ESPN undervalues our suffering

Recently, ESPN began counting down the “Most Tortured Sports Cities.” Every Tuesday for the last several weeks, the network’s “Cold Pizza” morning show (an awful concept – SportsCenter functions just fine as the sports junkie’s morning show) has revealed the next selection to its list.

Two weeks ago, they came out with their choice for the sixth most tortured sports city in the United States: Minneapolis.

Now, I can endure Minneapolis being slighted on “Best Stadium” lists. I can handle Minneapolis finishing low on the rankings of the “Best-Run Franchises.” It doesn’t bother me when Minneapolis is named “Worst College Town in the Big Ten.”

But “Most Tortured”? That’s our lifeblood as Minnesota sports fans; we can assert nothing else as our claim to fame.

I’m indignant about this. I’ve spent most of my sports life dealing with emotional scars caused by Minnesota-based sports teams. When some East Coast sports organization – claiming to be “The Worldwide Leader in Sports” – minimizes my pain and suffering by ranking my city as barely worthy of pity, I’m going to be pretty mad.

I ask you, Minnesota sports fans: who’s more tortured than us? Boston came in at No. 5. This is a city still digging out from under the ticker tape from two Super Bowl wins in three years, a city that has won sixteen NBA titles, a city so rife with sports-related success to make even its most hardened sports fan bloated with happiness. To wit: the “Boston Sports Guy,” ESPN’s Bill Simmons, blasted Boston’s selection to the list.

Yet it still clings to the “tortured” moniker, all because of the “cursed” Red Sox, who have a great stadium and money to burn. Here’s a memo to Red Sox fans, from baseball fans everywhere: enough already. Shut up.

ESPN has yet to name the final four cities in the rankings, but I can take a pretty educated guess at some of the likely losers: Philadelphia. Cleveland. Buffalo, N.Y.

Please.

Other cities can no doubt rattle off a litany of sufferings they’ve endured, but no list can compare to the list of the Minnesota sports fan. Let me list just a few of the worst.

The Twins won two titles then sank off the face of the map after 1992. Since then, they’ve been sold to North Carolina and volunteered for contraction. The franchise’s most popular player got glaucoma; later, we found out he was Minnesota’s version of Mike Tyson.

The Timberwolves spent seven years failing in the draft lottery, followed by seven more failing in the playoffs. The Wolves also nearly got moved to New Orleans, and had to deal with the death of Malik Sealy.

The North Stars got beat 8-0 in the deciding game of a Stanley Cup Final, then packed up and left town to win their first cup elsewhere. Gopher football hasn’t won anything for almost 40 years. Gopher basketball’s a particularly unfunny joke.

But nothing anywhere in sports – not in Buffalo, not in Philly, not anywhere – can compare to the torment of Vikings fandom.

The franchise should come with a disclaimer: to be a Vikings fan is to suffer. Minnesota lost four Super Bowls, three conference championship games and the infamous “Hail Mary” game to Dallas.

Since I became a Vikings fan, I’ve dealt with agonizing losses in conference championship games, the death of Korey Stringer and maybe the most excruciating regular-season loss in NFL history last season.

Put another way: in the 16 years or so that I’ve been a Vikings fan, there have been at least ten losses so painful I’ve actively attempted to banish them from my memory.

So bring me your whiny Buffalo fans, grouchy Philadelphia fans and tormented Cleveland fans. Were a local team to play these cities in any of the sports mentioned above for a title, no doubt it would lose in some awful, painful way. But, pit us in a most tortured city competition, however, and I’m willing to do the one thing I’m careful never to do with regard to any other sport: I’m optimistic about our chances of winning.