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Kobritz: ‘Most miserable fans’ goes to Kings, with Patriots on the other end of spectrum

Beyond the Lines

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, drives the ball between Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III, left, and guard Frank Mason III during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Kelvin Kuo/AP)

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James, center, drives the ball between Sacramento Kings forward Marvin Bagley III, left, and guard Frank Mason III during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game in Los Angeles, Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. (Kelvin Kuo/AP)

ESPN recently surveyed fans of teams in the four Major League team sports to determine the most miserable fan base in professional sports.

Not surprisingly, Sacramento Kings fans “won” the title of most miserable fan base in sports. You would be miserable too, if your team had never won a championship (since moving to town in 1985), hadn’t won a playoff series since 2004, and haven’t even made the playoffs since 2006 (the longest drought in the NBA). Why give your hard-earned dollars, let alone your unrequited love, to such a hopeless team? But there are Kings fans out there. The team has averaged over 17,000 fans per game in each of the last three years, and finished 18th in attendance in the 30-team NBA in the 2017-18 season.

Also not surprisingly, Patriots fans finished on the other end of the spectrum, as well they should have. The team has won nine AFC-East Division titles in a row, 15 since 2001, played in the last seven Conference Championship Games, won five Super Bowls and played in three others since 2001. But Patriots fans haven’t always enjoyed an abundance of riches.

In their early years, the Patriots were the laughing stock of the NFL, with a reputation for being a misfit organization on and off the field. It wasn’t until Robert Kraft purchased the team in 1994 that things began to stabilize. Kraft hired Bill Belichick in 2000 and three months later the team drafted a little-known quarterback from Michigan in the seventh round of the NFL draft, whatshisname? Oh, yea, Tom Brady.

According to the ESPN Sports Misery Index formula, the early days of the team’s ineptitude don’t count because the formula emphasizes what is referred to as the “recency factor.” For example, if your team won a championship in the past five years, even if it was a fluke preceded by decades of failure, you aren’t allowed to be miserable.

The formula weighs five categories: championships (the more the better and the more recent, even better); playoff berths (if you don’t make the playoffs you don’t have a chance to win championships); playoff wins (losing the MLB Wild Card Game doesn’t count for much); heartbreaks (the Patriots’ two last-minute Super Bowl losses to the New York Giants on freak plays is something even Patriots haters should have empathy for); and rival comparison (if your biggest rival is winning titles while your team is losing, that’s pouring salt into an open wound).

The ESPN survey provides us with a window into the mindset of entire cities. Boston is an upbeat town for sports fans, with all four teams listed in the bottom quarter of the index (the lower the numeric number the less miserable the fan base) while Buffalo, not surprisingly, checks in at the other end of the spectrum.

Although the index may change from year to year, one thing is certain: as long as Bill and Tom are around, the Patriots should finish on the top … err, the bottom ... of the heap.

Jordan Kobritz is a non-practicing attorney and CPA, former Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog, sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Kobritz can be reached by email at jordan.kobritz@cortland.edu.