The Cleveland Cavaliers lost their 26th consecutive game last night, 103-94 to the Detroit Pistons, which ties the all-time longest losing streak in American professional sports, held by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs lost all 14 games in their inaugural season and the first 12 of their second season before ending it with a 33-14 blowout of the New Orleans Saints on December 11, 1977.
It's gotten so bad that there's now a website called "Did the Cavs win last night?" The answer, a large black "No.", hasn't had to be changed since Dec. 18, when the Cavs defeated the New York Knicks in overtime. In fact, if not for that OT win, the Cleveland losing streak would be 37 -- because they had lost 10 in a row before they beat the Knicks.
The point of this article isn't to bash the Cavs or the city of Cleveland -- they've had enough of that. How does this losing streak compare to the worst streaks Chicago teams have had? The answer is... it's worse. Way worse.
Bears: For the Bears, I checked both losing streaks and non-winning streaks, because until recently when overtime in the NFL was instituted, teams had a fair number of tie games. And the Bears were a very good team for most of the early years of the NFL; it's only in recent times when they've had some down years. The longest losing streak in Bears history is eight. That's been accomplished three times, twice over multiple seasons and once in a single year. The Bears lost their last game in 1968 (which cost them a trip to the playoffs) and their first seven of 1969 on their way to a 1-13 season. They did the same thing in 1996-97. Only once have they lost eight straight in a single year -- that happened in the Champaign year of 2002, when Soldier Field was being renovated and the Bears played home games at Memorial Stadium, home of the Illini. They lost eight straight from Sept. 22, 2002 through Nov. 18, 2002, on their way to a 4-12 year. The team did have one streak of 10 non-wins; they went 0-7-1 in their last eight games of 1929 and 0-1-1 in their first two of 1930 for a 0-8-2 streak.
Blackhawks: Like the Bears, we have to take ties into account when talking about the Blackhawks' worst losing streaks. The Hawks did have some down years before their recent resurgence, but the worst era in Blackhawk history is the late 1940s through late 1950s, when they finished fifth or sixth in the old "Original Six" NHL 11 times in 12 seasons, missing the playoffs in all but one of those years. That's where both their longest losing and longest non-winning streaks come from. The longest losing streak in team history is 13; they lost their last 12 of the 1950-51 season from Feb. 25, 1951 through Mar. 25, 1951, and the first game of the following season on Oct. 11, 1951. But before that 12-game streak to end the 1950-51 season, they had a non-winning streak of 21 -- 18 losses and three ties -- from Dec. 17, 1950 through Jan. 28, 1951 (the longest loss streak within that non-win streak was eight).
Bulls: The longest Bulls losing streak is 16, from Jan. 8, 2001 through Feb. 6, 2001. The team went 15-67 that year, worst in franchise history. They started the streak at 6-26 and ended it just about as bad as the Cavaliers are right now, 6-42. There was one triple-OT loss and one loss by one point; other than that, the closest they got during that streak was six points. When the Bulls started the next season 4-21, coach Tim Floyd was fired.
Cubs: The worst losing streak for the Cubs includes the 14-game streak to begin the 1997 season (from Apr. 1-20, 1997) -- that streak is also the National League record for the longest losing streak to begin a year. However, the Cubs also lost their last two games in 1996, so the overall worst Cub streak stands at 16. Don't confuse this with the 14-game home losing streak in 1994, after which manager Tom Trebelhorn had his famous "firehouse chat" -- the Cubs did win six road games during that streak, and were 6-18 overall before they won their first 1994 home game on May 4, 1994 over the Reds.
White Sox: The longest Sox losing streak in a single season is 13, and we have to go back a long way for that one -- August 9-26, 1924. The all-time worst Sox losing streak is 15, and part of it cost them the 1967 pennant -- one game out of first place with five games left in the season and heading on the road to play the worst two teams in the league, the Athletics and Senators, the Sox seemed well-positioned to take the '67 pennant. But they lost all five games -- including being shut out three times -- and finished fourth in that wild pennant race which the Red Sox won. Then the White Sox lost their first 10 games of 1968 (on the way to a 68-94 season), for an overall losing streak of 15.
So Chicago teams have a long way to go to match the Cavaliers' futility -- and let's hope they don't! Meanwhile, Cleveland has a game against the Clippers at home on Friday, and if they lose that one to set the all-time American pro sports losing streak, something may finally give on Sunday. That's when they host the Washington Wizards -- who have not won a road game all year, going 0-25 away from the Verizon Center. If the Cavs don't win that one... they've got a shot at running the table and losing every game they play the rest of the year. Now that would be a record likely never broken.