@rvanheertum has proposed trying to create a new and updated variant of the Sports Pain Index, a concept whose widespread popularity has been growing since Bill Simmons published a Levels of Losing list on the now-defunct ESPN2 and was most recently quantified, franchise by franchise (in 2011 for baseball), by his colleague Jim Caple with his Misery Index. Caple has done this a few times for MLB and NFL teams, though I am not aware of him doing anything else with NBA, NHL, or soccer teams.

Like Caple, Rich has proposed breaking this down by franchise, rather than city. This makes sense, given how, for example, a Cubs title next month isn’t exactly going to bring tears of joy to White Sox fans living in the same city, and how those fanbases overlap with, say, the Bears or the Bulls will vary so much as to be almost unquantifiable. Was Bob the Cubs fan’s pain eased by watching the Michael Jordan Bulls or the Toews-Kane Blackhawks or the 1985 Chicago Bears? Well, it depends a lot on whether he cared about any of those sports, as opposed to MLS, or nothing else, or whatever. You get the point.

So, by franchise, how are we going to make this formula work? Here are some necessary components that I can think of off the top of my head. @rsharp @apolloflow @otrera et. al., please add (or subtract) any components here.

  • Years since last championship. This seems basic.
  • Number of catastrophic collapses. Losing when you should have won is extra saucy.
  • Number of seasons in last or totally hopeless.
  • Idiot Index – Trades, free agent signings, coach hires (or fires), or other managerial mistakes that haunted the franchise (as opposed to on-field mistakes)
  • Fandom size – Misery is more well known and (perhaps) more meaningful with lots of company.
  • Title appearances – At least getting to the finals should take a bit away from the pain, excepting catastrophic collapses. Example, the Rocktober Rockies of 2007 had a magical ride to the World Series, and probably were just happy to be there. They had little to no chance against a powerhouse Red Sox team and got swept.

So I’d like to wait until after the World Series, as either the Cubs or Indians fans will have salved their wounds by then. But my thought was maybe weighting years based on 1. For an average year, where there wasn’t much hope of a playoff appearance, 2. For years where they were on the cusp of making the playoffs but failed at or near the last hurdle (ala the Jets in Week 17 last year), 3. For getting to within a game of the championship (ala the Jets on four occasions since 1969 and the Cubs famously a few times before this year, including last) and maybe 4. Really, really close to getting to the championship game (last second heartbreak, a lead blown, etc … ala the Cubs in 2003).


I’m thinking of including some teams that tortured fans before finally getting the job done — The New York Rangers, The Red Sox, Cavs and loser of this World Series, as well as more obvious choices like the Jets, Clippers, Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues, Sacramento Kings, Padres and Chargers, etc.


Waiting until after the World Series makes clear sense @rvanheertum.

That sounds like a pretty good general set of criteria. I particularly like thinking of it as “games from the championship game/series” as to how close it feels to a fan. The hard part is going to be figuring out how to balance the pain of just missing out with the despair of being a cellar-dweller. Somewhere in the middle, the two kind of overlap and, while not exactly cancelling each other out, there’s a generally accepted sense that being a fan of a team that just makes the playoffs tends to feel better than, say, watching the Cleveland Browns. At least the team is entertaining or trying.

Maybe that’s one way you can unify this metric (as opposed to “despair”). How about a “how close did they get” and also a “how hard were they trying” measure (you can do this either on fan perceptions, a simple StDev of expenditure on the roster & coaching staff, or some other way)?

I do like your idea of putting special mentions for teams that had a famous drought that then ended. One other subcategory of that would be teams that famously were frustrated for decades but then followed on with a period of sustained success (Red Sox, SF Giants, Patriots although the losing wasn’t as long, Detroit Red Wings).

We should also make a blanket statement that teams don’t carry this with them when they move. The Baltimore Ravens’ titles don’t make people in Cleveland feel better (likely the opposite), and the OKC Thunder don’t get to include Seattle SuperSonics pain.


Back to the formula for a moment, @pzed. I wonder if there should be a hopelessness feature. There are some teams that are built to lose, or at least built to be sold midseason. I’m thinking A’s and Pirates, and of course this doesn’t translate as well to the salary cap sports. Nevertheless, there are teams that, for one reason or another, just won’t win for structural reasons that aren’t going away any time soon. This is close in heart to the Idiot Index, but there’s no need to call it a mistake.


@rsharp and @rvanheertum, yes, there should absolutely be a hopelessness feature. I’m not sure if we should make this an entirely separate measure (as @rsharp suggests) or possibly create some unifying measure that incorporates both despair and narrow losses (the “how hard are they trying” idea).

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