashers are dangerously close to being the second Atlanta-based NHL team to head for Canada. Thirty years ago, the Flames ditched Dixie for Calgary, and now the rumors are swirling the Thrashers may be heading to the garden spot known as Winnipeg. Honestly, this may be more of a reflection of the city of the city that its teams; Atlanta is a shitty sports town.  The only franchise in that city that has ever drawn a reasonable number of fans are the Falcons (don’t talk to me about the Braves, I’ve seen playoff games at Turner Field with less than 15,00 people in the  ballpark), but in the last decade you could have put an NFL franchise in Bettendorf, Iowa and it would fill a 65,000 seat stadium. But on the other hand, the Thrashers have never done anything of consequence.

#5) Los Angeles Dodgers

Thanks to their ownership of the Dodgers and their divorce which is threatening to become the ugliest in the history of California, we have to care about Frank and Jamie McCourt. Their dysfunction has totally spilled over into the operation of the team; they are hundreds of millions of dollars in debt while clinging to a grasp on ownership which is becoming ever so tenuous, especially now that Major League Baseball has cut them off from any new lenders.  This is only going to get worse, stay tuned if you get off on train wrecks.

#4) Cincinnati Bengals

Does life imitate art, or does art imitate life? Does a city imitate a franchise, or does a franchise imitate a city. Cincinnati is a city that takes every good thing about it and totally fucks it up somehow. Take a deep breath while I list the examples….

First there’s the food. I love chili, but that shit they call chili in Cincinnati…well, I don’t know what the fuck it really is, but I know what it isn’t.  Chili. Want to know how I know that? Ask any real American whether chili has cocoa, cinnamon, and allspice in it. Know what they are going to say? FUCK NO!  More importantly, it doesn’t even taste like chili. It tastes more like a fetal cow that before it was brutally aborted was stuffed full of the world’s worst gingerbread cookies.

Then there’s the only show about Cincinnati that ever mattered; WKRP in Cincinnati.  I didn’t get what a great show this was when I was younger; it wasn’t until my adult years when I realized that this show ruled because it had characters that you worked with every day. Look at the list:

  • Mr. Carlson: the “boss” who only is the boss because he’s “juiced in;” in his case, Mommy owned the damn station.
  • Herb Tarlek: Who doesn’t work with an idiotic sales guy?
  • Venus Flytrap: The prototypical “smoove brotha.”
  • Dr. Johnny Fever: The stoner.
  • Bailey Quarters: Every office has that one chick who you know could be totally hot if you could get rid of her big, dorky glasses and “tomboy” wardrobe, more importantly, you know she might be a freak in the sack if the time was right.

But then they fucked everything up with Jennifer Marlowe. Leave it to Cincinnati to get a big-titted, blond character all wrong.  First of all, they are always leaving the viewer with the impression that she is either independently wealthy, or has some big-time connections, yet she’s answering phones at the 14th-ranked radio station in a shithole like Cincinnati.

Then there’s the whole matter of her hair.  Look at that shit; theres so much industrial strength hair spray in that mess it has become some sort of razor-sharp, rock-hard, bleached cotton-candy winged beehive of death. Like if that woman were giving you a “trouser-friendly kiss” and she suddenly jerked her head in the wrong direction, that hair could slice through your junk like a fucking light saber.

Let’s take this back to sports, and let’s start with basketball. Remember the Cincinnati Royals? They are the most-moved franchise in professional sports. They began as the Rochester Royals, who moved to the Queen City in 1957. In 1972, the shipped off to the midwest for nearly ten years of splitting time between Kansas City and Omaha being known as the Kings. Then came the 80′s, the  decade when the Kings headed west for the greener pastures of Sacramento. Six months from now, they will probably be in domicile #6, Anaheim.  This franchise is drawn to crappy cities for sports, and there’s a reason why Cincinnati is on the list.

Then’s there’s baseball. Forget about the “Big Red Machine,” forget about the current young crop of promising Reds. Cincinnati is where Joe Morgan made enough of a name for himself that he was able to spend over two decades torturing our ears as a broadcaster and for that crime against humanity, there is no forgiveness.

