February 18, 2018

A Democracy of Champions

The Baltimore Ravens hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy as Super Bowl Champions having won the National Football League crown for the second time in 13 seasons.

Since Baltimore’s last Super Bowl triumph 12 years ago the Super Bowl winners have been New England, Tampa Bay, New England, New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, the New York Giants, Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Green Bay and the New York Giants again.  That means since the turn of the century only seven different cities have finished atop the NFL heap.

Over that same time, 16 teams have reached the Super Bowl: Baltimore, the New York Giants, New England, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Indianapolis, Chicago, Arizona, New Orleans, Green Bay and San Francisco.  This means half of the NFL has played on the final Sunday since the 2000s began.  One more than half if you include the Tennessee Titans by noting that they played in the Super Bowl (losing to the St. Louis Rams) in January, 2000.

Of the NFL’s 32 teams 18 have won a Super Bowl: Green Bay, the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, Colts (Baltimore and Indianapolis) Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins, Chicago Bears, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, St. Louis Rams, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints.

The Buffalo Bills have never won a Super Bowl.  Neither have the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Seattle Seahawks or Arizona Cardinals.

The Browns, Texans, Jaguars and Lions have never even reached a Super Bowl.

The Super Bowl, of course, does not – as much as everyone wants to seem to believe – encompass all of NFL achievement.  The Super Bowl has been around for 47 years, which is about how long the NFL existed before it started referring to the championship game by using Roman numerals.

If you look at NFL championships before the Super Bowl era, the Browns claim titles in 1950, ’54, ’55 and ’64.  The Lions were NFL Champions in 1935, ’52, ’53 and ’57.  The Eagles won it all in 1948, ’49 and ’60.  The Cardinals – while playing in Chicago – won titles in 1925 and ’47.

The Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans), Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers all won American Football League titles before the Super Bowl era and never had to, (or perhaps never got the chance to is the way to say it,) face the NFL champs at season’s end.

If you include the NFL titles before the Super Bowl era  (and not the AFL titles) then 22 of the league’s 32 teams have been world champions.

How does this compare to other sports?

There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball and 22 of them have won a World Series.  The only teams to never have an October (or early November) parade are the Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Washington Nationals (previously the Montreal Expos) Milwaukee Brewers, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies.  The Mariners and Nationals are the only teams to never even play in a World Series.

The National Hockey League has 30 teams and 18 of them have won at least one Stanley Cup.  Six teams – Washington, Ottawa, Florida, Buffalo, Vancouver and St. Louis – have reached the Stanley Cup Finals at least once but never won.  Columbus, Minnesota, Winnipeg, (formerly Atlanta) Nashville, San Jose and Phoenix have never been one of the final two teams skating.

The National Basketball Association is comprised of 30 teams and is the least equitable of the four major North American sports leagues when it comes to championships.  Of the NBA’s 30 current squads, only 17 have won titles and only 13 have won a championship playing in the city where they presently reside and under their current moniker.

Of the NBA’s 66 championships exactly half – 33 – have been won by either the Boston Celtics (17) or Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers (16.)  Throw in the Chicago Bulls (6) and San Antonio Spurs (4) and it gets downright class warfare silly.

Disregarding your favorite team, who would you want to see win a championship?  Who has it worse, the Arizona Cardinals who haven’t won a championship since 1947 (when they were the Chicago Cardinals) or the Chicago Cubs who have won it all but not for 105 years?

Is it really better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all?  This coming NFL season will be the 20th anniversary since the Buffalo Bills reached the Super Bowl for the fourth straight time and, we all know, lost for the fourth straight time.

The Minnesota Vikings have also lost four Super Bowls, the last one coming after the 1976 season.  Does that pain fade over the years?  Are Vikings fans nostalgic for those good old days when they always had their hearts broken?

Cleveland hasn’t boasted a champion since the Browns in 1964 and before that those great teams of the 50s.   The Indians haven’t won it all since 1948 and the Cavaliers never have.  And the Ravens, we all recall, actually used to be the Browns.  But that’s a long time ago.  And far away.

The NFL has reportedly decided that if next season’s Super Bowl which, for the first time, will be played outdoors at a cold weather site (New Jersey), gets hit by a snowstorm the game will be moved to either Saturday or Monday.  Maybe even Tuesday.   Playing a Super Bowl on a Tuesday would be like winning the lottery in Russia.  It just wouldn’t seem trustworthy.

So maybe the only real winner will be the snowflakes.  The parade next season will be for Mother Nature and God’s dandruff.  The snowflakes will hear the chorus of cheers and the winds of triumph.  They’ll descend on grass and engulf the green and refuse to budge.  The snow will put up a goal line stand.  The trophy goes to the flake that fights the hardest.


  1. I agree 500% that the NFL championships won before 1966 are every bit as important as any Super Bowl victory.

    I also believe 500% that the American Football League championships count–meaning two championships for the Houston Oilers, one for the San Diego Chargers, and two for the Buffalo Bills. Plus, there’s the one the Kansas City Chiefs won as the Dallas Texans. The AFL was so influential, with so many excellent players, and it merged with the NFL fully intact. The AFL helped transform the game of pro football, and its championships should not be discounted.

    I highly recommend “Tales from the American Football League.” It is an excellent football site, and the link for it can be found right here on Leatherheads.

    I’m not as familiar with “Remember the AFL,” but that site has some really good stuff, also.

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