Frank Reich. LaMelo Ball’s right ankle. Bryce Young’s rookie struggles and the discarded draft picks that brought him to North Carolina.
You don’t have to dig deep to find reasons why there seemed to be a dark cloud hanging over Charlotte sports fans in 2023.
Gaming Today, a website covering the gambling industry, put local sports fans’ misery to numbers, reporting that Charlotte had the second-worst calendar year of any North American professional sports city.
While 50 cities fared better than the Queen City, only San Antonio was worse. One might argue San Antonio fans had more to celebrate than Charlotte fans though, as winning the NBA Draft Lottery netted the Spurs rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama for years to come.
“San Antonio must absorb the indignation of being the worst of the worst in 2023, but at least there’s hope,” Gaming Today analyst Brant James said. “The Spurs figure to improve greatly in the coming years with Wemby in the fold. Charlotte, meanwhile, has Panthers and Hornets troubles aplenty.”
The study included postseason games, though obviously that didn’t impact the numbers for Charlotte, left out of any playoffs in 2023. To make the rankings, Gaming Today looked at winning percentages for the four traditional major sports (sorry, Charlotte FC fans) from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
Charlotte was looking up at the third-worst city, Portland. Charlotte is also miles behind the top five cites: Milwaukee, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Jacksonville and Miami, respectively.
However, North Carolina’s other pro city fared much better.
Raleigh stronger, but NC still near bottom of state rankings
A silver lining for North Carolina fans is Raleigh, a one-team town housing the NHL’s Hurricanes, finished eighth, according to the site.
Still, altogether, North Carolina was also the second-worst state or province of the 32 with pro sports teams, besting only Oregon.
Off-the-field was arguably worse than on-field in Charlotte, especially given the Panthers traded their 2024 first-round pick to draft Young, who was put in an impossible position in a dreadful rookie year.
The continued off-court issues surrounding the Hornets, including more turbulence involving Miles Bridges, made 2023 even tougher for Charlotte fans to endure.
Ironically, of the cities that won titles in 2023 – Kansas City (NFL), Las Vegas (NHL), Denver (NBA) and Dallas/Arlington (MLB) – none made the top five.
Any reason for Charlotte hope in 2024?
Now that the calendar has turned over a new leaf, is there much hope for optimism in Charlotte?
Well, the Panthers have seemingly landed on a new coach in Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Dave Canales to mentor Young.
Brandon Miller has also proved to be a promising rookie for the Hornets, who have Ball back on the court for the stretch drive of another lost season.
The good news for fans is there’s only one more spot to go in the wrong direction.
The numbers say: It can’t get any worse.
Image credit: AP