By In Stuff

A new look … and a look at sports cities

I apologize for the absence … it has been a fairly hectic last few weeks. I am now the national columnist for NBC Sports. The move involved a lot of mixed emotions, of course. I love the people at Sports On Earth, I think they do amazing work, and I believe deeply in their vision. And the NBC Sports opportunity is absolutely amazing with great people and a chance to do the work I love doing.

Throughout, I kept thinking about the line in Amadeus when Mozart was trying on wigs and found two he particularly loved: “Oh, they’re both so beautiful, I can’t decide. Why don’t I have two heads?”

I officially started a NBC on Friday with two pieces.

The Rise and Fall of Alex Rodriguez.

— Danica Patrick through the eyes of my 8-year-old daughter.

I don’t know how much you care about any of this, but the plan is for me to write for NBC Sports three times a week — Monday, Wednesday, Friday — with the Friday column being a deeper dive into a sports topic. Beyond that, I will be contributing to the NBC Sports blogs, particularly Hardball Talk. And I’ll continue to write here under a new design, especially non-sports and oddball stuff. We’ll see how it works out. I’ll try to link to stuff here wherever they happen to appear.

And, to start, I have written a follow up post to one written by my new NBC Sports and Hardball Talk colleague Craig Calcaterra. Last week, you probably know, he looked at each Major League town and tried to guess what is the No. 1 sport in that town.

I had to jump in on that one.

New York

Craig’s pick: Baseball, specifically Yankees.

My pick: The Yankees are obviously huge, but I have long thought that the Giants, when good, are the biggest thing in New York. But we might both be wrong. My buddy Vac, who should know as columnist for the New York Post, says that when the Knicks are good, they trump everything.

Well, this is the challenge of this kind of project, isn’t it? Truth is, every one of these cities is too big and too diverse for just one team or one sport to overwhelm everything. There are people in Green Bay who cannot stand pro football and people in Tuscaloosa who prefer baseball to college football and people in St. Louis who are, first and foremost, Blues fans. Heck, there are intense baseball fans in Manchester, U.K. — I hear from a few quite often — and intense NFL fans in Sydney and intense Formula One fans in Charlotte, N.C. No matter where you go, people are not homogenous.

This is especially true of New York. I think it is a constantly shifting market — moreso, perhaps, than any other in the country. For a while in the 1980s, the Mets were the biggest thing going. The Rangers, with Messier, took over the town. New York just moves on very quickly. Maybe the Yankees are the biggest thing right now, but if the Yankees stumble (as so many seem to be predicting) people will move on.


Craig’s pick: All-sports town, but mostly Red Sox.

My pick: Agree. The Red Sox probably have a little bit more of the town’s heart because of the deep and emotional history and because of the way people in New England pronounce “Sox.” But the Patriots, Celtics and Bruins have all had their day.

One interesting thought comes from friends who are Red Sox fans. They tell me that something changed after the second World Series win in 2007, something hard to explain. Obviously, the team has had all sorts of problems, but I don’t think that’s what they mean. Would be interested to hear if some hardcore Red Sox fans don’t think the team is quite as much fun to cheer for since 2007.


Craig’s pick: Maple Leafs.

My pick: Certainly Maple Leafs. But Toronto was a really good baseball town when the Blue Jays were good and can be again if the Blue Jays start winning.

Honest question: Where do the Argonauts fit in?


Craig’s pick: Ravens.

My pick: A small disagreement with Craig. Yes, I think the Raves are the biggest thing right now, for obvious reasons, but I still think Baltimore is a baseball town first. The Ravens happen to be awesome and until last year the Orioles were terrible. So the Ravens have had a run of the city. And it was always a good baseball AND football town. But I really do think, from my own time in Baltimore, that it has the rhythms of an Orioles town. Maybe that’s just 1970s nostalgia coming out.

Tampa Bay:

Craig’s pick: Maybe the Bucs.

My pick: College football is the biggest thing in Tampa, from my experience, and nothing is especially close.

Rays fans take a beating, and the attendance is low, but I actually think there’s a pretty good baseball vibe in Tampa the last few years. It’s just that dome is SO bad and such a depressing place to watch baseball that, honestly, I can’t blame people for not going to games. It’s just a rotten experience.


Craig’s pick: Red Wings (though he can be persuaded to go baseball)

My pick: My buddy Michael Rosenberg over at SI says the Lions are far and away No. 1 in town, and he would know. I think he’s got it right. I think Detroit — like Cleveland and Milwaukee and many other places in the upper Midwest — will get excited about other teams and other sports, but pro football is at the city’s core.


Craig’s pick: Browns

My pick: Definitely Browns. But Cleveland, like many other places, can and will adjust year to year. When the Indians were good, Cleveland was as good a baseball town as anyplace — they sold out 455 games in a row, a record at the time. When the Cavaliers had LeBron, the city was NBA crazy. Basically, Cleveland craves a winner — and as a Clevelander I crave a winner. It is true, though, that he Browns are dominant in the city every year, regardless of how good they are.


Craig’s pick: Bears, but he wants to hear arguments because of how excited people get about baseball in the summer.

My pick: Da Bears and it isn’t really all that close. Chicago, of course, is a big place with wide interests — and Wrigley Field is its own industry — but I think Bears interest is basically as big as all the other teams in Chicago combined.

Kansas City

Craig’s pick: Chiefs.

My pick: He’s probably right. The Royals dominated the town in the 1970s and 1980s, the Chiefs dominated the town in the 1990s and 2000s. It’s no coincidence that this corresponds to when those teams were good, and the Chiefs have been top dog in Kansas City more recently.

I’ve always thought Kansas City would be a great baseball town again if the Royals started winning — and I still believe that — but I’ve also never been in a city so dominated by pro football as Kansas City was from 1995 to 1997. The answer to ‘which team will rule KC?’ probably depends on which team gets good first.


