In Football, any time a team is relegated or nearly falls (double if it occurs dueto cheating instead of team incompetence).
Liverpool is currently experiencing one: Having been a Top 4 team in England (considered by many to have the best league in the world; that is saying something) for a long while, they finished 7th in the 2009 - 10 season and needed a late surge under new manager (and club legend) Kenny Danglish to finish sixth the following year. That and awful cup performances just made the club's 2005 Champions League victory seem like a distant memory for a lot of supporters; however, the club's second place finish in 2014, just two points behind champion Manchester City, may be a sign that the Dork Age is at an end.
Most Liverpool fans will likely blame the decline on owner Tom Hicks, who admitted he bought into the club just to help finance his two American sports clubs, the NHL's Dallas Stars and MLB Texas Rangers. He promised a new stadium at Stanley Park and never delivered; his son had to resign from the board of directors after sending a fan an email with the words "Blow me f*** face." Hicks and his partners were brought before the House of Commons, who claimed the club was being "drained by their greed". Ultimately, Hicks declared bankruptcy and had to sell off all three clubs, dealing the soccer club in 2010 to the ownership group of the Boston Red Sox.
Most notable however is River Plate, an Argentinian club which got relegated for the first time in their 100+ year history (and 33 titles) after massive debt trouble and a sporting crisis which has plagued the club for the last 3 years. The fact that the club has housed many famous Argentine players and that rioting was the result of the whole thing speaks volumes.
The 1990 FIFA World Cup, filled with ties, underperforming teams (both European champions Netherlands and perpetual favorites Brazil fell in the first round of the playoffs) and low goalscoring. Rule changes were imposed afterwards to improve the game (forbidding the keeper from handling the ball, preventing time-wasting and defensiveness; 3 points for win instead of 2 to disencourage ties).
The Domenech era (post-2006) is considered like this for the French national soccer team. France fell during the pool phase both in 2008 and 2010 ; the 2010 World Cup was marked by many scandals (players' strike, insults, match against Ireland...) which greatly affected the team's reputation.
The Brisbane Bears' early period, where the team was based on the Gold Coast, had the awful "angry koala" jumpers, and was consistently on or near the bottom of the ladder.
Carlton in the 2000s, after the discovery of major salary cap violations forced the club into a rebuilding period. As of 2012, the club seems to be emerging from this period.
Collingwood's "Colliwobbles" between 1958 and 1990, including Grand Final losses in 1964, 1966, 1970, 1977, 1979, 1980 and 1981.
Essendon in the seventies - some fans use "seventies Essendon" as a derogatory term to refer to a poor performance by the team. This dork age ended when Kevin Sheedy took over as coach.
Melbourne from 1965 to 1988. When Norm Smith was controversially sacked as coach in 1965, he predicted the club would never win another premiership, which they have yet to do. They did manage to make the Grand Final again in 1988, though (as well as 2000).
For Richmond, pretty much everything after the club last made a grand final in 1982 - since then, they have been seemingly permanently mired in the bottom half of the ladder, through an endless succession of coaches.
Major League Baseball
American baseball in general went through a Dork Age in The Fifties, as the only place where the sport wasn't in a sorry state was New York City. The minor leagues were collapsing due to the availability of major league games on television, old stadiums were growing increasingly decrepit, the dominance of New York teams (particularly the Yankees)note Of the ten World Series held in the '50s, eight were won by teams from New York. The only years when this wasn't the case were 1957, when the Milwaukee Braves pulled it off, and 1959, when the Los Angeles Dodgers won — and just two years earlier, they had been the Brooklyn Dodgers. was causing fans outside New York to tune out, some teams were still refusing to integrate long after Jackie Robinson had broken down the color barrier, and the sport had no real presence (other than the aforementioned minor leagues) in the fast-growing "Sun Belt" of the South and the West Coast. All of this gave football, both professional and college-level, enough room to build itself up as a serious rival to baseball's status as "America's pastime." This ended in The Sixties once teams (led by the Giants and the Dodgers) started moving to the South and West and giving the sport a real nationwide presence, along with the Yankees' own Dork Age meaning that other teams (especially in the American League) now stood a chance.
The Boston Red Sox after their infamous sale of Babe Ruth's contract to the Yankees in 1920. The team was awful throughout the 1920's and 30's, essentially serving as a farm system for New York, making several other one-sided trades to help strengthen the Yankees' dynasty. Even the most die-hard Sox fans would probably have trouble naming any notable players in the 20's. They didn't have another winning season until 1935, and didn't win the American League pennant until 1946. Another Dork Age occured in the first six years post-Ted Williams. One could argue it lasted until they broke the "Curse of the Bambino", but the Red Sox were relatively successful overall, just couldn't get a championship.
More recently, try telling a modern Sox fan the Red Sox sold out only a few games a year to watch a mediocre team playing in a falling-apart Fenway Park in the early to mid 80s. Then show them Roger Clemens' 20-strikeout game and point out all the empty seats. They will likely deny this ever happened.