But let’s get this back to the Bengals. Some people in Cincinnati are fans of the Cincinnati Bengals. But many, many more are not. It is really hard not to understand why. Take the currently unfolding Carson Palmer situation for example. No wonder the guy wants out; he’s stuck in the only NFL hell for quarterbacks worse than Minnesota. The Bengals share many characteristics with the Vikings in this area; namely you can drop all their signal-callers into a few distinct buckets.  There’s the over-rated talent (Akili Smith, David Klingler, Virgil Carter, Greg Cook, Jack Thompson, John Reaves), somebody else’s cast-offs (Jay Schroeder, Jon Kitna, Gus Frerotte, Scott Mitchell, Neil O’Donnell), B-students they tried to move to the head of the class (John Stofa, Dewey Warren, Sam Wyche, Wayne Clark, Turk Schonert, Jeff Blake, Ryan Fitzpatrick), and legitimate, top-flight NFL quarterbacks (Ken Anderson, Boomer Esaison).

In 2005, Palmer was on the verge of ending up in that last bucket.  Four years ago, Palmer was primed to join Peyton Manning and Tom Brady at the top of the NFL quarterback list. He was remarkably poised; his downfield touch was perfect, he led the Bengals to their first winning season in fifteen years. He had that moment in time where he could effortlessly slip the rush and flick the ball downfield at 30 yards.  He was oozing confidence, he was getting the ball to nine or ten different receivers a game. It seemed as if this was the the dawn of a new era of Bengal football; the vision of Palmer leading the Bengals 10+ wins a year suddenly didn’t seem ridiculous.

Then came that knee injury against the Steelers in the playoffs. I watched that moment (while recovering from a major leg injury of my own) and I wanted to puke.  Not just because at the time I had a heightened sensitivity to that sort of thing, but because I knew that was the beginning of the end.  It had to be, you don’t stay that snake-bit as a franchise without having those course-defining moments.  The football gods really want to forgive the Bengals for shit like the “Ickey Shuffle,” but then they draft Akili Smith. This is why bad shit always happens in Cincinnati. Chad “Ocho” Johnson went batshit crazy, Marvin Lewis’ balls fell off, Palmer’s elbow turned into tapioca pudding, and Chris Henry learned the hard way the beds of pickup trucks don’t have seat belts.

By education, I’m an engineer, which means I have a big background in risk management and failure analysis, which is just a nice way of saying “recreating the scene of the crash.” In that field, the first thing you learn is that all disasters are not the result of one cataclysmic event; rather the are the culmination of a series of small events that link together. Take one link out of that chain, and the disaster is likely averted.  But the Bengals can’t figure that out; in fact, they keep adding links thinking the longer the chain, the further away they are from that one link on which they blame all their troubles.

#3) Phoenix Coyotes

How bad do you have to be when a even a small Canadian city that has done nothing but bitch for for fifteen years about losing the NHL doesn’t want this franchise?

Point the finger anyway you like — at the City of Glendale, the NHL, Matthew Hulsizer or the Goldwater Institute — but the bottom line is no one wants the Phoenix Coyotes.  Or more to the point, no one wants to pay for them.  Hulsizer wants to own the Coyotes but he either can’t or won’t fork over the US$170 million the NHL wants for the franchise it bought out of bankruptcy over a year ago.

Dissect this. The Coyotes were led by Wayne Gretzky, the most mythic figure in hockey, and they still couldn’t turn out fans in a city crammed with northern transplants. To understand what that really means, imagine a baseball team owned by Babe Ruth in 1940 that drew sixty thousand fans a year.  Epic fail.

#2) New York Mets

What else can you say? New York hasn’t seen a mess like this since Ground Zero; an economic terrorist like Bernie Madoff is on the verge of turning one of the “big-money” franchises into a pauper for the next quarter-century, and it couldn’t happen to a better organization. The Mets have pissed away every advantage they’ve had in baseball thanks to a couple of greedy mental pygmys like  Wilpon and Saul Katz. Not only did these guys get caught with their hands in the Ponzi Scheme cookie jar, they have the unmitigated balls to somehow get Bud Selig, Major League Baseball commissioner, to buy that bullshit “too big to fail” argument that got us into that fucking Bush/Obama bailout. This is exactly why Big Brother Bud (who also happens to be drinking buddies with Wilpon) just gave the Mets’ owners $25 million to help the team with financial woes.

Yeah, that doesn’t totally smell like the Bush/Obama two-stage bailout in which drinking buddies/cronies/contributors weren’t bailed out of their bad decisions courtesy of the public coffers. These buttloafs make a series of bad decisions, and every person who has ever aimed a buck at Major League Baseball gets to pay for it.  Nothing says dysfunctional like rewarding bad decisions.

