Detroit sports teams are terrible and the loyal fans know it. All professional sports franchises have their ups and downs. Cities suffer with mediocre teams and painful streaks of losing seasons. Fortunately, large cities have professional franchises in three or four major sports, which can spread the pain by delivering at least one watchable team. Not so for Detroit, which leaves a whole city of regularly disappointed fans.

Detroit professional sports
Pick a sport any sport and the Detroit professional sports franchise is guaranteed to disappoint. (Image: eSportsReport)

With the National Football League opening training camps and preseason underway, we have to look first to the perennial failures — the Detroit Pussy Cats. Coming off a 6-10 season, good for last place in the NFC North, the Lions can reflect back on their last championship season in 1957. A decade before the Super Bowl even existed the Lions were last on top of the football world. It’s been 61 years since the Lions fans could celebrate.

Any Chance of Better Luck This Year?

Detroit fans might be happy, even delighted to win a playoff game or two in any sport. But the odds on a championship title this year are dismal for any of the Motor City teams — and perhaps rightfully so, considering how long it’s been since these teams have taken their league’s top prize.
  • 15 years since the NBA Pistons won (200/1 to win a championship in 2019-2020 season)
  • 11 years for the NHL Red Wings (100/1 for the Stanley Cup 2019-2020)
  • 35 years for the MLB Tigers (9999/1 this season)
  • 61 years for the NFL Lions (8000/1 currently)

Play-by-play the Detroit franchises have disappointed of late. Some longer than others. The longest drought definitely belongs to the Lions of the NFL.

NFL: Detroit Lions – Heading For The Bottom

In recent history, the Lions have lost Wildcard Playoffs games in 2016, 2014, 2011, 1999, 1997, 1995, 1994 and 1993. Eight first round playoff losses in the last 35 years against zero wins and 27 no-shows. The Lions have amassed winning seasons in only 10 of the last 33 campaigns.

Four current NFL franchises have never been to a Super Bowl. The Jacksonville Jaguars (established in 1993). The Cleveland Browns (re-established in 1999 after the then Browns team became the Baltimore Ravens). The Houston Texans (founded in 2002). And the Detroit Lions (founded in 1934) but to be fair the Super Bowl didn’t exist until 1967. So the Lions have only missed out 51 times.

Detroit great Barry Sanders who labored his entire career with the ineffectual Lions franchise. (Image: Pinterest)

Mind you the Lions have had marquee players. Barry Sanders led the league in rushing four times, twice he was the league’s Offensive Player of the Year. Calvin Johnson led the NFL in receiving yards twice and went to six Pro Bowls. Hall of Fame Lions since 1957 include among others: Lem Barney, Joe Schmidt, Alex Karras, Dick LeBeau, Charley Sanders and Barry Sanders.

Bleacher Report calls for the Lions to duplicate last year’s record at 6-10. Sports Illustrated sees a 4-12 Lion season. USA Today Sports lays it on the line, projecting Detroit will manage only a weak 3-13 record.

Newly acquired Detroit receiver Danny Amendola has been on both winning and losing teams in his career. He has a few choice words about these predictions.

“I don’t look at that (excrement),” Amendola said at the start of training camp. “They can predict all they want. That doesn’t matter to me.”

Will the loyal Detroit Lion fans be able to hold out the same hope for the team in 2019?

MLB: Detroit Tigers – At The Bottom

Currently, the other variety of Detroit Pussycats have the worse record in the Major Leagues. The Tigers are terrible. Their record has been hovering around a .300 win percentage for over a month. And this is not a declared rebuilding year, unless you consider the previous two seasons winners at identical 64-98 records.

Detroit Tigers 1984
Detroit celebrated their last World Series win in 1984. (Image: Detroit Free Press)

The last time the Tigers were in the World Series they were swept by the San Francisco Giants in 2012. Prior to it was a 4-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006. The last World Series trophy for the Tigers has 1984, roughly 35 years ago.

A decade ago the Tigers were at least contenders, but the tread is definitely downhill these days. Attendance at Comerica Park has fallen from over 3 million in 2012 and 2013 to under 2 million last year and heading even lower this year.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings – On The Way Back?

The most storied sports franchise in Detroit is the NHL Red Wings. This is the team of the great Gordie Howe and more recently Steve Yzerman. Yzerman has, in fact, returned this year to the Red Wings as their new General Manager. Hopefully, he can turn around a team that has missed the playoffs each of the last 3 seasons. Those were the first missed playoffs in 28 years.

Steve Yzerman Stanley Cup
Captain Steve Yzerman hoists the Stanley Cup … which for a brief decade the Red Wings were serious a threat  to win. (Image: bigmouthsports)

A Red Wing last raised the Stanley Cup in 2008. Prior to that it was Steve Yzerman, then the team captain, who hoisted the big silver Cup three times in 2002, 1998 and 1997.

The Wings now play in the new Little Caesar’s Arena, which cost north of $860 million to construct. The glamorous new stadium is home to both the Red Wings and Pistons. The new building could certainly use a contender or two. Okay, one just one.

NBA: Detroit Pistons – Loss Not To Be Found

In the NBA, the Pistons finished 41-41 last year and lost a first round playoff 4-0 to Milwaukee. But that was an improvement over the previous two seasons of 39 and 37 wins with no playoff appearances. The last championship for the Pistons was in 2004. Prior to that the Bad Boys with Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Isaiah Thomas won titles in 1989 and 1990. Those were the first NBA titles for Detroit since the franchise moved from Fort Wayne in 1957.

Dennis Rodman, Isaiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer were the heart of the Pistons Bad Boys team. (Image: Ebay)

The current Piston’s lineup has Blake Griffin and Andre Drummon, plus they claimed Christian Wood in the off-season. But none of the big name free agents flying around this summer landed in Detroit. A big season in 2019-2020 does not seem to be in the lineup for the Pistons.

The fans in Detroit are as loyal as they come but the professional franchises haven’t been kind in return. Hope may spring eternal but the glitter of a championship trophy is long overdue in the Motor City.


Tim Lavalli holds a Ph.D. in psychology and has focused his work on the mental aspects of competitive games. He co-authored Check-Raising the Devil, the autobiography of poker pro Mike Matusow. He was born in Detroit and has been a long-suffering Lions fan his entire life. You can follow him on Twitter @timlavalli.

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