Craig’s pick: Vikings (or youth hockey)

My pick: Yes, Vikings. I will say, though, baseball in the new stadium is a beautiful thing. I always the the Metrodome was a TERRIBLE baseball park, but a GREAT football stadium. That probably says something about the sports themselves.


Craig’s pick: Seahawks (by default)

My pick: Seahawks … I think Seattle is a very underrated football town. This is the place that popularized the wave (for better and worse).

Seattle, like Minnesota, has a beautiful ballpark, and I’d like to see what happens when the Mariners get good again. Obviously, many, many people in Seattle want pro basketball back, and they deserve to have it back

A brilliant reader made a pitch for Seattle as a soccer town, and that’s a great call. That Seattle-Portland soccer rivalry has become something pretty special


Craig’s pick: Raiders

My pick: Raiders. It’s funny — I don’t think there is a city in America where the fans seem as disparate as in Oakland. Think about it: Do you ever think of Raiders fans and A’s fans being the same people? Do you think of the guys wearing spikes on their shoulders and skulls on on their faces as the same people who root for Billy Beane’s Moneyball teams?

Oakland has had a long and convoluted relationship with baseball — going back to the dominant A’s of the 1970s. And Raiders fans are famous for being Raiders fans.


Craig’s pick: Texans.

My pick: College football. … I know that Texas has this reputation for football being first, second, third and so on, but I think it’s easy to underestimate just how enormous Houston is as a city (fourth largest in America behind only New York, Los Angeles and Chicago) and fifth largest in Metro population (behind those three and Dallas). It is one of the fastest growing places in America and that means it is a much more varied place than people realize.

My point being, even if college football is No. 1 (and that’s a guess), even if the Texans are No. 1 (another guess), there are millions of Rockets and Astros fans. And I do believe that Houston is a better baseball town than it gets credit for.

Los Angeles

Craig’s pick: Lakers (status city/status team)

My pick: Dodgers. Here’s our first big disagreement. It’s always been funny to me that Los Angeles has this reputation as this lackadaisical baseball town — you know, arrive late, leave early to beat traffic, be seen, all that.

Maybe that stuff is true. But the Dodgers draw three-plus million people every year, they have led the National League in attendance 20 times since 1973, Dodgers announcer Vin Scully is an American icon (as is the Dodger Dog), they just signed a television deal for the ages, and baseball games at Dodger Stadium remain one of the great experiences in the country. The Lakers are big, no question, and they have the Nicholson star power, but I think the Dodgers are way bigger in Los Angeles.


Craig’s pick: Cowboys

My pick: Yeah, Cowboys. But once more we have to say that Dallas is a huge city with amazing diversity; the cliche of it being ONLY a Cowboys town is probably off. I think the Cowboys are No. 1, but people will get very excited about the Rangers or Stars or Mavericks — and they have in the last decade for all three of those teams.


Craig’s pick: College football and Falcons.

My pick: I do think the University of Georgia football team is the biggest thing in town. The Braves were obviously a big deal in town during the 1990s when the team was really good, but that interest fades in and out … it is hard for Atlanta to keep its baseball energy up over long seasons.


Craig’s pick: Maybe Phillies, but close with Eagles.

My pick: Eagles … I don’t think it’s that close. Of course there’s a lot of passion for all sports in Philadelphia, lots of fury and fire for the Flyers, Sixers, Phillies, but based on my own Philadelphia experiences and the Philly fans I know, I think Eagles are about as big in Philadelphia as Browns in Cleveland and Steelers in Pittsburgh.


Craig’s pick: Redskins.

My pick: Yeah, Redskins, and it’s not close. I’m glad to see some baseball excitement, though, and the Nationals could make some real strides in Our Nation’s Capitol over the next few years.


Craig’s pick: Dolphins … with some Heat excitement when they’re good.

My pick: Dolphins, for sure. I was having this discussion with someone: What FORMER PLAYER has the biggest impact on the town where he played? George Brett is still a huge star in Kansas City. Stan Musial, obviously, was Mr. St. Louis, and I’d say Cal Ripken still has a hold on Baltimore. Michael Jordan when he returns to Chicago is still the biggest thing (unless it’s Mike Ditka or Dick Butkus). Who else? Joe Montana in San Francisco? Joe Namath in New York?

Anyway, my answer at the moment is: Dan Marino in Miami. He’s such an icon there it’s easy to forget that it has been almost 15 years since he played quarterback for the Dolphins.

St. Louis

Craig’s pick: Cardinals

My pick: I was surprised just how big the Rams became in St. Louis when they got so good with Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk and the rest. People were pretty fired up.

But, yeah, I think in St. Louis it’s Cardinals first and last … similar to the Cowboys in Dallas.


Craig’s pick: Reds

My pick: Yeah, Reds, but don’t sleep on the Bengals. Cincinnati has a great reputation as a baseball town, well deserved, but whenever the Bengals show signs of life, the town goes absolutely crazy for them.

This is also a great college basketball town with UC and Xavier, and Kentucky just across the river.


Craig’s pick: Packers

My pick: Packers. It doesn’t matter that Green Bay is an hour and a half drive away. The power of the Packers overwhelms everything. Milwaukee is another underrated place to watch baseball, though. You may notice that I think a lot of places are underrated places to watch baseball … maybe that’s just because I think watching baseball is underrated.


Craig’s pick: Steelers

My pick: Steelers … same story as Cleveland and the Browns. The city would unleash some great energy if the Pirates ever got good. And I think Pittsburgh has one of the two best stadium experiences in all of baseball (with San Francisco). But the connection of Pittsburgh to the Steelers is on a different level.

San Francisco

Craig’s pick: Giants

My pick: It’s utterly remarkable how the Giants have won over San Francisco. Obviously, if you put a gorgeous new stadium by the water and then have a team that wins two World Series in three years, you have a pretty decent formula for success. But San Francisco is a different kind of city, and so to see the Giants so overwhelm this complicated place is pretty cool. They love their Giants in San Francisco, and the ballpark experience — best in the game right now.