From a national standpoint, the "Yankees-Red Sox" rivalry was non-existent from the 1978 playoffs until the ALCS in 1999.
Despite being one of the most storied teams in American sports, the New York Yankees have two periods that many fans would like to forget.
Starting in 1964, the Yankees' long-running '50s dynasty quickly collapsed. While some have blamed CBSbuying a controlling stake in the team, the biggest factor in their decline was the introduction of the MLB draft in 1965, making it much harder for the Yankees to replace their aging '50s superstars by simply buying up every hot young talent. The Yankees finished 1965 in the second division (i.e. in the bottom half of the standings), and the following year they finished dead last in the American League. Longtime announcer and "Voice of the Yankees" Mel Allen was also fired in 1964 to save money. Things got slightly better in the ensuing years, but it was only when George Steinbrenner took over the team in 1973 that it became a contender again.
The second Dork Age was The Eighties. Despite having the highest winning percentage in baseball for that decade, they failed to make the postseason after 1981 (in a two-division league; they once made the postseason eight times in 10 years out of a single-division AL) and were mostly known for owner George Steinbrenner's antics - mainly giving huge contracts to players who didn't perform and firing managers left and right. They finally hit rock bottom finishing dead last in 1990, with Steinbrenner getting banned from baseball for two years for hiring a con man to try and dig up damaging information on one of his own players. The suspension, however, allowed the front office to finally turn things around, unloading the bad contracts and focusing on player development, making the Yanks a playoff team by 1995 and champions again a year later.
1990 started off with a lockout that cut into much of Spring Training. Fay Vincent, who became the commissioner after the sudden death of A. Bartlett Giamatti in September 1989 and oversaw the lockout, was forced out of office by the owners (among them, Milwaukee Brewers owner Bud Selig, who would subsequently replace Vincent as commissioner, albeit on an "acting basis" at first) two years later.
In 1994, the outdated two divisional set-up (the year prior, the Florida Marlins and Colorado Rockies joined MLB as expansion franchises) was tossed in favor of the current three division and a wild card format (which was problematic within itself at first, because the Divisional Series matchups/seedings were at first, predetermined instead of determined by winning percentages). Unfortunately, for the 1993 San Francisco Giants, they won 103 games yet came one game short of the Atlanta Braves (who were always since 1969, quite mysteriously, in the National League West despite being the Southernmost MLB franchise on the East Coast). Thus, had the three divisional format been implemented the year prior, then the Giants would've easily won their divisional title.
The '90s were also, depending on your point of view, an era of little parity or competitive balance when compared to The Eighties, with (at various phases during the decade) the Oakland Athletics, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, and New York Yankees dominating the American League and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves shortly thereafter dominating the National League.
The '90s hit its collective nadir with the 1994 strike, which wound up leading to the cancellation of the World Series for the first time in 90 years (and arguably, marked the beginning of the end for the Montreal Expos franchise, who had the best record in MLB in 1994 and likely would've been a World Series contender).
To make matters worst, during the period, MLB entered a revenue sharing joint venture with ABC and NBC (after their previous four year long television billion dollar television deal with CBS wound up costing the network approximately $500 million) called The Baseball Network. The Baseball Network was problematic because it emphasized the regionalization of the first two rounds of the postseason (meaning that they would be played simultaneously, yet the entire nation couldn't watch them or have much of a choice in regards to which game you could watch). More to the point, the first half of the regular season had no nationally televised, network TV coverage (only picking up after the All-Star Game). Plus, since the Baseball Night in America (the branding for the Baseball Network's regular season, prime time telecasts) held exclusivity over every market, it most severely impacted markets with two franchises. For example, if Baseball Night in America showed a Yankees game, this meant that nobody in New York could see that night's Mets game and vice versa.
Finally, there was the "home run derby" era of the late '90s and early '00s, with players such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds at the forefront. Initially, this was seen as the end of baseball's Dork Age, with the sport rising to heights of popularity perhaps not seen in decades; millions of people were tuning in to watch superstar athletes race to shatter home-run records. However, things turned around quickly once it was revealed where this sudden surge in athleticism was coming from: steroid use so rampant that it triggered a Congressional investigation. Pretty much everyone in baseball, along with many fans, now treats that era as one of the most disgraceful episodes in baseball history due to the fact that many of its biggest stars were revealed to have been either doping or engaging in other forms of cheating (like Sammy Sosa's corked bat), with MLB officials turning a blind eye due to the fact that the sport was popular again.
As for Individual teams in that era:
The Toronto Blue Jays followed up on their back-to-back wins in the 1992 and 1993 World Series with four consecutive losing seasons (55–60 in 1994note strike-shortened season, 56–88 in 1995, 74-88 in 1996 and 76-86 in 1997). Longtime manager Cito Gaston was also fired by the management, and replaced by relative unknown Tim Johnston (who tried to motivate the players by lying about his service in the Vietnam War). Coupled with a severe attendance drop during those years (from which the franchise has never truly recovered) and the fact that they haven't even returned to the playoffs since then, it wasn't a good time to be a Jays fan in the late 90's.
