No. 6 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: New YorkOctober 20, 2014
No. 6 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: New York
How much does where you live matter as a sports fan? The short answer is: It depends.
If you're an Alabama football fan, there's no better place to live than Tuscaloosa. If you're a Red Sox fan, there's no worse place to live than New York City.
But what if you were a free agent, so to speak? What if you loved sports, but didn't have a specific affiliation to any team? You're moving to a new city. What city would have the most to offer you as a sports fan? What city would give you the best overall experience?
That is what we're here to find out. We took 25 of the best writers from Bleacher Report and beyond to objectively look at their cities and come up with a ranking. To get a better understanding of the categories and grading criteria, click here.
New York comes in at No. 6.
"New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There's nothin' you can't do
Now you're in New York"
Beyonce's husband is right; there's nothin' you can't do in New York, the home of 32-ounce sodas and Derek Jeter gift baskets.
Well, there are a few things you can't do in New York. For instance, if you're the Knicks, you can't win a championship in the past 40 years, and if you're the Jets, well, it's been longer than that. So even if your dreams are made of concrete jungles or whatever, they're not guaranteed to come true here.
New York has at least one professional sports team in every major league and plenty of others in the less popular ones. The area is home to tennis and golf majors, college football bowl games and has hosted NCAA tournament contests.
If you want to live in a sports mecca, you want to live in New York.
That doesn't mean every franchise here is magnificent; there's plenty of bad to go with the good. But you will never run out of sports options around this metropolis.
(All attendance figures via ESPN.com)
Number of Teams/Events: 20/20
The beauty of living in the New York area is that there is no shortage of professional sports teams. The odds are pretty good that at some point at least one of them will be fun to watch.
There are two NFL teams (Giants, Jets), two MLB teams (Mets, Yankees), two NBA teams (Knicks, Nets) and three NHL teams (Devils, Islanders (in 2015, at least), Rangers). If the so-called "major" sports leagues don't generate interest, there are the WNBA's Liberty and the MLS' Red Bulls.
This area isn't brimming with college sports excitement, but there are options there as well.
Rutgers recently joined the Big Ten, and while a school based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is stretching the idea of New York/Brooklyn, watch a Rutgers football game on ESPN and count the number of shots of Times Square. St. John's is based in Queens, and there are other schools within a two-hour drive of Manhattan.
If the local schools aren't your thing, there are always major college sports events happening.
Madison Square Garden hosts the Big East tournament, NIT Final Four and other showcase events during the college basketball season, as does Barclays Center in Brooklyn, Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Both MSG and Prudential Center have hosted NCAA tournament games as well.
Yankee Stadium in the Bronx hosts a low-level bowl game at the end of December, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford doesn't host a bowl game but usually attracts a marquee college game early in the season.
There's also the U.S. Open, both for golf in Westchester County and tennis at Flushing Meadows in Queens, which are huge draws. The NFL draft has been held at Radio City Musical Hall in midtown Manhattan for the last several years, but will move to a new location in 2015.
Also: All of these venues come in handy during the offseason when concerts roll through town.
Success of Teams in Last Five Years: 13/20
While there is an abundance of teams in the vicinity, it hasn't translated to all that many championships.
Since 2009, the only teams to win titles are the Yankees (2009) and Giants (2012). The Rangers (2014) and Devils (2012) reached the Stanley Cup final only to lose to the Los Angeles Kings each time.
If championships are too strict for grading success, playoff berths aren't looking much better.
The Yankees qualified for the playoffs four of the past five seasons, while the Mets haven't reached the second season since 2006. Neither team is looking like a good bet to make it there this season.
The Giants have one Super Bowl in the past five years, but that's their only playoff trip in that time. The Jets have missed the postseason three straight years after two consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship Game.
Basketball in recent years has been subpar as well.
The Knicks had a fluky 54-win season in 2012-13 and have made the playoffs three times, but they also registered 29- and 37-win seasons in the past five years. After failing to get to the playoffs for five straight years, the New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn and found success there, reaching the playoffs two consecutive times.
In hockey, the Rangers have reached the playoffs four straight years, while the Devils and Islanders have a combined three trips over the past five years.
The Liberty reached the playoffs three times from 2010-2012 but were one of the worst teams in the league this season. The Red Bulls have been one of MLS' best regular-season teams the past five seasons, although they are in the middle of the pack this season.
With this many teams, a championship every few years is almost inevitable, but overall, it hasn't been a great run for the area lately.