Of course, the 49ers are still a monster in the city, and those Bill Walsh teams will always have a particularly special place in the city’s collective memory.

San Diego

Craig’s pick: Chargers.

My pick: Chargers. Well, I think “living” is probably the No. 1 sport in San Diego — beach, weather, art, food, it’s a spectacular place. But there is a lot of Chargers love, even if that stadium is a wreck.


Craig’s pick: Broncos

My pick: Broncos. The Rockies, when good, are fun, and let’s not forget the Rockies led the National League in attendance their first seven years. And the Avalanche had a huge impact on the town when they were good.

But yeah, from my experiences, the Broncos are kings. I have to say, one of the coolest thing in sports was at old Mile High Stadium when the place was so crazy the stands would actually start shaking. That was probably really dangerous.


Craig’s pick: Stumped … perhaps Diamondbacks

My pick: Yeah, I would guess Duamondbacks. I think there’s a special connection to the Diamondbacks because of that remarkable 2001 World Series. But the area can and will go crazy of the Cardinals when they are good, and for a long time the Suns were the only game in town.

The thing about Arizona is that it is SWAMPED with sports. It’s easy to lose sight of this. You have spring training, golf tournaments, tennis tournaments, NASCAR events, celebrity games, there are sports there all the time. It’s a great place to be a sports fan. I don’t know if that passion carries over to teams as much.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

80 Responses to A new look … and a look at sports cities

  1. M.E.L. says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Alex says:

    Joe, 200,000 showed up for the Ravens victory celebration in Baltimore a few weeks ago. The players rode around the city in tanks, and no one here thought that was particularly weird. The Colts were more popular than the Orioles until the bitter end, and as iconic as Cal Ripken certainly is, Ray Lewis is now that person to every Baltimore fan under age 30 or so. The city has a giant chip on its shoulder (which is very annoying, I admit), and I think that manifests in unconditional love for a team that’s constructed an identity around hard-hitting defensive superstars. The Ravens tapped into the city’s mindset almost perfectly, and have now been so good for so long — since they’ve been here, only New England has *more* Super Bowl wins — that I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon.

    • Dayat says:

      I kept thinking about the line in Amadeus when Mozart was trying on wigs and found two he particularly loved: “Oh, they’re both so beautiful, I can’t decide. Why don’t I have two heads?”

  3. CWK says:

    Having lived in the Baltimore area just when the O’s started to stink and the Ravens won their first Super Bowl I agree with you that the O’s tend to have a more emotional hold on the city, especially in the older residents. Even when the Ravens had some down years the city took it in stride but the hatred towards Angelos for what he’s done to the Orioles is deep.

  4. macomeau says:

    Honest answer: The Argos barely exist on the Toronto sports landscape.

    In-season, they might get as much coverage as the Raptors or Toronto FC do in-season. Maybe. In their respective off-seasons, the Argos fall below those teams’ levels of coverage.

    It may be worth noting that the Leafs, Raptors, Marlies, TFC, and Jays are all owned by the two giants of Canadian media. The Argos are not.

    Toronto loves the Leafs. It loves the Jays when they win. It gets really excited for the Raptors when they win. I think it would get even more excited if TFC won. It generally acknowledges the Argos existence.

    Which is kind of sad, given the Argos’ history.

    • mckingford says:

      I agree with this take on the Argos – a total non-entity here…and this in a season where they won, and hosted(!) the Grey cup. Toronto FC definitely ranks far ahead of the Argos, and if they were remotely competitive, would probably rank ahead of the Raptors.

      It’s funny because people talk about the Argos as fundamental to the viability of the CFL, which I think is completely wrong. There will always be a CFL, because Western Canadians are so nuts about it that even if everything else folds, they’ll run a 3 team league between Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan.

      As a guy who grew up in Windsor, I get to comment on Detroit too. As great as the support the Red Wings get (and it was pretty damn exciting in the mid to late 90s with their first Cup success in decades), there is no doubt that Detroit is a Lions’ town, despite the decades of mediocrity, which is pretty amazing when you think of it.

    • Mark A says:

      Agreed. The Argos are not much of a consideration. Even when they had Flutie and were taking titles, they weren’t close to the number one game in town.

      I think its mainly because the Toronto fan base is used to being a big league town, and with so much US media saturation the CFL does not feel like a “big league”. So they think of the CFL as fine for cities that don’t rate MLB or NBA teams, but somewhat beneath them.

      The Bills are a bigger Toronto team than the argos, and they aren’t even a Toronto team. I know the mediocre ticket sales for Rogers centre games might indicate otherwise, but the games in Buffalo are a better deal and experience, even if you live in Toronto.

  5. No one here in Toronto cares about the CFL. At least I’ve never met anyone. If someone is a football fan, it’s always NFL.

  6. LD says:

    LA was a Dodgers town until Buss and Magic showed up in 1979-80. It’s been a Lakers town ever since and frankly, it’s not all that close. The Dodgers are a distant second, but they’re definitely a firm second.

  7. tomemos says:

    “The Lakers are big, no question, and they have the Nicholson star power, but I think the Dodgers are way bigger in Los Angeles.”

    You’re simply wrong. The Lakers are way bigger. Count the flags on passing cars and that alone will tell the story.

    I have to say that this post feels a little bit like poaching someone else’s great blog post idea, without adding anything new.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Incorrect. The Lakers have priced themselves out for the average fan. The Dodgers have always been it in LA, and they appeal to all races, especially Hispanics. Yeah, the Lakers are Showtime (well they were) and everyone loves the Lakers…. but especially this year with Magic buying the Dodgers and all the acquisitions, vs. the Lakers woeful season, Dr. Buss dying and leaving us with Jim Buss. Yeah, it’s the Dodgers. And Joe is right, Dodger fans are far from laid back & they don’t go to the games to be seen like the Laker fans with the courtside seats.

