Why Minneapolis is the Saddest North American Sports City

I believe Minneapolis, Minnesota is the saddest sports city in North America, when it comes to the four major men’s sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL).

They have one team in each of those sports (Timberwolves, Vikings, Twins, Wild) and between them, only 1 of them have won a championship (Twins, twice).

Minneapolis is one of 12 cities/areas with at least one pro team in each of the four major sports.

Of those 12, they have the longest championship victory or appearance drought. Here is how they compare to those 12.

  • 10 of those cities have seen at least 2 teams total (in 2 different sports) win a championship
  • 10 have seen at least 1 championship since 2010
  • 11 have seen at least 1 team win a championship since 2000

Of the 6 cities with 1 team in 3 sports,

  • 4 have won a championship since 2010
  • 5 have won a championship since 2000
  • All 6 have won since 1995

Minneapolis is the outlier in all of these examples, with their last championship coming in 1991 when the Twins won the World Series. Twins are the only active Minnesota franchise to win a championship and one of just two (Vikings) to even make the championship.

31 cities have seen a championship team since Minneapolis last won one – Anaheim, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, Houston, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, New Orleans, New York, New Jersey, Oakland, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, San Antonio, San Francisco, St Louis, Seattle, Tampa, Toronto, Washington DC

Including the above, 43 cities have played in the championship round – Buffalo, Calgary, Charlotte, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Ottawa, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Diego, Vancouver 


The problem with Minnesota, and what makes them so sad, is that they have found an unhealthy balance between being successful and failing and just flat out failing.

For example, all 4 teams, at one point, won their division/conference and all failed to make the championship round.

  • Vikings went 15-1 in 1998 and lost in the NFC Championship Game to the Falcons
  • Wild won the Northwest Division in 2007-08 and lost in the first round of the playoffs
  • Wolves went 58-24 in 2003-04, finishing first in the West. They lost in the Western Conference Finals.
  • Twins went 96-66, winning the AL Central and finishing with the second most wins in all of baseball (97 was most).

There has also been individual player success.

Vikings have had 3 MVPs and lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of those three seasons.

  • 1971 – Alan Page. Vikings went 11-3 and lost in first round to Cowboys
  • 1975 – Fran Tarkenton. This MVP was sandwiched in-between back-to-back Super Bowl losses and a year before another loss.
  • 2012 – Adrian Peterson. Vikings lost to Packers.

Twins have had 5 MVPs in their history. They have a total of 3 playoff wins to show for it (3 sweeps and 1 missed playoffs).

  • 1965 – Zoilo Versalles. Lost World Series in 7 games
  • 1969 – Harmon Killebrew. Swept in first round.
  • 1977 – Rod Carew. Missed playoffs.
  • 2006 – Justin Morneau. Also had Cy Young winner Johan Santana. Swept in first round.
  • 2009 – Joe Mauer. Swept in first round.

Timberwolves lone MVP was Kevin Garnett in 2004, the one year the Wolves made the Western Conference Finals. They haven’t won a playoff game since their second round series victory.


Vikings

Vikings are 0-4 in Super Bowls. So the good news is there’s been 4 appearances! The first was in 1969 and the other 3 came over a 4 year span between 1973-1976. So yeah, that’s the bad news – no Super Bowl appearances since 1976 and no championships.

But they haven’t been unsuccessful. Since 1976, they have made the playoffs in 22 out of 43 seasons (over 50%) and have made 6 conference championship game appearances. The problem is that all 6 games ended rather horribly.

  • 1977 vs Cowboys – Loss kept them from a 4th Super Bowl appearance in 5 years.
  • 1987 vs Washington – 4th down with under a minute to go, down 17-10 and RB Darrin Nelson dropped, what would have been the go-ahead touchdown
  • 1998 vs Falcons – Morten Anderson happened. After hitting every field goal and extra point attempt during the season, Anderson missed a field goal that would have given Vikes a 10 point lead. Instead, Falcons came back, tied the game and won in overtime.
  • 2000 vs Giants – Lost 41-0 to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game.
  • 2009 vs Saints – Brett Favre was picked off in overtime and the Saints advanced to their first Super Bowl.
  • 2017 vs Eagles – One week after the Minnesota Miracle vs Saints, Vikings had a chance to become first team to ever host a Super Bowl, but lost 38-7 to Eagles, who had a backup QB.