When the Walt Disney Company took ownership of the then-California Angels in 1997 (on the heels of owning/creating the Anaheim Mighty Ducks), they changed the team name to the Anaheim Angels (in order to carve a niche for Anaheim being the home of Disneyland and Disney's sports) and ditched the signature halo logo for a periwinkle blue color scheme with an angel wing tip for its symbol. This lasted for only a few seasons before reverting back to an updated form of the old red-and-white/halo template as Disney phased itself out of its sports experiment in the early 2000s. (And as for the Mighty Ducks, they won the Stanley Cup the first year Disney relinquished ownership and the organization had rebranded itself as the Ducks, removing all logos and references to the Disney property.)
For what it's worth, though, it was under Disney's ownership that the Angels built the team that win the World Series in 2002. While many fans cheered the Mouse-Ears selling to Arte Moreno that year, Moreno has since wrecked the team by trying to make them the Yankees of the West Coast, giving the front office the edict to always sign the best player in free agency each year. (in addition to the debacle over the city of Anaheim suing the team to keep their name with the team, forcing them to now be called the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). This has led to them dumping proven veterans like Vlad Guererro and Torri Hunter in order to eventually sign the likes of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton and see them fail to produce. With Hamilton and Pujols' contracts stuck on their payroll for another four years as of 2013 (eight more on Pujols!), said contracts likely hampering the team from re-signing their young guys like Mike Trout and a depleted farm system, the Angels could very well be in for another longer Dork Age.
Not to be outdone, the Los Angeles Dodgers also had a late-'90s Dork Age. They had been a crown jewel of baseball along with the Yankees and Cubs, having been a family-owned operation under the O'Malley family for fifty years dating back to their days in Brooklyn. They were also the ultimate sign of stability in baseball, having only going through one managerial change in 46 years. In 1998, the team was sold to FOX, who operated the team for six years. Among the moves made during that tenure:
Having more managers in the fold (Bill Russell, Davey Johnson, and Jim Tracy) than the previous 46 years combined
Trading away face-of-the-franchise Mike Piazza, who continued his career as arguably the greatest offensive catcher in baseball history with the New York Mets and will undoubtably be elected to the Hall of Fame as a Met.
Adding another color (silver) to their color scheme and alternate uniforms, something that the other "classic" franchises (New York, Boston, St. Louis, Chicago) had not done.
Giving away huge free-agent contracts that became incredible busts; they made ace starter Kevin Brown the first $100 million man in baseball despite being 33 and having a history of injuries (which would derail his Dodger career) and gave large deals to an aging, injured, and ineffective Andy Ashby and unproductive Darren Dreifort, who would suffer a career-derailing shoulder injury shortly after his new deal.
2011 appeared to bring another. After the team made the playoffs four times from 2004-09, the divorce and antics of owner Frank McCourt appeared to derail the franchise. Attendance dropped below 3 million for the first time in almost twenty years, and most of the 2011 season was spent in the basement, filing for bankruptcy. However, a late-season Miracle Rally saw the Dodgers go from last-place to a winning record; then 2012 saw the team finish second and sold to a group including LA sports legend Magic Johnson; with a new TV deal about to pump serious cash into the franchise to go along with a first-place finish in 2013, things are looking up once again in Los Angeles.
Following their heart breaking loss to the Atlanta Braves in Game 7 of the 1992 National League Championship Series, the Pittsburgh Pirates saw superstar Barry Bonds and ace pitcher Doug Drabek leave in free agency (after Bobby Bonilla walked the previous year), and the team that had won the National League East three straight years would not have another winning season or playoff appearance until 2013.
Almost the entire history of the Philadelphia Phillies is a Dork Age. They have finished in the second division 75 times in 130 seasons, including 27 last-place finishes. They have lost more games than any other franchise in professional sports. (The Washington Generals don't count.) In their history they have won only two World Series, seven National League pennants, and appeared in the playoffs only 14 times. Their most recent flicker of hope — winning the 2008 Series and returning to the Series the following year — has been well and truly doused by coming in third in 2012, fourth in 2013, and their current residence in last almost three-quarters of the way through 2014.
Mixed Martial Arts
When Tim Sylvia held the UFC Heavyweight Championship, it was considered to be the lowest point for UFC's heavyweight division. Not helping matters was the fact that most of the premier heavyweights (Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, Josh Barnett, Mirko Cro Cop, Fedor Emelianenko, Fabricio Werdum, and Heath Herring) were all in PRIDE during the majority of his reign, while Randy Couture had dropped down to light heavyweight and then retired. On top of that, Frank Mir had not fully recovered from injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident. With those factors in mind, Sylvia's reign was most known for lack of top flight competition and less than exciting fights that often went the distance. Two things ended this dork age: one, the UFC debut of Mirko Cro Cop in February 2007. Two, Randy Couture's victory over Sylvia a month later.