The New York area provides an excellent mix of historic and cutting-edge arenas and stadiums, although not all of them are wonderful to visit.
For reasons unbeknownst to many, the Giants and Jets moved into MetLife Stadium in 2010 after decades in Giants Stadium, a fine nuts-and-bolts stadium no one seemed to mind. The new stadium looks like a giant vent; it's as if the contractors got 90 percent done and said, "Meh, this is good enough." It's one of the few times fans can objectively say the old stadium was better than the new one.
That's not the case with the area's baseball teams, as the Yankees and Mets moved into new homes across from their old ones in 2009. While the old Yankee Stadium had mystique and aura, it also had hints of dirt and urine aromas around every turn. Shea Stadium had everything Yankee Stadium had only without the decades upon decades of success.
But the new buildings are fantastic. The inside of Yankee Stadium looks just like the old one but with so many more concession options and wider concourses. Citi Field is arguably more modern and aesthetically appealing than the new Yankee Stadium, although both are worth seeing in person.
Madison Square Garden had many of the same problems as the old Yankee and Shea Stadiums, but a three-year renovation has transformed the nearly 50-year-old building into a much better place to visit. Prudential Center in Newark is widely considered one of the best arenas in the NHL, while Nassau Coliseum on Long Island is at the other end of the spectrum, although the Islanders are scheduled to move into Barclays Center in Brooklyn in 2015.
Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, opened in 2010 and has a capacity of 25,000.
The beauty of all these buildings is that they are accessible by mass transportation, so a car—and the hefty parking fees that come with it—is not required.
Fan Passion: 7/10
This one is tough to measure.
In terms of attendance, the area does quite well for itself. The Knicks and Rangers are sold out for every game at Madison Square Garden. The same can be said for the Giants and Jets at MetLife, although it tends to fall short of 100 percent capacity when they are mathematically eliminated from a playoff berth at the end of the season, as has been the case recently.
After that, it's quite dodgy.
The Yankees were routinely above the 90 percent mark in their old stadium but have not been above that mark since moving into the new park. The fledgling Mets have been in the mid-60s in that category over the past three years despite having one of the league's nicer stadiums.
The Devils, Islanders and Nets have been the second-class teams in the area since their inception. Last season, the Devils and Islanders finished 24th and 26th, respectively, in total attendance, while the Nets finished 17th, although Barclays was at 95 percent capacity for the season.
In terms of passion, a subjective thing to quantify, it seems not all that great compared to other cities.
Fireman Ed, egomaniac and man who doesn't understand his importance in the grand scheme of life, "quit" being a Jets fan in 2012; this despite the team reaching a conference championship game during the 2009 and 2010 seasons. At MSG, fans openly booed Rangers forward Rick Nash when he touched the puck during the second round of the playoffs this year, something they did with Sandis Ozolinsh in 2006.
Are those examples of "passion" gone wrong or fair-weather fans who will turn against their own at a moment's notice?
It's probably more the latter.
General Fan Experience: 13/15
This comes from someone who has never attended a game there as a fan, but everyone who has says going to a Red Bulls match is the most fun you can have at a game. It probably has a lot to do with the intimate size of the stadium, the relatively inexpensive tickets and the fact that soccer crowds are usually tops.
Madison Square Garden probably has the best atmosphere of any of the arenas in the major sports leagues, as that building can get plenty rowdy when the Knicks and Rangers are playing well or participating in a big game. Sure, the spectators can be fickle, but when things are going well, it's a fun time.
MetLife Stadium may as well be a hospital waiting room, as there is no more antiseptic place to watch sports in this area. The real experience is tailgating before and after the game; it's actually such a good time no matter where you're parked in the Meadowlands that some fans just stay there while the game is taking place within spitting distance.
Experiences at Prudential Center, Nassau Coliseum, Barclays Center and Citi Field are pretty standard; you'll have a good time there, but they're not exactly a destination if you're in town for a few days.
The one thing Yankee Stadium has going for it is "roll call," the tradition at the start of games where fans in the outfield stands known as the "Bleacher Creatures" chant the names of players until they acknowledge by waving. While it's a unique aspect that can't be found elsewhere, it also lasts about 90 seconds, after which it's just another baseball game for three hours.
What hurts this area's overall rating in this department is the lack of big-time college football. Attending a Rutgers game isn't exactly attending an SEC contest on a Saturday night.
