May 6, 2011
Worse than the powder-blue seasons of Twins mediocrity in the 1970s. Worse than the short-but-painful Vikings reign of Les Steckel. Worse than the open wound of the Tim Brewster era at the University of Minnesota.
The Twins are horrible this year. The Vikings, the Wolves, the Wild, and the Gophers football and basketball teams just wrapped up crappy seasons. Every major Minnesota sports team is either below .500 right now, or just completed a season below .500. (Note – For the Gophers, I’m only considering conference records.)
It sure feels like an awful time for Minnesota sports fans. But I wanted to see the data. So I compiled the annual winning percentages for all our major teams (Vikes, Twins, North Stars, Wild, Timberwolves, Gophers football and Gophers basketball) and fired up an Excel spreadsheet.
The results aren’t pretty. For seasons either under way or completed in 2011 (Twins, Wild, Wolves), our teams have posted a .294 winning percentage. If things don’t pick up, we’ll out-stink the previous low of 1988 — the year terrible seasons by the Wolves and the Gophers teams dragged down the average winning percentage to .342.
The current doldrums have been punctuated by some real black moments. Favre’s late pick that doomed the Vikes in the NFC Championship in January 2010. The Twins getting swept, again, by the Yankees during the 2010 playoffs. The Gophers hoops team falling like a rock after cracking the Top 20 early last season. The Gophers football team losing to the South Dakota Coyotes in September.
Some notes on my chart: I focused only on regular-season records. So there is no glory bonus or pain factor for making it (and blowing it) in the playoffs. For the NHL teams, I included only wins, not ties or losses in overtime. Also, for sports with seasons that span two years, I included a team’s record in the year in which the season ended. And I accounted for the 2004-2005 NHL season that got scrapped over a labor dispute.
UPDATE 1:59 p.m. — The annual winning percentage is the average of each team’s figure that season. In other words, I took the sum of each team’s winning percentage and divided by the number of teams playing that year. I see the statistical pitfall of such a method, but I chose that route instead of total wins divided by total games because I didn’t want the results to skew too heavily to teams that play way more games in a season. I figure a .500 Twins season (which means 81 wins) is about equal in terms of pain and suffering as a .500 Vikes season (which is only 8 wins).
UPDATE 3:52 p.m. — Here’s a chart that lists each team’s winning percentage by year. Click to see a much bigger version.
Minnesota sports teams have never been more futile. The front offices, coaches and players from our local clubs should be grateful they’re located in the Twin Cities and not Philadelphia, Chicago or Boston, where fed-up fan bases would burn apparel and regalia in disgust. Not us. We’re optimistic. We believe. We, as fans, are completely masochistic, which makes this shameful era all the more miserable.
Is this statistically the saddest era in Minnesota sports history? Bob’s data seems to demonstrate that it is. But what all you cynical bastards need to remember is that this is a terrible year. Imagine living in Kansas City, where the professional team in the only sport that matters (baseball) is perennially embarrassing. Note how many division titles we’ve won in the past decade. You all would be in a much better place – emotionally, statistically – if you quit pretending to enjoy watching the Vikings and the Timberwolves.
There have been periods in the past when two or three of the teams were drab, but usually at least a couple of the others offered entertainment or hope. I’ve lived through the entire era you’re citing, and I’ve never been as gloomy and cynical as I am now. And my feelings are not only due to the bleak scene currently, but also to the steady drip of disappointment: the four Super Bowl blowouts, the ’98 NFC championship, 41-doughnut, the Twins’ record streak of postseason futility, 12 men in the huddle, Hail Mary, Brent McClanahan, the endless fail that is Gopher football, the Wolves’ astonishingly bad lottery luck – I could go on and on.
The Timberwolves are awful and will probably win the lottery for the worst draft ever. The Twins are saddled by big contracts and a lack of clubhouse leadership. The Vikings just picked a QB that has left everyone pondering the team’s future. The Wild? Do they still play? Yep. Worst time for MN sports I can remember.