Minicamps started throughout the NFL this week. But on the ice and basketball court, the NHL and NBA played their championship rounds.
On Thursday, the Toronto Raptors won their first-ever NBA championship. The Raptors had been to the conference finals just once in their 24-year history prior to 2018-19, but they slayed the Golden State dynasty, preventing the Warriors from capturing three straight titles.
The previous night, the St. Louis Blues became the third team in the last decade to win Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final on the road, beating the Boston Bruins, 4-1. This was also the Blues' first championship, but they've been around more than twice as long as the Raptors. The Blues came into the league when the NHL doubled in size in 1967, meaning their fan base waited 52 years for their first championship.
How does this connect to the Falcons? Well, if the NFL follows suit next February and crowns a first-time champion, there are nine teams to choose from. Twelve teams haven't won a Super Bowl, but the Lions, Browns and Cardinals all won an NFL championship prior to the Super Bowl era.
Of the other nine, four of them have actually won championships of a different kind -- the Bills, Chargers and Oilers, who are now the Titans, won AFL championships during the 1960's. And don't forget the Vikings, although during the Super Bowl era, technically won an NFL championship in 1969 in the last official league game before the merger. However, everyone just remembers they lost Super Bowl IV to the Kansas City Chiefs.
While the AFL championships and titles before the Super Bowl era don't mean as much to the casual football fan, at least those teams won something.
In addition to the Falcons, the Bengals, Texans, Jaguars, and Panthers are the NFL teams that have yet to win any sort of championship (excluding conference titles). Of those five teams, none of them have been around as long as the Falcons, who came into the NFL in 1966. The Bengals are, by far, the second-oldest of those other four franchises. They became a team in 1968.
That makes the Falcons fan bases one of the most tortured in the NFL. But there's hope. Until last week, the fan bases of the Raptors and Blues held that distinction too.