  8. Joe,

    It’s absolutely true that being a Red Sox fan changed after 2007. Part of it is that you had a large influx of fans who didn’t really have a personal stake in the decades of shared suffering. I’m talking mostly about people who got caught up in the comeback against the Yankees in 2004, then the sweep of the Cardinals. The Grady Little game in 2003 isn’t a painful memory for them, to say nothing of Game 6 in 1986, Bucky Dent’s homer in 1978, or blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 7 in 1975.

    To go along with the fanbase that never experienced the visceral feeling of rooting for what felt like a cursed franchise, you had a team that clearly made the decision to play with the Yankees on the same field. It’s different rooting for another big market franchise that loves making free agent splashes and expects to contend for the World Series every year. It was certainly nice getting excited over being able to pencil the Sox in for 95 wins a year, but it’s not really what you think of when you think of being a Sox fan–especially being asked to root for guys like Carl Crawford and John Lackey, who you’d gotten used to hating for half a decade or more.

  9. Joe,

    It’s absolutely true that being a Red Sox fan changed after 2007. Part of it is that you had a large influx of fans who didn’t really have a personal stake in the decades of shared suffering. I’m talking mostly about people who got caught up in the comeback against the Yankees in 2004, then the sweep of the Cardinals. The Grady Little game in 2003 isn’t a painful memory for them, to say nothing of Game 6 in 1986, Bucky Dent’s homer in 1978, or blowing a 3-0 lead in Game 7 in 1975.

    To go along with the fanbase that never experienced the visceral feeling of rooting for what felt like a cursed franchise, you had a team that clearly made the decision to play with the Yankees on the same field. It’s different rooting for another big market franchise that loves making free agent splashes and expects to contend for the World Series every year. It was certainly nice getting excited over being able to pencil the Sox in for 95 wins a year, but it’s not really what you think of when you think of being a Sox fan–especially being asked to root for guys like Carl Crawford and John Lackey, who you’d gotten used to hating for half a decade or more.

  10. macomeau says:

    A couple of more general thoughts:

    I think it can be hard to pick whether a city is a baseball city or a football city because the seasons barely overlap. It’s changing more, as the playoffs in baseball have gotten longer, but it used to be that you could follow both sports without much ‘sacrifice’.

    It’s also sort of easy to say that City supports Team when they’re good. I think how into the sport the city is may be better shown by how much they support (or lash out at; love begetting hate and all) a team when the team is down. For example, Toronto is generally indifferent to bad teams. They don’t draw, but no one talks about them. Great swaths of Canadian forests have died to write about the Leafs just missing the playoffs for the last few years.

    • Mark says:

      Don’t draw? Geez, the Maple Leafs sell out every game and they haven’t won the Cup in 45 years.

    • macomeau says:

      Right, bad teams that aren’t the Leafs. Toronto loves the Leafs regardless. It is a hockey town.

      When the Jays are bad, people don’t go to the games, and a few talk a bit about how they can get better. When the Leafs are bad, they still sell out and everyone in the city has an opinion to share about which player moves need to be made to fix the third line or who should be the third defensive pairing.

      Saying ‘when the Jays are good, they draw’ doesn’t say anything about Toronto being a baseball town. It says we love a winner (which is true of pretty much every sport in every city).

  11. Unknown says:


    For Seattle, the Seahawks are probably the top dog with the 12th man and all, but don’t sleep on them as a soccer town. They are all about the Sounders and show up huge when the USMNT is nearby.

  12. C. Joseph says:

    I think Phoenix is probably an Arizona Wildcats basketball town.

  13. Yeager says:

    Joe is becoming the Larry Brown of sports writers.

  14. Yes, Houston is big: fourth in city population, fifth in metro area population. But these measures of population are not as good as measuring it by Urban Area, by which measure Houston is seventh: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston.

    Why is it better? Because city and metro area both measure population within political boundaries: within the strict city limits and within counties, respectively. Urban Areas works by tracts, measuring those that meet a minimum population density.

    • Mike says:

      Urban areas appear to be smaller than metro areas (Houston’s urban area is 5M, while the MSA is 6M), which surprises me given your reasoning. Why does disincluding those people make the urban area a better measure?

    • The Metro Area aggregates county populations. (The Houston Metro Area totals the populations of 10 Houston area counties: Harris, Fort Bend, Montgomery, Brazoria, Galveston, Liberty, Waller, Chambers, Austin, and San Jacinto.) It’s an overestimate: for many counties, part “should” belong to the city while part is outside the city.

      Plus, county size varies between states: cities in different states are being measured with different rulers. California has 58 counties while Georgia has 159.

      Urban Areas are a measurement at a more granular level, it provides a consistent standard, and it’s not dependent upon political boundaries.

      P.S. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I am not any kind of geographic expert. I am an amateur who has just spent a fair bit of time on Wikipedia comparing the three rankings. You know, in between looking at stats on Baseball Reference. Yay nerds!

    • Rob Smith says:

      So Houston is 7th instead of 4th. It’s still a very big city, and most people don’t realize that…. to Joe’s point.

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Absolutely! I just find that completely unimportant point to be interesting, as unimportant things often are.

      Also interesting is the list of U.S. Cities Ranked by Population. I mean, take a look at a few pairs of cities and guess which one has the higher population:

      Boston, Massachusetts or Indianapolis, Indiana?
      Atlanta, Georgia or Albuquerque, New Mexico?
      St. Louis, Missouri or Wichita, Kansas?
      Orlando, Florida or Lincoln, Nebraska?
      Salt Lake City, Utah or Amarillo, Texas?