Here’s the best part; Selig is pumping money into a liability that ranges anywhere from $400 million to over a billion, depending on who you talk to and who decides to file a lawsuit.   Wilpon and Katz could be deep-sixed financially if a lawsuit filed from victims of the Bernard Madoff rules in victims favor. According to the New York Times, the victims are seeking upward of $1 billion from the Mets and related business partners through trustee Irving H. Picard. The victims claim that Wilpon and Katz ignored warnings about investments made with Madoff and acted only through self-interest.  The Times also has reported that the Mets are in over $400 million in debt, so even if they get hit on the lawsuit, they won’t be able to pay the tab. That means Major League Baseball gets stuck with it.  Wilpon and Katz already have blown through the $75 million allocated as general credit to teams in need of financial assistance, but their cratering situation threatens to take an even bigger bite.   Selig should have cut these guys off a long time ago.

In the meantime, until Selig grows a pair and starves these guys out like he is doing with the Los Angeles Dodgers ownership situation, the fact is the Mets will remain a financial dumpster fire.  The proof will be evident on the field; this team can’t sign new players considering they sucked more than the new girl at the Tijuana donkey show last year. It ain’t easy getting players to come to a team with no money that consistently fails to make the playoffs.  This will lead to the Mets ballpark looking levery year ike the Sahara Desert by the time August rolls around.

#1) Los Angeles Clippers

This is just a team that gets to be on the list for sheer shitty. They’ve only had 4 playoff berths in a nearly 30-year history in the best basketball market in America. They might have good players, and a star like Blake Griffin, but their management and  coaching just flat out sucks, and it always has. Not to mention owner Donald Sterling celebrating Black history in March should tell you all you need to know.

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10 responses

  1. The sad thing is Bettendorf would probably be crazy about a pro sports team and would support the hell out of it. There’s no poor section of Bettendorf (Well, there is…it’s called Davenport)

    I like Cincinnati as a city. I can’t stand Ohio as a state, but Cincy is pretty fat.

    I write for a Cubs site (ivyenvy.com), and it’s a very difficult job. I ran out of Cubs jokes around July 2010.

    More from me in a minute.

    Meehan

    1. Is there a better Cubs joke than the Cubs?

      (That’s way to existential for a blog…any philosophy majors want to get me off this hook?)

  2. I’m glad someone can still work ground Zero into a joke.

    The thing that stands out to me most about the Phoenix Coyotes is the fact that Wayne’s a really cool guy and sometimes that’s not enough.

    I’ll agree with you 100% on the Thrashers too man. Atlanta is a crummy sports city. Even when the Hawks and the Falcons are winning it’s misery business.

    Meehan

  3. At this juncture I’d put the Mets and Dodgers atop of the list ! The Mets approached Selig to borrow $25 million and bearing in mind that they’ve pending litigation against them in the wake of the Madoff scandal . I think that pretty much sums the mess they’re now in . The Dodgers on the other hand have an $ 800 million debt and that’s still in the wake Frank McCourt’s messy divorce for which he’s now going to sue the lawyer who represented him . Never mind the fact that the organization has also approached the league to borrow some $200 million and as collateral they’re willing to put up their tv contract that they’d recently signed with the local Fox affiliate in LA .

    The Clippers have been a mess before and since Baylor stepped down as GM . Donald Sterling is the NBA’s answer to the Raiders’ Al Davis . The guy —– (Sterling) is brain dead and his business acumen has got to come into question concerning the team !

    Hope you’ve been enjoying your weekend ?

    tophatal …………

  4. For honorable mention, I’d have to include the Pittsburgh Pirates.

    I’m no Pirates fan but I did grow up in an era where this team was always competitive.

    These days the Bucs have become a farm team for other major league ballclubs that want to buy off their talent.

    Maybe that doesn’t necessarily count as dysfunction, but it certainly counts as sucking.

    1. Honestly, it is sad to think what happened to this franchise. As you and I are the same age, I know you can’t hear the song “We are Family” and not think about the 1979 Pirates.

      But since the “fire sale” began in 1993, has just decided they don’t care about winning. That’s not dysfunctional; it’s pathetic.

  5. [...] that. While we here at Dubsism have postulated that Al Davis makes the Oakland Raiders the “North Korea of the NFL,” Jones and Snyder are both in line to ascend to the NFL’s “Crazy Old Man [...]

  6. PrototypicalSmooveWhiteGuy | Reply

    leaving the washington redskins off of this list amounts to criminal negligence.

  7. […] Then, there was list of the ten most dysfunctional franchises in sports. […]

  8. […] of Sterling; I’m on record far too many times decrying what a colossal asshole he is (here, here, and here for starters).  Nor is this a criticism of Silver’s actions. His hand was forced […]

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