Some think the Sprint Cup Series as a whole has been in this since the introduction of the Chase for the Cup in 2004, which includes a points reset to bunch the top ten drivers in points (then the top twelve starting in 2007, then the top ten plus the two winningest from 11th-20th from 2011 to 2013, and since 2014 the 16 drivers with the most race wins in the 26-race "regular season"note or, if fewer than 16 drivers win races in that stretch, all race winners plus enough points leaders without a race win to fill out the 16-spot field) together in order to try to encourage tighter battles for the title. While the actual points margins have certainly been smaller, this format contributed to the overwhelming dominance of Jimmie Johnson, who clipped off a record five titles in a row from 2006-10 simply by being top gun in the Chase year after year, and in general, fans (especially older ones) feel that the whole setup is artificial and goes against the nature of racing.
Others take the stance that 1998-2003, when only one season (2002) didn't end with the champion clinching before the last race, and four of six titles ended with a 200+ point blowout, was the Dork Age, since the championships, excepting Tony Stewart's 2002 title run, were so boring that people lost interest toward the end of the season due to the string of Foregone Conclusions. This reached a peak in 2003 when Matt Kenseth at one point accumulated a 436-point lead (which eventually dwindled to 90 points over Jimmie Johnson by the end of the year, but was still 228 the week before the end, in a system that gave 180-185 points to the race winner) - while winning only one race the whole year (Las Vegas). This was what led to the creation of the aforementioned Chase format, and has been instrumental in the Broken Base argument as to whether or not NASCAR should increase the number of points for a win to give wins much more prominence over consistent top ten finishes.
The Broken Base argument was apparently addressed by NASCAR before the 2014 season, with its announcement that Chase spots would now be determined mostly by race wins. It obviously remains to be seen how much, or whether, this change will help matters.
Others still will point blame at the "Car of Tomorrow," which was introduced in 2007 with its splitter replacing the front bumper and rear wing replacing the spoiler; the new car was among several new safety mandates NASCAR introduced after Dale Earnhardt's fatal crash on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 (which sadly may have been the incident that spiked NASCAR's popularity in the early 2000s). Despite doing its job as far as safety - no one has died in a crash after four died from 2000-01 - drivers complained about its handling and fans complained about boring racing as a result. The car was announced to be discontinued as of 2013.
National Basketball Association
Michael Jordan, the famed basketball player, playing professional baseball. Even he admits he wasn't that good and that it was mostly a chance to clear his head after his father's death, a process not fully completed until he helped classic Looney Toon characters triumph over the diabolical Mon-Stars. Tin-foil heads have a great conspiracy theory that states he was secretly suspended for a year for a gambling problem. There's no proof, but man, few people would be surprised.
NBA Commissioner David Stern refuses to even comment on that theory, not even to refute it. Please ignore the black helicopters...
Also, Washington Wizards MJ, tragically immortalised in the otherwise outstanding NBA Street 2. What's worse, they even included Jordan 'Classic', from his Bulls days, who's a much better player than the Wizards Jordan.
Speaking of Michael Jordan, there was the seismic collapse of the Chicago Bulls after their second threepeat. Michael Jordan retired for the second time. Phil Jackson sat out the next season and resurfaced as the new head coach of the Lakers. Luc Longley, Scottie Pippen, Steve Kerr, and Dennis Rodman all left as well. Chicago wouldn't see the playoffs again until 2005.
The Nineties in general were this for any team who weren't the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets but no one had it worse than the Dallas Mavericks - as in, no one had a worse winning percentage in that decade among all the major pro sports franchises. They missed the NBA playoffs for 10 straight years, in a league where eighth place gets you in. They were most known for trying to build around the trio of Jason Kidd, Jim Jackson and Jamal Mashburn and it failed due to them bickering over who got to date Toni Braxton. The owner who traded them off, Ross Perot Jr., cared more about building real estate around their upcoming new arena than winning. Finally, one Mavericks fan decided he could run the team better - and realized he had the money to back it up. The Dork Age ended when Mark Cuban bought the team from Perot in January 2000; the Mavs returned to the playoffs the next year and would not miss out again until 2013, finally winning it all in 2011.
The Nineties were also unkind to several NBA teams fashion-wise, with the popularity of screenprinting; the sublimated dye process allowing teams to create graphic-laden jerseys without excessive amounts of embroidery, or less durable heat-transferred vinyl appliques. However, some of the designs were not well-received in the long run.
The Philadelphia 76ers adopted this star-laden look◊ that was arguably more fitting for an All-Star team. (The actual All-Star jerseys◊ from that time weren't that far off, either.) Another team that experimented in the early 90s: the New Jersey Nets◊, whose tie-dye road jerseys only lasted one season.
Even though the Sixers dropped those jerseys after just a few years, several other teams throughout the league got Screen Fever. Even the two-time champion Rockets◊ weren't immune. Among some of the other questionable looks of the 90s: Atlanta◊, Cleveland◊, Milwaukee◊ (just a third jersey, thankfully); Toronto◊, Utah◊, and Detroit◊.