      You can probably guess where I’m going with this. In each pair, it is the latter city that has the higher population. For instance, Albuquerque’s population of 552,804 puts it 32nd on the list. That’s greater than Kansas City (463,202, 37th), Atlanta (432,427, 40th), Miami (408,750, 44th), Cleveland (393,806, 47th), or Minneapolis (387,753, 48th). If we go by this list, sports franchises in this country are distributed horribly. Teams should relocate to cities with larger market sizes, giving us, say, the Jacksonville Red Sox, the Albuquerque Steelers, the Wichita Cardinals, the Anchorage Jazz, the El Paso Mariners, and the Tulsa Dolphins.

    • KHAZAD says:

      Unfortunately, Martin, this is completely wrong. Many Cities have a metropolitan area with a large cluster of cities around the central city, greatly increasing the size of the market. Kansas City, for instance, has 4 cities with well over 100,000 in population and 3 more with over 50,000 as suburbs, all of which are less than half an hour from the ballpark. The Metropolitan area is over 2 million, while Albuquerque has less than 900,000.

      Actual rank of cities you mentioned:
      Boston 10th, Indy 35th, Atlanta 9th, Albuquerque 57th, St. Louis 19th, Wichita 86th, Orlando 26th, Lincoln 154th, Salt Lake City 48th, and Amarillo 184th

      All the cities you compare Albuquerque to are much bigger KC is 29th, Miami 8th, Cleveland 28th and Minneapolis 16th.

      Jacksonville, 40th, already has a football team, but the other as yet unlisted cities you gave a team to Anchorage is 133rd, El Paso is 65th, and Tulsa is 54th.

      You can quibble with the definition of metropolitan area all you want, but I have been to all of them with the exception of Anchorage, and I can tell you that Atlanta has ALOT more people than KC, despite the city rankings, and that KC has ALOT more than Albuquerque, and by the time you get down to the Lincolns and Amarillos, you might as well just start calling them towns instead of cities. Right now the biggest city without a team in the 4 major sports is Las Vegas (unless you want to count the inland empire as separate from LA), then Columbus, Austin, and Virginia Beach. All of these cities, however you wish to decide the boundaries, are quite a bit bigger than Albuquerque.

    • Something got lost in translation. I was trying to point out how crazy that list is: I thought that it was self-evident that moving the St Louis Cardinals to Wichita is ridiculous. It illustrates, by the absurdity of it all, that the ranking of U.S. cities by city population is, well, pretty useless. Metro Area is a better method of ranking, but, as discussed above, I stand by Urban Areas as the best of the three.

  15. Mark Daniel says:

    Hardcore Red Sox fan here. Sadly, the irrepressible idiots run by whiz kid Theo Epstein and his enlightened owners have been exposed as a bunch of selfish, overpaid, thin-skinned crybabies lorded over by a cynical corporate entity bent on squeezing every last cent out of the fan base using every possible deceptive underhanded trick in the book.

    • Rob Smith says:

      So, if they keep sucking like they did last year (and probably will this year) will they become fun to root for again?

    • Mark Daniel says:

      Rob Smith, no unless the payroll drops to something reasonable. If they suck and have one of the top 5 most expensive rosters, and the Boston media keeps stirring up s–t, then they will not be fun to root for. Something will make them fun to root for again. Not sure what at this point, but it will happen.

  16. JW says:

    Having lived in Detroit, SF, Denver, and now Phoenix, I’d say you’re close, but really it’s Lions and Tigers close 2nd, Giants easily (49ers are bigger in Norcal at large, however), Broncos in a landslide (the whole state of CO shuts down when the Broncos play), and in Phx, the Cardinals in the same landslide.

    • Rob Smith says:

      49er fans have had nothing to root for the last 20 years, until this year. I went to the NFC Title game and the 49er fans were all wearing Montana, Lott, Young and Rice jerseys or wearing title jackets from the early 90s. It was really sad how their fan base lives in the past.

  17. purebull says:

    …i doubt most folks will think of Detroit as a place where the Lions are the core of the local sporting scene. In fact, i think most folks here in michigan will do a spit take, reading that.

    on the other hand…if the Lions were to ever become consistently competetive…something that hasn’t happened in my lifetime, and i’m in my mid fifties…you may actually be right. i can see how they’d become huge.

    • You would be incorrect. This is a Lions town, first and foremost. It was in the 50s and 60s, they sold out Tiger Stadium in the 70s. It was only in the 80s that that wavered a bit. They sold out the dome when Barry arrived, they sold out Ford Field during the first few years of Millen.

      The Tigers end up adrift of fan support when they aren’t winning, as the 70’s, Randy Smith era and Alan Trammell as Manager years proved. Not to the extent of the Pistons (it’s a total bandwagon town for the NBA). Even the Wings have plenty of empties in the lower bowl when they aren’t top tier.

  18. If you’re looking at “Major League” towns, you’re looking at baseball cities, right? Because there is no “major league” football? Only in baseball is there something long and currently called “ML.” So why is “Dallas” on the list instead of Arlington?

    And wouldn’t the results be different if we were thinking about this in September, instead of right after the football season? And how can the Ravens trump the O’s when Baltimore did without pro football for years and the O’s are going on year 60 (plus the John McGraw history)?

    • Alex says:

      “Did without pro football” doesn’t really have anything to do with the sporting attitudes of a city — Baltimore isn’t any less of a football town because Bob Irsay wanted a new stadium, just as Cleveland isn’t any less of a football town because Art Modell wanted one.

  19. Nate says:

    Congrats on the NBC gig. I hope you continue to post links to those columns here as they come out. I subscribe to this blog but I probably won’t subscribe to the NBC site and I’d like to keep up.

  20. Unknown says:

    I know that it is a single sport city, but I’ve never seen an obsession quite like San Antonio and the Spurs.

  21. Unknown says:

    I know that it is a single sport city, but I’ve never seen an obsession quite like San Antonio and the Spurs.

