The 10 Best Sports Cities in the U.S.: Where Does Yours Stand?

Professor BushCorrespondent IIIDecember 29, 2011

The 10 Best Sports Cities in the U.S.: Where Does Yours Stand?

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    Who had the better decade? Was it the New England Patriots or the Los Angeles Lakers? Did Tom Brady or Kobe Bryant lead his city to be the best sports city? Or was it some other player or team?

    It's time to stir up the hornets' nest again and ask the question: What are the best sports cities in the country?  There are always strongly-held opinions on this topic and a wide variety of criteria that can be applied to develop the answer.

    The following eligibility criteria have been established:

    1) I will use the results of major professional sports leagues only: NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB.

    2) A city must have a team in at least three of the leagues to be eligible for consideration.

    3) The last 10 seasons that have ended in the years 2002 through 2011, will be used in the analysis.  For example, since the current NFL season has not ended, the last year we will use is the 2010-2011 season.

    4) A city must have won a championship in these 10 years to be eligible for consideration.

    A variety of metrics will be applied in comparing cities:

    1) Total number of championships.

    2) Playoff appearances weighted by progress in the playoffs. The details of this metric is provided in the very last slide, after the review of all 10 cities.

    3) One view will treat all cities equally, regardless of how many teams a city has.

    4) One view will divide the results by a measure of the number of teams a city has.

    What three cities do you think will be at the top of the heap? Think about this before you proceed to the results.

10. San Franciso Bay Area

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    The San Francisco Giants' World Series Championship in 2010 lets the Bay Area sneak into the list at No. 10.

    We even counted the Golden Gate Warriors as a San Francisco team so that they would qualify for eligibility for having teams in three major sports.

    It makes no difference if we add in performance credits for Oakland onto the San Francisco total. The combination would still be well below the next city on the list.

9. Miami

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    One championship each for the Marlins and The Heat bring Miami in at No. 9 on the list. The Heat also received quite a few performance credits in addition for their history of playoff appearances.

    The Dolphins and Panthers were essentially non-contributors towards the city's total. Both of these teams have had a very dry decade.

8. Pittsburgh

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    It is great to see a small-market city break into this list. With two Super Bowls from the Steelers and one Stanley Cup from the Pens, Pittsburgh ends up as No. 8 on the list. Each of these two teams had quite a few performance credits from their playoff history during the decade.

    As you would expect, the Pirates did not add any performance credits to the city total. The Pirates have not appeared in a postseason game since 1992.

7. Chicago

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    Just a little ahead of Pittsburgh, Chicago makes No. 7 on the list. The city had one Stanley Cup from the Blackhawks and one World Series win by the White Sox during the decade.

    The Bulls' playoff history added a modest number of performance credits, but the Cubs' contribution, as expected, was minimal.

    As Cubs fans are painfully aware, the team's last appearance in the World Series was in 1945, where they lost. After that, they went 40 years before appearing in a postseason game again. Maybe Theo Epstein can turn things around, but he has a daunting task ahead of him considering the team's history.

6. Dallas

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    The Mavericks' recent NBA Championship ended a decade-long dry spell for Dallas. The Mavericks were  one of the two teams reviewed for this article that made the playoffs in all 10 years this decade.

    The Stars and Rangers each provided a modest number of performance credits with their playoff history. The Cowboys were the least effective team for the city during the decade, as they won only one playoff game.

5. New York

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    The Giants, Yankees and Devils won championships during the period.

    But New York presents a big challenge when trying to determine where they fit on the list. How much should we discount their total performance credits because the "city" has nine major professional sports teams.

    Or does it?

    Should we count the Devils and Nets as part of New York City for this purpose, or do we take out those two teams because they play in New Jersey and have New Jersey in their names?  But if we do that, what about the Giants and Jets, who also play in New Jersey, and for part of the decade actually played in the same complex as the Devils and Nets?