But overall, there are enough available options to have yourself a good time.
Speaking from experience, the hockey writers in this region are simply outstanding. They are smart, clever, analytically sharp and among the best in the business. There's no better corps of hockey journalists than the ones around here.
(Nope, totally objective opinion there.)
But really, this area has it all, the good and the bad, the oversaturated and the underreported.
New York Giants OTAs will probably garner more coverage than a midweek Islanders game from certain outlets. The more popular the sport, the more coverage it will receive; that's not anything unique to this area, but if you're a huge NFL, MLB or NBA fan, this is a place where you want to live.
The other side of that coin is sports talk radio, where the discourse rises to a level somewhere between drunk idiot in a bar shouting at a TV and smug know-it-all who watches no more than six sporting events a year telling everyone they're the smartest person in the room. For your sake, for the sake of your family, do not listen to sports talk radio in these parts for more than five consecutive minutes.
Overall, it's just like any other major city when it comes to coverage. The local media's reputation as "tough" and "brutal" is generally overblown, as the back pages of the tabloids tend to be far harsher than anything that's written by a reporter inside the newspaper.
Star Power: 6/10
You've caught the Big Apple at a weird time for rating star power.
Is Eli Manning a star? You bet. Is Derek Jeter a star? Undeniably. Is Martin Brodeur one of the biggest names in his sport? Without a doubt.
But while Manning has hosted Saturday Night Live and appears in an endless stream of commercials, he's maybe the 15th-best quarterback in the NFL. Jeter and Brodeur are locks for the Hall of Fame, but this is Jeter's final season and Brodeur is a free agent who may opt to retire after two decades with the New Jersey Devils.
Who else fits in the "star" category locally? Carmelo Anthony? David Wright? Henrik Lundqvist? Heck, Jimmy Fallon did a bit that showed Mets pitcher Matt Harvey is unrecognizable to most fans when he's standing right next to them.
If you were to make a list of the five biggest stars in every sport, would any of them contain a player from the New York area?
What stars this area has are on the back nine of their careers, and there don't seem to be any waiting in the on-deck circle, or on the bench, or at the scorer's table, whichever metaphor you prefer.
New York is one of the oldest cities in the United States ("old New York was once New Amsterdam," as They Might Be Giants once sang), so it only makes sense that the area is dripping with history and tradition.
No one is better at connecting the past with the present than the Yankees, as their old-timers' days over the years have been glimpses into multiple eras when the franchise ruled the sport. There's been somewhat of a lull in that regard (Aaron Small!), but it's always better than what other teams in the league can offer, and with just about everyone from the recent dynasty teams retiring, the wonderment of old timers' day should continue in the future.
The New York (Football) Giants joined the NFL in 1925. They have eight championships, including four Super Bowls following the 1986, 1990, 2007 and 2011 seasons.
That doesn't quite compare to the Yankees' 27 World Series titles, but nothing does.
The Jets have been around for 54 years and, well, they've been around 54 years. Seriously, though, while the Jets have always played second fiddle to the Giants, they do have one Lombardi Trophy to their name. Who can forget when Broadway Joe Namath guaranteed an improbable victory over the Baltimore Colts and then delivered on it in Super Bowl III?
The Rangers are an Original Six franchise, a misnomer that was created out of thin air when the NHL expanded from six to 12 teams in 1967. The Rangers, however, have existed since 1926 but have just four Stanley Cups to show for it.
The Knicks were founded in 1946 but have just two titles to show for it, although that's two more than the Liberty have since their inaugural season in 1997.
The Rangers and Knicks toe the line between "historic" and "having been around for a long time without much success."
The Islanders (four Stanley Cups, all in a row) and the Devils (three Cups) have been quite successful despite being founded in 1972 and 1982, respectively.
The older franchises, for the most part, have their share of championship lore, while the younger ones have had success as well.
Final Tally: 82/100
The phrase that best sums up the current New York sports scene is quantity over quality, but as a sports fan, there's nothing wrong with that.
Sure, the championships aren't flowing through the Hudson River with the regularity of dinner cruises, but there is always something happening in this city. Whether it's hometown teams or marquee league events, there may not be a better locale in North America to be a sports fan.
And while the biggest names and best teams don't exist in New York/Brooklyn now, sports are cyclical. Considering the big budgets just about all of these teams possess, it's just a matter of time before the streets are cordoned off for a championship parade taking place either in Manhattan, a nearby borough or New Jersey suburb.