  22. rcharbon says:

    Please have NBC set up a RSS feed for your work!

  23. Tux says:

    For the Red Sox, both the team and the fanbase has changed since 2007, and honestly it probably started 2004, though it’s been more drastic since the second title. There’s been an influx of “pink hats” – and that’s by no mean a sexist remark, the term applies to people who jumped onto the bandwagon and don’t really have an emotional investment in the team or any understanding of the game. I’m all for new blood in a fan base, but the average baseball IQ for Red Sox fans has dropped in the past five-ten years.

    I’m 24, the only real pain I’ve known as a Sox fan was 2003…but I became a fan when I was five. The only team I care about more is the USMNT (soccer, for those who don’t know)…and that’s because the team went from a bunch of homegrowns, castoffs and trade acquisitions to the Lackey-Crawford-JD Drew style of team building, and it’s harder to care about laundry (to quote Seinfeld) when it arrives simply because we can spend more. There’s less of an emotional connection between the team and the fans, and I think there’s fault on both sides.

  24. tomemos says:

    Tux, you don’t get to just say that “pink hats” is “by no means a sexist remark,” since it clearly is. If it applies to both men and women, why does the term only refer to women?

    • macomeau says:

      It’s a slightly loaded term, but most people who use it now realize both that women can be serious fans and men can be ‘pink hats’ (trendy band-wagoners in it for fashion).

      That said, band-wagon fans is probably a better term.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Every hard core sports fans knows what the pink hats are. There is no need to apologize for that. I mocked the Red Sox and their pink hat wearing fans…. and I don’t blame their hardcore fans for being embarrassed by them.

  25. Adam says:

    I just moved to the LA area after years in the midwest. It’s a Lakers town, and nothing else even comes close. The Dodgers have a very good fanbase and tons of history, but I don’t think there’s any city in the country that lives and dies with a basketball team like LA does with the Lakers. They completely dominate the sports media and casual conversation in a way that baseball just can’t match, and that’s not even factoring in how Staples Center has become one of the trendiest spots in the city and place to be seen.

  26. tomemos says:

    Adam, that’s a good point about the sports media. Anyone who thinks the Dodgers are in front should try getting baseball news on LA sports radio. There’s more about the Lakers even *during the baseball season.* There’s even more about football during the baseball season, and LA doesn’t even have a football team!

  27. Dinky says:

    Duamondbacks is a misspelling in the penultimate paragraph, Joe.

    I lived in Phoenix and then Sierra Vista Arizona for four years, and I think Phoenix is a Cardinals town. Dodgers fans often outnumber D-Backs fans at the ball game. There are too many folks there who root for other teams because they moved to Phoenix.

    As for LA, I agree with Dodgers. The flavor of the day may be Lakers fans, and I follow the team, but a lot of that is the Dodgers had terrible owners between the O’Malleys and the current owners. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, when both teams were good, you saw the Union ’76 Ball that was a Dodgers tied in giveaway. I’ve never driven in LA and heard the sound of a Lakers game on the radio from nearby cars. I did hear the Rams (way back when) but hearing the Dodgers was common, all over the city.

    One metric I’d use is the area covered by each team’s radio network within (say) 300 miles. I have never heard the Lakers at my house 250 miles north of LA (except on ESPN radio when the Lakers were the game of the day). I have heard the Dodgers out of Fresno and Bakersfield (and Ventura and Santa Maria). Even though Fresno is a Giants farm city, you could hear Dodger games.

    Finally, it’s also worth noting that the Dodgers are also huge with LA’s Hispanic population.

  28. tomemos says:

    I dunno, man. If you have to go back to the 70’s to find a time when the Dodgers were more popular than the Lakers, doesn’t that indicate that the paradigm has shifted? McCourt was a snake but it’s not like his ownership was all famine for Dodger fans; they went to the NLCS in back-to-back years! Yet the Lakers were still the undisputed kings of the city. By contrast, right now the Lakers are a disaster and the Dodgers look like a juggernaut (just like the Lakers did), but who’s getting more airplay, and will continue to get more airplay even when the baseball season starts? (Also, no matter how generous you are with LA’s sprawl, Fresno isn’t LA by any description.)

    There’s no doubt that Vin Scully is a legend and people still like listening to games as a result. Same with Dodger Stadium and attending games. At other times, though, the team isn’t on people’s minds like the Lakers and their fantasy football teams are.

    I agree that the Dodgers are huge with the city’s Latinos, though then you also have to take Mexican and Spanish league soccer into account.

  29. Joshua says:

    I’ve lived for significant periods in NYC and DC and I’m not sure I’m with Joe on either of them. For NYC, I think the answer is pretty clearly Knicks. The fan base is a bit beaten down by years of mismanagement by the Dolans, but I think Linsanity showed how desperate the city was for a reason to be excited by the Knicks. Maybe I’ve got a skewed perspective as a Mets fan, but I think having two baseball teams and two football teams dillutes the extent of the Yankees/Giants hold on the city (though I suppose the same thing may be happening to the Knicks with the Nets coming to town).

    As for DC, yes, it’s a Redskins town and the Nats are on the rise, but right now, I’d put the Caps in second place. Nats games still get huge turnout from fans of the visiting team. Caps games are a sea of red.

  30. Scott says:

    The comment about Seattle being a soccer town is pretty ridiculous. People talk about the Sonics, who don’t even exist, about 100 more times on the radio than soccer. I do know Sounder (the MLS team) fans and they aren’t the sports following types. More like their kids play soccer and they can watch something more advanced or the cultural elite who want to be as European as possible.

  31. Nick O says:

    Oakland is a Warriors town. There are lots of 49ers fans in the East Bay, especially among those who came of age when the Raiders were in LA. And there are a hell of a lot of newly minted Giants fans. There’s only one basketball team, and people go crazy for them even when they’re not any good. We outdraw all the other bad teams when we’re terrible, and we sell out every game when we’re less terrible. And if you are talking the city of Oakland itself rather than the greater East Bay, the home of Damian Lillard, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, and Bill Russell likes its basketball.