    So I have looked at this in several ways:

    1) If we do not do any discounting of performance credits because of the number of teams, then New York would come out as No. 3 on the list. This does not seem fair, especially when you consider the dismal decade that the Knicks, Islanders and Mets have had. Both the Knicks and Islanders went the entire decade without winning a playoff series. The Mets appeared in only one postseason series, melted in the stretch run in two seasons and ended the time period of the study in chaos and financial turmoil.

    2) If I remove the Nets and Devils from the New York total so that there are only seven teams, then New York dips down to No. 7 on the list. The Nets and Devils added a considerable number of performance credits to the total with their playoff histories.

    3) If I count the performance credits off all nine teams, then discount them by the appropriate team number factor, New York turns out to be No. 5 on the list.

    So I took the middle result, No. 5, and put New York in that spot. Let the grumblings begin!

4. Philadelphia

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    The lone championship for Philadelphia was the Phillies' 2008 World Series victory.

    I can already hear the New York fans shouting about this ranking for Philadelphia. How can they be at No. 4 when they won only one championship during the decade while New York won three?

    Well, the simple answer is that the Flyers and the Eagles had a consistent history of making the playoffs. Between the two of them, they made the playoffs 17 times out of the possible 20 chances to do so. And the two teams won playoff games in 12 out of the possible 20 chances to do so.

    Now compare that to the Giants, for example, who only won a playoff game once in the decade, but in that year they won the Super Bowl.

    So the real question here is: What should be rewarded more heavily, consistent playoff performance or the occasional championship?

    Depending on how these weights are specified, the balance between the Eagles and the Giants, for example, could swing either way. This topic has been the subject of a long-standing debate between the fans of the two teams.

3. Detroit

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    Two Stanley Cup victories for the Red Wings and one NBA Championship for the Pistons puts Detroit in the third spot. The Red Wings made the playoffs every year during the decade, and the Pistons did so eight times.

    As a matter of historical interest, the Red Wings have made the NHL playoffs 20 years in a row, which is an accomplishment certainly worth noting. So the nickname, "Hockeytown" is well deserved.

    The Tigers had minimal contribution of performance credits, and the hapless Lions had none. In fact, the Lions have only won one playoff game in the last 52 years. But maybe this year will be the turnaround point in Lions' history.

2. Los Angeles

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    Three championships by the Lakers, one by the Angels and one by the Ducks lands Los Angeles in second place. Since we let New York absorb the New Jersey teams, we allowed Anaheim to be included in the Los Angeles tally as well.

    In addition to their three championships, the Lakers appeared in two additional finals as well. So that makes five NBA finals in the decade—quite an accomplishment.

1. Boston

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    There is no doubt which city has been the No. 1 sports city over the past decade. You can use any metric that you want:

    1) Total number of championships (Boston has seven);

    2) Number of sports in which championships have been won (Boston won in all four);

    3) Number of appearances in championship finals (Boston has nine); or

    4) Total number of performance credits discounted by number of teams (Boston is 15 percent ahead of Los Angeles).

    The Patriots won three championships, the Red Sox won two, the Bruins won one and the Celtics won one. I challenge readers to provide any cogent counter-arguments to crowning Boston the No. 1 sports city of the past decade.

    And, who knows? With the way Tom Brady and his receivers have been playing this year, Boston might keep this title alive for another few years. Now the Red Sox, that is another story after their September meltdown this season.

Performance Credits and Discounting by Number of Teams

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    I have developed a metric to assess relative performance in playoffs. If a team makes the playoffs and loses in the first round, I assign one "performance credit."  If they lose in the second round, I give them two performance credits, and so forth. If they lose in the finals, they get four performance credits, and if they win the championship they get six.

    I believe this is a fair measure of a team's success.

    When it comes to fairly considering the fact that not every city has the same number of teams, I discount the performance credit total by a factor related to the number of teams the city has. If I just divided by the number of teams, this would penalize the cities with more teams too heavily. So I divide the performance credit total by the square root of the number of teams that the city has in excess of four.

    This means, for example, if a city has six teams, then I divide their total by 1.41, which is less than the 1.5 that we would get if we just divided six by four.

    Follow Professor Bush on Twitter @Prof_Bush.

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