A round-up of history’s spectacularly consistent or notable losers, in no particular order:
1. The Washington Generals
The Harlem Globetrotters can boast that they have the highest winning percentage of any franchise in professional sports; the team alleges it has won 98.4% of its contests. Of course, all of this success has come at the expense of the Globetrotters’ futile opponents, the Washington Generals. The nail-versus-hammer dynamic has been going strong since 1953, when former Villanova star and NBA champion Red Klotz got the opportunity to put together a team to tour the world playing the Globetrotters. Klotz’s team, the Generals, got off to a rocky start as the straight men for the Globetrotters’ gags. Not only were they being teased, the Generals were also taking thumping after thumping on the court. It’s hard to tell just how many games the Generals lost in a row to the Globetrotters, but the teams agree that when Klotz’s team finally got the upper hand in a 100-99 game in 1971 Harlem was riding a 2,495-game winning streak. (Who hit the winning shot in that game? None other than Red Klotz, at the time a 50-year-old player/coach/owner.) Klotz retired the Generals name in 1995, but in 2007 the team reformed for more years of futility.
2. Norman Thomas
Any old Dukakis or Mondale can lose a presidential election. It takes someone special, though, to be soundly rejected by the electorate, shrug it off, and run again four years later. In this realm, Norman Thomas had no peer. When the Socialist Party of America’s perennial presidential candidate Eugene Debs died in 1926, Thomas picked up the Sisyphean job of heading the Socialist ticket in presidential races. He actually picked up over 250,000 votes in the 1928 election and grabbed almost 900,000 votes in 1932. However, after those two races his vote totals declined precipitously, although he continued running every four years until 1948, for a total of six unsuccessful presidential bids.
But Thomas can’t match Canada’s John C. Turmel, who holds the Guinness record for most unsuccessful runs. Turmel has lost in 66 separate elections while running as an independent and for a variety of minor parties, some of which he founded himself.
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