    • Rob Smith says:

      OK, I’m not a NoCal, but it seems odd that a Warrior team that hasn’t been relevant for 25 years is more popular than the Raiders. (Not that the Raiders have been very relevant either). I guess if you’re not a psychopath, the Raiders might not click with you, but the Bay Area is full of crazies, so the Raiders seem to fit better.

  32. soxmann says:

    I saw my first Red Sox game when I was four and Ted Williams was playing his last season. So more history than I really want to think about. I remember crying at my next game because Yaz, as a rookie, only hit two home runs. I thought he was kind of like Superman, and hit one every time he batted. Again that was a long time ago.

    I don’t think that anyone outside of ownership thinks the fan experience is close to what it was in 2007, much less 2004. Ownership was once adored for their approach to building a team.

    To say that perceptions have changed there is an order of magnitude short. After bringing in a who’s who of overpriced underachievers, topped by the Bobby Valentine side-show, the long-time fan is ready to drop the ownership into a vat of boiling oil. My brother didn’t even get the MLB package last year for the first time ever. This is a guy that flew from Fairbanks to Boston in 1986 in the hopes of scalping a ticket to the playoffs.

  33. Rob Smith says:

    You’re right on about Atlanta. The Georgia Bulldogs are first… they sell out a 90K seat stadium every game. The Falcons are coming on strong, however. The Arthur Blank ownership has made all the difference, and they just went to the NFC Championship (which they should have won). Sad to say, the Braves are in 3rd place. The season does drag on, which being a baseball fan, is hard to admit. Summer is also really hot, and I don’t really want to go to games for that reason. I know, I’ve gotten soft.

    • I think the proper answer for Phoenix, Atlanta and the Florida cities as it relates to the pros is “whoever is winning the most at the time”. These are cities that consist significantly of transplants who are more inclined to maintain their own allegiances than switch to the home team.

      If we’re counting college football, I’m with you as it relates to Atlanta and the Florida cities.

  34. Llarry says:

    Phoenix is the Suns’ town. We seem to enjoy being disappointed by the Cardinals, and criticizing their every move. The D’Backs are great when they’re going good, but still just don’t have that solid support. Both teams draw large numbers of visitors’ fans. The Coyotes still haven’t properly taken hold, which is a shame. Moving to the far West side (Glendale) didn’t help as much as building more to the east (south Scottsdale) might have.

    Pretty much everybody follows the Suns (and I don’t even like basketball), that may go back to when they were the only pro team in town. When they’re up, they’re everywhere. When they’re down, everyone is watching to see how long the rebuild will take…

    The only thing that can compete is ASU Football, when they’re doing well. So many people in town have some connection to ASU, though there’s also a lot of UofA connection (I know a number of mixed marriages), which at the very least keeps the rivalry game important.

  35. Scott says:


    As a visitor in Ny you see and hear Yankees more than every other team in town combined, at least that’s my experience. I’ve seen more Mets caps than Giants ones (cap counting is the way to really know a town’s pulse to me).

    Atlanta: you couldn’t be more wrong. Lot’s of friends there, went to school an hour from there, Braves own that town and they do more so than any team in any sport except maybe the Lakers in LA and Saints in NOLA.

    Detroit: I was born there, go back regularly and I can’t pick between Red Wings and Tigers, but I know Lions are a way, way distant third. Way, way distant.

    New Orleans? No love? Well, it’s Saints and I mean lock down Saints. Every other square inch of the state is LSU Tiger football turf, but the city of New Orleans is totally committed to the Saints.

    • Rob Smith says:

      Incorrect. The Braves no longer own the town. They’re still big, but have always been eclipsed by Univ of Georgia football and now by the Falcons.

    • Scott says:

      My impression of Atlanta is that UGA football is very big everywhere else in the state, probably #1, but not in Atlanta itself, where it lags behind the pro teams. Falcons are kind of big right now, but they blow hot and cold, and I sense some real Falcons exhaustion from my ATL friends. Most were pretty much blah, we expected it after another playoff disappointment this year.

  36. John Walsh says:

    Congrats on the new gig. Now for the most important question: are you going to continue with the Poscasts? (Please say yes!)

  37. Frank says:

    I think one test of what sport rules a city is the amount of time spent on the respective sports on local talk radio. This is especially applicable in the off-season for the sport. Here’s an example: it’s now basketball and hockey in-season, and baseball season is right around the corner. But in Washington, over half of the live air time still goes to the Redskins.

  38. Brian says:

    New York is a Baseball town, but the one team that takes over everything when they are good is the Knicks. Probably because it’s historically been the one sport where the team has no real competition in the area. Other than the few years when Jason Kidd was at his peak, and the Nets made it to the finals, the Nets have basically been a non-entity in the NY Sports scene. And even when they WERE good, MSG was still the place to be seen. Every other major sport has a fiercely loyal fan base, that, even when their rivals are at their peak, form a substantial minority that make it tough to take over the ENTIRE “town.” It will be interesting to see, now that the Nets are relevant and they’re in a “cool” arena in the “cool” part of town, if they’ll seriously eat into the Knick fan-base.

  39. Music Guy says:

    You (I guess correctly) picked football in nearly every city. So I guess your point is that football is more popular than baseball? Not your most earth-shattering post.