After receiving the NCAA's first-ever "death penalty" (banned from playing games for two years) in 1987, Southern Methodist University would have only one winning season and no bowl games in the 20 years after that, until June Jones took over as coach for the 2008 season and ended the drought the next year.
The Southwest Conference's breakup in 1995 (which many blame as a result of the SMU Death Penalty) led to Dork Ages for most of the schools that didn't immediately go to the Big 12 Conference. TCU, SMU, Houston and Rice have combined to change conferences 11 times since the SWC's end.note TCU: Western Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mountain West Conference, Big 12 (the latter after reneging on an announced move to the Big East); SMU: WAC, C-USA, American Athletic Conference; Houston: C-USA, The American; Rice: WAC, C-USA Only TCU has produced a consistently winning program among those four.
After David Cutcliffe's first and only losing season at Ole Miss (the year after Eli Manning went to the NFL), he was pressured to fire his assistant coaches. Cutcliffe refused, so AD Pete Boone fired him and made Ed Orgeron the new head coach. Orgeron's overall record in three years was 10-25, including a putrid 3-21 in SEC play. In Coach O's final season, the Rebels did something no other team had done in over two decades: go winless in the conference.
National Football League
Following a disappointing 1992 season, the Chicago Bears decided to fire longtime head coach Mike Ditka and replace him with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt. A word to the wise, never bring up the Wannstedt era in a conversation with a Bears fan.
It didn't help Wannstedt when Jim Harbaugh walked after the 1993 season.
Nor did it help when Ricky Williams walked, ten years later. Still, his popularity among Miami Dolphins fans is likewise rather low. To be fair, Jimmy Johnson's desperate attempts to destroy Dan Marino and find a franchise running back resulted in several wasted drafts, and left the team's talent level thin.
If anything, the entire Jimmy Johnson era and legacy could be considered a dork age. Johnson's popularity resulted in legendary coach Don Shula's "stepping down" cough cough. Johnson's insistence that it would be his team, built his way, meant neutralizing Marino, the team's best player; and Johnson repeatedly wasted high picks on unworthy running backs such as John Avery and James Johnson. Not to mention, he brought in Cecil "the Diesel" Collins, who went to prison for probation violations before even playing a season. Then Johnson quit on the team, and hand-selected Wannstedt as his successor. And the Dolphins have been ordinary (at best) ever since.
The first five years of Jerry Jones owning the Dallas Cowboys netted two Super Bowl championships. Then Jones fired coach Jimmy Johnson for daring to demand credit for the championships, thus establishing Jones as the only man in charge - and the Cowboys have suffered ever since. They had enough talent for one more championship in 1995, but have won two playoff games since, with the wins 13 years apart. Why? As one of the few sole general manager-owners in the league, Jones cannot draft fundamentals, like offensive line, to save his life, frequently takes chances on players who had injury problems in college like DeMarco Murray (that have carried over into injury-plagued NFL seasons) and has on at least two occasions traded away multiple draft picks for underachievers like Joey Galloway and Roy Williams. While they have recently found some good skill players like linebacker/defensive end Demarcus Ware and wide receiver Dez Bryant, management's inability to draft the basics for a team has cost the Cowboys multiple chances at returning to prominence, especially since the advent of Tony Romo becoming the starting quarterback.
Green Bay was known as "NFL Siberia" from 1968, the year after Vince Lombardi retired as head coach, and 1992 when General Manager Ron Wolf brought in Mike Holmgren to coach, traded for Brett Favre, and signed Reggie White following the season. To give some perspective, they won five championships in Lombardi's final seven years and made the playoffs six straight times after signing Reggie White, including two NFC titles and a Super Bowl.
The Mike Sherman years definitely qualify as their latest Dork Age. In addition to being their coach, he was also given the mantle of general manager after Ron Wolf retired. To say this was a colossal mistake was an understatement; Sherman's scouting abilities were virtually nonexistent and resulted in such stellar draft picks as Ahmad "Highway 28" Carroll, Cletidus Hunt, and B.J. Sander. The latter was taken in the first round, and he was a punter. That Sherman traded up to get. In addition to that, photos surfaced of him asleep at the player combines, which only fueled the fire against him. While they posted decent records under Sherman and won the NFC North three times, they struggled in the playoffs. The Packers suffered their first home playoff loss under his tenure, a 27-7 asskicking at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, and also their second, a 31-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings in 2005. The 2005 season resulted in a 4-12 record, the first losing season for the Packers since 1991, and resulted in Sherman's firing. Some argue that the seeds of Brett Favre's diva attitude were sown here as well; whereas Mike Holmgren wasn't afraid to smack him upside the head when he did something stupid, Sherman's coaching philosophy seemed to be "Brett Favre can do whatever the hell he wants." It's no coincidence that his interceptions trended higher in this period, culminating in a 29-interception season in 2005. When Mike McCarthy was hired, everyone rejoiced.
The Packers had a Dork Age between Curly Lambeau's departure and Vince Lombardi's arrival that nearly turned out to be a Franchise Killer. The Packers went through five different head coaches between 1950 and 1958 and posted their all-time worst record, 1-10-1 in 1958, just narrowly avoiding bankruptcy almost every season. So shaky was their financial situation that the league threatened to fold the franchise or permanently move it to Milwaukee (where they had been playing two "home away from home" games each season).
Gloriously averted after Brett Favre's "retirement." The departure of a long-time face of the franchise is usually one of the largest causes of Dork Age in sports, but thanks to Aaron Rodgers and company, the Packers had arguably their greatest period of success since the Lombardi years. The Packers defeated the New York Giants (the same team that handed the Packers a loss in Brett Favre's final appearance in Green Bay) on December 26, 2010 and did not lose another game until December 18, 2011, racking up 19 straight wins including Super Bowl XLV, just three years following Favre's departure.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be the kings of this trope in sports. Their image was cemented when they were winless for their entire inaugural season and almost all of the second, an NFL-record 26-game losing streak. This was partially due to a horrendous rash of injuries, as they were not provided medical information on players prior to the expansion draft, but also largely due to coach John McKay's decision to use younger players with potential, rather than older players who would be ready to retire by the time the team was good. McKay's strategy was successful: they made the playoffs in their fourth season, the quickest of any American major professional sports franchise to that point. But the 1982 players' strike divided the team and destroyed McKay's enthusiasm for coaching. Then a series of unproductive drafts coincided with the veteran players' aging and the emergence of the USFL, so the team went very quickly from being a championship contender to the worst team in the league. They finished with losing records for each of the 14 seasons from 1983 to 1996, and their constant coaching turnover resulted also in a constant turnover of players, with nobody ever in place for long enough to finish the rebuilding job. This streak included selecting Bo Jackson with the first pick in the 1986 draft, only to see him refuse to sign with the team and instead sign a baseball contract; and trading a 1992 first-round pick (which became the second-overall pick in the draft) for Chris Chandler, who played for less than one full season with the team. It was not until Rich McKay and Tony Dungy improved the team's personnel selection and coaching in the mid-1990s that their situation improved.
The Washington Redskins are enduring one right now, and have been ever since executive meddler extraordinaireDanielSnyder took over. Despite being the most profitable team in the league, the team has perenially underperformed due to Snyder's interference: the team has had 7 head coaches in 12 years, posted a losing record through 2000-2010 (86W-106L) and has constantly favored flashy style over substance on the field. Moreover, Snyder's moneygrubbing and intolerance of dissent has definitely rubbed fans the wrong way; Washington fans are the only fans in the nation charged to see their team in preseason, and since 2009 banned all signs from the stadium. Many Redskins fans eagerly await Snyder's departure, to put it lightly.
The NFL's St. Louis Rams' downward spiral can be seen as a Dork Age for some. 2005 started the decline with a 6-10 season. After Mike Martz was fired following the 2005 season, the Rams hired Scott Linehan to be their head coach. They quickly jump to a 4-1 start, only to finish with an 8-8 record. However, things went sour. They finished the next two seasons with 3-13 and 2-14; with the defence dead in last both seasons. During the 2008 season, the Rams fired Linehan and replaced him with Jim Haslett after an 0-4 start. The architect of part of the Rams' Dork Age, Jay Zygmunt, resigned before the 2008 season was over and Billy Devaney takes over and eventually becomes GM. Steve Spagnuolo, hyped as being the next best head coach ever, was hired. Despite a dreadful 1-15, they kept Spags and drafted Sam Bradford to replace Marc Bulger, (who was released on April 5, 2010). They struggled early on in the 2010 season, going 0-2, then going 7-7 afterwards. However, they lose the key game against Seattle on the road, finishing 2010 with a 7-9 record. Offencive coordinator Pat Shurmur is hired by the Cleveland Browns and is replaced by Josh McDaniels (but only after their original hire of Gregg Williams was banned indefinitely (in the end, for a year) due to the New Orleans Saints "bounty scandal"). Fast forward to the 2011 season, they're picked to win the NFC West. They proceed by losing their first six games. Fan Dumb claims the dead-last numbers in offence is Bradford's fault. When in fact, the maligned O-line is to blame for not protecting him. They neglected to pick up any wide receivers, except for signing a washed-up Mike Sims-Walker (who they recently waived). Seems they built the team around Steven Jackson instead of Sam Bradford.
And there's the ownership. At the beginning of the Dork Age, polarizing owner Georgia Frontiere was near death and had her son, film producer Chip Rosenbloom, running the team. Once Rosenbloom inherited the team, he more or less was trying to make the team so bad that he could move them back to Los Angeles and sell to the highest bidder. Minority owner Stan Kroenke put a stop to that by putting the NBA Denver Nuggets and NHL Colorado Avalanche up for sale to buy him and his wife's share in the team. Dealing with the fan apathy, however, has been another issue completely, and now some are fearing Kroenke may be going the same "move back to Los Angeles" route with his recent land purchase in Southern California.
The Pittsburgh Steelers' early history could be considered one giant Dork Age; their first 39 seasons featured only eight winning records, no playoff wins, and no championships. In 1969, they hired Chuck Noll as head coach and he began to build the Steelers into a solid contender. They recorded their first playoff win in 1972 (the famous "Immaculate Reception" Game) and eventually went on to claim four Super Bowl titles before the end of the decade. When the players from the 70's dynasty inevitably retired, the Steelers fell back into another Dork Age in the 80's. After Noll finally stepped down in 1991 and Bill Cowher became head coach, the Steelers returned to their winning ways, but they weren't completely out of the Dork Age due to constantly fizzling out in the playoffs, the most glaring losses coming in the '94, '97, 2001, and 2004 AFC Championship Games, at home nonetheless, as well as Super Bowl XXX against the Cowboys. Cowher finally won a championship in 2005 before retiring after the 2006 season. With current coach Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have played in two more Super Bowls with one victory, and they haven't posted a losing season since 2003.
The second half of 2012 looks to have been the beginning of a new Dork Age, as a 6-3 record early was ultimately squandered by four straight losses, and the team wound up 8-8, with many concerned for the long-term health of the team due to increasing injuries and a weakening offensive line. These fears have come to pass in 2013, with the Steelers opening to an 0-4 record for the first time in 45 years, and have only won three games since, amid multiple injuries, uncharacteristically sloppy play and a suppressed offense due to the weak O-line. The defense, while generally solid, has been a letdown in one key area - they've only forced ten turnovers in nine games. They've also had a shocking tendency to squander some of the few strong offensive efforts by allowing the opposing team to run roughshod over them, such as against the Patriots, where a season-best 31-point effort was for naught when the D allowed a franchise-record 55 points.
When it comes to the Dork Age of Sports, Who Dey! Who Dey! Who Dey think gonna beat dem Cincinnati Bengals?! Twenty-one years without a playoff win. Three playoff games - three embarassing losses. A Who's Who List of Draft Busts and Questionable-at-Best Free Agent Pickups. A scouting department and coaching staffs full of Yes Men. A tortured fanbase foaming at the mouth for a better team. And the one constant string-puller in the last two decades of debacles? Mike Brown.
The Oakland Raiders are worth mentioning. From 1982-1994, the team played in Los Angeles. While it was no less successful during its Los Angeles days as it was during its time in Oakland, in hindsight it could easily be considered a Dork Age.
They've been in one since 2003, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tore them a new one in Super Bowl XXXVII. In the ten seasons since, they haven't returned to the playoffs and only finished better than 5-11 twice, in 2010 and 2011 with 8-8 records.
The Detroit Lions. Hoo boy, the Detroit Lions. They've been in one long, mostly uninterrupted one since "The Curse of Bobby Layne" set in in 1958. Before this point, they had four NFL championships, including three in six seasons. Since then, the team has accumulated eleven total playoff games, one total playoff win (in 1991) zero Super Bowl appearances and the worst overall winning percentage of any team in the NFL. "Sub-mediocre" is sometimes a generous description of the team's "prowess", never moreso than the infamous "perfect record" (0-16) season in 2008. The curse is supposedly over now (since Layne said "they wouldn't win for 50 years" when departing for Pittsburgh), but 2011 aside, they haven't played like it.
National Hockey League
The Seventies were a bit of a Dork Age for North American hockey in general. Over-expansion and a rival league in the World Hockey Association drained the talent pool, and minor leagues that once featured talent to rival the NHL in the Original Six era degenerated into the chaotic world that inspired Slap Shot. The leagues that didn't completely collapse limped their way through the decade. Even the NHL saw franchise instability, as teams relocated, merged, and teetered on the edge of bankruptcy. The WHA was even more unstable, with only six of sixteen total franchises (never more than 14 in one season) reaching the finish line in 1979, and only four being accepted into the NHL.
Due to its extremely small market, the Edmonton Oilers have had this trope invoked often. The rare aversion in their history came, oddly enough, when Wayne Gretzky was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in 1988. At first, it began as a textbook Dork Age when the Kings beat the Oilers in the 1989 playoffs, but Edmonton averted it by winning the Stanley Cup the following year with Mark Messier as the face of the franchise. The year following the Oilers' Cup win, Messier was traded to the New York Rangers, beginning one of two Dork Ages.
Beloved forward Ryan Smyth was the centerpiece of the second Dork Age. Just like Gretzky and Messier, the Oilers could not afford to keep Smyth, who was set to enter free agency at the end of the year. At the 2007 trade deadline, a year after he was the centerpiece of an improbable Cup run, Smyth was sent to the New York Islanders for prospects. The Oilers finished the 2006-07 season on a 2-16-1 slide, knocking them out of playoff contention. As of 2014, they have yet to return to the playoffs, racking up three consecutive number 1 draft picks between 2010 and 2012.
In 1995, Montreal Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy demanded a trade after a major falling out with coach Mario Tremblay after Tremblay refused to pull him in a 11-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings. Roy would end up winning two more Cups with the Colorado Avalanche, and the Canadiens still have significant goaltender issues.
Many NHL teams hit extreme slumps after success. For example, the Detroit Red Wings were better known as the "Dead Wings" after Gordie Howe retired (until Steve Yzerman took over...15 years later), the Chicago Blackhawks took two rebuilds to get back to mediocrity, and the Washington Capitals spend several years as a bottom feeder team before rebounding.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had the Harold Ballard era. Ballard made a habit of trading off popular players in exchange for dirt nothing, firing coaches frequently, and generally pissing everyone off within earshot. Ballard went off the deep end by canceling a youth game at the Gardens because his grandson was slated to play in it. By the 80s, the Leafs were the laughingstock of the league all because of Ballard's actions.
On a lesser note, the 9 year playoff drought between 2005 and 2012. Particularly the last, as the team lead its division for some time, and got eliminated after losing 9 of 10 games, only making 24 points to the end of their season, finishing at 13th on the East. Even when they returned, they overcame and tied a series which the Bruins were winning 3-1, but lost Game 7 after losing a game the Leafs were leading 4-1!
Similar to Ballard, the above mentioned Chicago Blackhawks had their own 0% Approval Rating owner in William Wirtz, also known as "Dollar Bill" for being a greedy tightwad. Add Invisible Advertising, blocking local broadcasts of home games, raising ticket prices, and plain mismanagement, from 1997 to 2008 the Hawks hit Rock Bottom, with many Chicago fans preferring the minor-league Chicago Wolves. The team has since rebounded after Wirtz died in 2007 and his son Rocky led the Hawks to two Stanley Cups, but to show how bad things were, the fans at the United Center booed the memorial for the reviled "Dollar Bill" at the 2007-08 home opener.
Poor, poor Canada, ever since Vancouver Canucks got their butt whipped in 1994, Canadian teams have been in a complete Dork Age, unable to win the Cup ever since. Some claimed it is the Riot Curse which was renewed in 2011 when angry fans tore up the town after Vancouver got completely shut out by the Bruins at home. Some think the 2013 Lockout was a nice breather as it gives them something to think about.
This gotten really bad in 2013, the 20th year of the Canadian NHL cup drought was perhaps one of the worst, an early exit at the World Hockey Championship, the Senators being the last to fall while the Vancouver Canucks not only got swept out of the playoffs but had a six game skid to add salt to the wound.
Many Hockey fans will tell you that the NHL is currently going through one long Dork Age under the leadership of Commissioner Gary Bettman. Why, you may ask? Let's count the reasons:
1. Three seasons cancelled or shortened by work stoppages note 1994-95, 2004-05, 2012-13.
2. Five franchise relocations note Minnesota North Stars, Quebec Nordiques, the original Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers, and Atlanta Thrashers.
3. Several expansions into Southern markets that are either uninterested or unsupportive of their new hockey teams. The financial situation of the Phoenix Coyotes has been bad enough at times that the league itself has stepped in to run them while still insisting that the franchise is viable long-term. Meanwhile, the Atlanta Thrashers drew so poorly, they were uprooted and awarded back to Winnipeg in what could almost be seen as an apology to Canadian fans who'd lost two franchises south to the US.
4. Selling ESPN's television broadcast rights to the NHL to what was at the time, the nearly-unheard-of Outdoor Life Network, that later became Versus. Hockey fans took pride that their sport was on the same network as APBR Bull Riding and Dirt Track racing. And even then the coverage of Hockey was notoriously bad. Only recently under the new name of NBC Sports Network has it gotten any better.
Ever since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi retired in the early 2000s, American men's Tennis has been in a bad slump, with the only true stand-out American male player since 2003 being Andy Roddick who won just one Grand Slam and spent the vast majority of his career being overshadowed by Roger Federer (and Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray...). A couple of other Americans (John Isner, Mardy Fish) have managed to make it into the top 10 at one point or another, but none of them have been able to stay there for a prolonged amount of time or be serious Slam contenders and with Roddick retiring from tennis in 2012, no true candidates to take his place have emerged yet.
On the other hand, in men's doubles, the Bryan twins have been ridiculously dominant for most of this period, with 15 Grand Slam titles (four of them in succession, though not in the same calendar year), an Olympic gold, and too many tournament wins to count.
Women's tennis in general has acquired a reputation for inconsistency and underwhelming performances ever since Justine Henin's retirement in 2008, with the World No. 1 spot being frequently occupied by players who hadn't won a single Grand Slam in their careers (Jelena Jankovic in 2008, Dinara Safina in 2009, Caroline Wozniacki in 2010 and 2011) and were just a little more consistent than the actual Slam winners who were either sidelined by injuries or had a bad habit of following up their wins with first-round losses to inferior players. It might have started to stabilize lately, though, with the Williams sisters back in serious contention and Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova back at the top of their games.