The misfortune is more than just NFC Championship Games too

  • 2003 – Vikings were knocked out of the playoffs on the final play of the season, when Cardinals QB Josh McCown completed a crazy TD pass as time expired. A win would have advanced Minnesota to the postseason.
  • 2015 – Kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard chip shot field goal as time expired. Seahawks won 10-9 in the Divisional Round.

Twins

The most successful team in Minnesota, Twins have won the World Series twice, first in 1987 and again in 1991.

Twins began play in Minnesota in 1961, after moving from Washington DC and re-branding themselves from the Senators. Five years later, they did make their first World Series, but lost to the Dodgers in 7 games in 1965.

Between World Series appearances in 1965 and 1987, Twins went 21 years without a single playoff game victory (2 appearances) and had gone 16 straight seasons without making the playoffs before getting there in 1987.

Since 1991, they have won just 1 playoff series and have lost 14 of 16 playoff games to the Yankees in playoffs, including 13 in a row. Their last playoff game victory was in 2004 (16 consecutive losses) and their last series win was 2002.

That last series win coincides with the departure of David Ortiz. Ortiz left as a free agent after 2002 and the Twins have lost all 7 series played since. Since leaving the Twins (whom we played with from 1997-2002), he has become a 3-time World Series Champion and World Series MVP in 2013 and has made10 All Star Game appearances.

Timberwolves

Since beginning play in 1989, the Timberwolves have made 9 playoff appearances and lost in the first round 8 times. In those 8 first round series, they have won a total of 8 playoff games.

Their best season was the aforementioned one in 2003-04, when Kevin Garnett won MVP. Wolves finished first, but lost to Lakers in Western Conference Finals.

Garnett, a 2020 Hall of Fame inductee, is by far the best player in Wolves franchise history. That’s why it’s crazy that he hates the team. Garnett has publicly feuded with owner Glen Taylor, which has led to Garnett’s refusal of Minnesota to retire his #21 jersey or honor him for making the HOF.

Wolves traded Garnett to Celtics in 2007 for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, and two first round picks that became Johnny Flynn and Wayne Ellington. Jefferson was a good player, but you’d be justified in saying the Wolves traded Garnett for nothing.

After that Western Conference Finals appearance in 2004, they went 13 seasons without a playoff appearance, before making it in 2018.

Timberwolves have won just 40% of their regular season games all-time (1989-2020).

Wild

Wild have made the playoffs 9 times since they began play in 2000 and are 4-9 in playoff series. Three years into their existence, they made a run to the Western Conference Finals in 2003, but were swept by the Ducks. They won a first round series in 2014 and 2015.

From 2016-2018, Wild lost in the first round, failing to force a game 7 in any of those series.


Relocated Franchises

Timberwolves (1989) and Wild (2000) are both younger franchises, so they don’t have a ton of history. But still, franchises younger than them, in both sports, have been more successful.

What really hurts the city is that while both of these teams have failed to make their respective championship rounds, the teams they replaced in the city have had plenty of success in their new homes.

From 1949-1960, the Lakers played in Minneapolis, before moving to Los Angeles. They won the NBA Finals 4 times and lost in their 5th appearance. Since leaving for LA, all they have done is win another 11 championships (5 since 2000) and won the Western Conference 25 times.

From 1967-1993, the North Stars played hockey in Minneapolis, before moving to Dallas (and rebranding as just the Stars). North Stars made two Stanley Cup appearances (1991, 1981)


Minneapolis has only hosted 4 teams since 2000. But since than, have a total of zero championship round appearances.

Their lack of success has to be frustrating to Minnesotans. I know as an outside, it’s hard to view.

Full list of top 12 saddest cities in North American men’s sports.


Mike is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association of America) and an alum of the University of Cincinnati.

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