  40. Chris M says:

    I’m originally from NY (Mets/Giants/St. John’s BB/Islanders/Knicks, in that order for me), lived outside Philly for college, and have lived just outside DC for the past 7 years. My take:

    NY: Easily a BASEBALL city, with it being majority Yankees, though I’d say it’s probably 30% hardcore Yankee fans, 25% hardcore Mets fans, and 45% “swing” fans who rooted for the Mets in the early 70’s, went back to the Yankees in the late 70’s, came hard to the Mets in the 80’s, and have been fairly solidly Yankees since the strike (though I’m surprised some people didn’t get whiplash between 1998 and 2007, swapping allegiances as much as they did). I’d say basketball is a close second to baseball, but the difference is that when the Knicks are good, the ENTIRE city (and by city I mean city + Long Island + “upstate” + a lot of Jersey) gets behind them, so it can seem like a Knicks town when they’re good. And college b-ball used to be huge, but it’s been so long since the Johnny’s have been relevant that people forget. Football is easily third, I believe, though still hugely popular – having both teams play in the swamplands probably doesn’t help. And hockey has a solid niche – go to any of the inter-city rivalry games (yes, even those including the lowly Islanders) for a great experience. Ultimately, there’s just no sports city (or, really, city period) like NY.

    Philly: So far and away easily the Eagles that I’m probably never gonna be able to take Calcaterra seriously again. Granted, my time in Philly was 2002-2006, when the Eagles were the class of the NFC, and maybe that slightly colored my perception, but take a listen to WIP sometime in the next few days. Beginning of spring, 3 of the 10 best pitchers in baseball warming up for the season for a team that hasn’t finished below .500 since the Iraq war was just a glimmer in W’s eyes, and if you think that’ll be the main topic of conversation, I have the University of Oregon to sell you. The Eagles dominate discussion whether they are good or bad (and maybe even more-so when they’re bad). I swear in my 4 years of college I never saw anyone wearing a Phillies hat, and have had MULTIPLE friends who I know for a fact were wearing Red Sox hats or Yankees hats or Braves hats during college, who now swear they were always “hardcore Phillies fans” (of course getting them to name a single player who played for the Phillies between Mike Schmidt and Jimmy Rollins is an exercise in futility). Philly jumps on a bandwagon as good as any city out there, but the Eagles are the only team that holds any interest when they’re not good. The Flyers also have a pretty dedicated though small fanbase (which is probably true for every hockey team in the northeastern United States).

    DC – again, very easily Redskins. Much like Philly this is a town that can jump on a bandwagon (though it takes a lot less for DC to do so), and the Caps have been HUGE since I moved down here, and the Nationals are now getting pretty popular too. But the Skins are the only ones who hold attention when they’re bad. And really, I think that’s the sign for any city – any city can jump on a bandwagon (even my beloved New York – don’t think I haven’t noticed a lot of people wearing their fresh Eli Manning jerseys the last few years…I still like to break out my Ron Dayne jersey to prove I’ve been around the block a little bit), but what teams do they support when those teams are down?

  41. Alex says:

    Would Anaheim have made this list if the (Sacramento) Kings had moved down here a couple of years ago? They were all ready for the Anaheim Royals at the Honda Center.

  42. derklempner says:

    “…but I think Bears interest is basically as big as all the other teams in Chicago combined.”

    This is simply explained. As Chicago is a two-team baseball town, fans are divided between those teams, but born-and-bred Chicagoans who are sports fans have but one NFL team to root for. Both Cubs and White Sox fans can agree on their football (or basketball or hockey) choices. This is why Chicago will always be a football town ahead of all other sports due to the overwhelming popularity of the NFL and MLB, as they are the biggest two American sports, but baseball loyalties lying in two different camps while football loyalties lying in one place alone.

  43. I would love to see the Dan Marino concept explored more. Who are the retired stars with the biggest impact on their cities? Living in Denver, I am amazed by the John Elway obsession and how every Bronco QB still lives in his shadow. I am curious to see a comparison across different cities.

  44. I can see the argument for the Knicks. But if you live here for a while, what you see – and this really isnt opinion but simple fact – NY is a baseball town. The Giants are a somewhat distant third place.

  45. @derklempner
    Not really, there are still some Chicago Cardinals fans in some corners. Its spectacular that the Bears took over the whole city. The Bears played in wrigley, the cards in Comisky. Can you imagine sox fans ever supporting the cubs? Even if, the white sox moved to Portland?

    I will follow you to whatever website/blog/dead tree you go to. Sports on earth is still cool. Sports Illustrated still has decent College/Pro football writers. I guess its on to nbc sports then. Any chance this means you’ll show up for Sunday night football analysis? (nbc still airs those games, right?)

  46. Just a note about your A-Rod article. The first time I remember seeing Alex play shortstop, was a day game at the Kingdome in probably 1995, when he was still 19. The Kingdome had a pretty fast carpet, not easy on infielders, and a ball was hit to deep short. Alex got to the ball and spun and threw and didn’t get the runner; he was probably ten feet past the line that marked the outfield when he got to ball and he still had to spin to get in position to throw. But the throw got to first on a pure line and the friend I was with and I both looked at one another and said, “What was THAT?” We’re not talking about a play he “made”, but the fact that he got to the ball and put that much on it was simply amazing.

    And from that day to the day he stood on second base in game six of the 2000 ALCS trying to will Edgar Martinez to extend the season in the top of the ninth, I had nothing bad to say about him. And from that point on, I don’t remember having anything good to say about him. This is a man who, at age 25, wrote a letter to the Boeing Co. saying that he really hoped they’d follow him in moving their headquarters from Seattle to Dallas.

  47. Erin says:

    Joe, I have to disagree about Los Angeles, having lived here for the past 15 years or so (and having spent a lifetime rooting against all LA teams). There is no question in my mind that this city still lives and dies with the Lakers. Everyone roots for the Lakers, even people who you wouldn’t think are even sports fans.

    It is rare that I hear anyone even mention the Dodgers anymore. It actually goes back to the Fox ownership, the fans seemed to fall out of love with them then, and it hasn’t changed, although that could change now that Magic is fronting them. Which, in a way, proves my point–it took a Laker icon to get people to even notice the Dodgers again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *