Is Atlanta Really a Cursed Playoff City?


A few weeks ago, an intrepid yet crestfallen commentor on From the Rumble Seat sent in a very interesting question for our weekly mailbag after Georgia Tech had been unceremoniously eliminated from the NCAA baseball tournament:

Mailbag Comment

Reading this, there are two different (yet, really somewhat similar) reactions to be had:

  1. “We can’t be the worst, right? Surely there’s someone with a worse playoff history?”

  2. “LOL yep, we have the worst playoff history ever.”

Naturally, in the interest of either confirming or assuaging my our worst fears, I figured it might be useful to put together some data on the matter.

To satisfy the “major city” requirement of the reader’s question, I selected the top 10 Combined Statistical Areas in the United States, along with a few others that I thought might be interesting points of comparison. Then, using SportsReference and Wikipedia, I compiled each city’s playoff record and number of championships in each of six professional sports: American football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, and women’s basketball (I left college sports out of this analysis to avoid the complications of deciding which programs to include). I summed up these records to get a combined playoff record (and winning percentage) for each city. If you’d like to see the full dataset, you can view it here.


  1. First and foremost, a direct answer to the reader’s question: dishearteningly (but somewhat unsurprisingly), Atlanta has the worst playoff winning record of the selected CSAs (0.450; 4 combined championships). To make matters worse, only two of its franchises’ titles were won in Atlanta: the Braves in 1995 and United in 2018.

  2. Unsurprisingly, New York leads the selected CSAs (and therefore, the nation) in combined championships, simply based on the sheer number of teams within their area (11).

  3. Despite being less than half the size of Los Angeles, Boston is nearly tied with LA in terms of combined championships (38 for Boston, 39 for LA). sigh

  4. My arbitrary choice to combine Cleveland and Columbus into one CSA to better encompass most of the major sports in that area doesn’t really affect the calculus that much. Columbus only adds one championship (MLS; 2008) to Cleveland’s existing 11, as well as losing playoff records in both MLS and NHL postseason play.

  5. Overall, Houston and Miami are title-starved like Atlanta, but both have recent championships (Miami Heat, NBA - 2013; Houston Astros, MLB - 2017).

  6. For such a small CSA and a small number of teams, Pittsburgh puts out a ridiculous amount of sporting success (three teams; 0.534 playoff win %; 16 combined championships).

  7. Miami has the fewest playoff wins and the fewest playoff losses, but is over .500 in combined playoff record. On the (apparently) rare chance a Miami team makes the postseason of its sport, look for it to make some noise (see: Marlins, Florida - 1997, 2003).



I don't know what I expected

But, on the other hand, it’s interesting to see how other cities have performed overall in some of the nation’s most popular sports. This dataset could probably be improved by including college sports (specifically, college football and basketball), and more analysis could be done to generate some “misery index” that considers the number of years since a team’s last championship, as well as how much that sport means to a city (e.g.: how important would winning an NBA title be compared to winning a World Series). Taking these factors into consideration would make this composite data more meaningful.

However, regardless of further analysis, the composite results tell a stark story: Atlanta might actually be a cursed team in the postseason. But with United, the Falcons, and the Braves now all looking competitive, one can hope that they refuse to accept what seems to be a civic fait accompli.