Is Cincinnati is the Worst Sports City in America?

Cincinnati, Ohio is a beautiful city.

But the sports scene is ugly.

In fact, you can argue that it’s the worst sports city in America.

Cincinnati has 2 major pro sports teams, Bengals and Reds and two major college programs, Cincinnati and Xavier.

Across the four major sports (NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL) there are 116 teams. Cincinnati’s 2 teams represent 2 of the 3 longest playoff win droughts.

It’s been 30 years for the Bengals, who last won a playoff game on January 6, 1991. On that day, playing at home, they beat the Houston Oilers 41-14, before losing to the LA Raiders one week later.

The last time the Reds won a playoff series was 1995, when they swept the Dodgers 3-0. They were swept by the Braves in the NLCS.

Bengals’ 30 year playoff win drought is the longest in all of sports. Detroit Lions have the second longest drought (1991) and the third longest belongs to the Reds (1995). The Florida Panthers are the only other team (among the 116) that haven’t won a playoff series since 2000.

The drought is BAD! And it’s even worse when put into context.

Including the loss to the Raiders in 1990, the Bengals have lost 8 playoff games in a row.

  • 2005 – Returned to the playoffs after a 14 year drought. Lost 31-17 to Steelers. Former #1 pick Carson Palmer (who had a Pro Bowl season) threw one pass and had his knee taken out by Steelers DL Kimo von Oelhoffen
  • 2009 – Lost 24-14 to Jets.
  • 2011 – Lost 31-10 to Texans. First playoff appearance and win for the Texans, who started TJ Yates at QB. This was Andy Dalton’s rookie season.
  • 2012 – Lost 19-13 to Texans
  • 2013 – Lost 27-10 to Chargers.
  • 2014 – Lost 26-10 to Colts.
  • 2015 – Lost 18-16 to Steelers. Backup AJ McCarron started at QB for Bengals, who imploded with penalties towards the end of the game. Bengals scored all 16 points in the 4th quarter, but a Steelers field goal with a few seconds left gave them the win.

The Reds have had a horrible run too.

  • 2010 – returned to playoffs after a 14 year absence. In Game 1 vs the Phillies, Roy Halladay threw a no hitter. Reds would lose the series 3-0.
  • 2012 – After winning games 1 and 2 in San Francisco, Reds came home and lost three straight home games to lose the series.
  • 2013 – Lost the one game Wild Card round to the Pirates. It was the Pirates first “series” win since 1979. and the appearance snapped an 18 year playoff drought.
  • 2020 – Scored ZERO run in 22 innings and were swept in a best of three series to the Braves (who had previously lost 10 straight playoff series).

Told you it was bad.

How about college.

Cincinnati basketball team appeared in 9 straight NCAA Tournaments from 2011-2019. During that time, they appeared in just 1 Sweet 16, and had a record of 6-9. Cincinnati last appeared in the Final Four in 1992 and last won it all in 1962.

Xavier basketball has the second most all-time NCAA Tournament appearances (28) without reaching the Final Four. In 2018, Xavier secured a 1 seed and in 2016 a 2 seed, representing their highest seed ever. In both years, they lost in the second round, failing to even advance to the Sweet 16.

Cincinnati football is a rising program, on an upwards trajectory. They are 44-7 during the last four seasons, and 22-2 the last two years. However, it’s worth noting, Cincinnati is 0-4 in the school’s biggest bowl games (2009 Orange Bowl, 2020 Sugar Bowl, 2021 Peach Bowl, 2021 Cotton Bowl/CFP).

The lack of success at both Universities shows the Cincinnati curse affects student-athletes, as well as professionals.

Cheers to Cincinnati sports fans. Especially, those old enough to remember the last playoff wins in the 1990s.

Mike is an alum of the University of Cincinnati and the ultimate sports nerd.


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