No. 2 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: Los Angeles/AnaheimDecember 10, 2014
No. 2 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: Los Angeles/Anaheim
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.
Los Angeles/Anaheim comes in at No. 2.
Number of Teams/Events: 17/20
Los Angeles is to pro sports what the ark was to Noah: big enough to fit two of every kind.
And yet, in a city known for urban sprawl, teams have taken to co-tenancy as the most common means of operation. In fact, of the region's pro sports pairings, only the NHL's Kings and Ducks have never settled in the same building, and that's because they operate in separate cities.
The NBA's Lakers and Clippers both occupy the Staples Center downtown, just as MLS' Galaxy and Chivas USA do the StubHub Center in Carson. MLB's Dodgers used to share Dodger Stadium with the Angels before the latter moved down to Anaheim.
The NFL's Rams called the L.A. Coliseum home before moving to Anaheim in 1980, thereby paving the way for the Raiders to take up residence at Exposition Park in 1982. L.A.'s pre-eminent college football programs—UCLA and USC—called the Coliseum home at the same time until the Bruins moved into the Rose Bowl full-time in 1982.
The L.A. area is home to its fair share of Division I schools beyond those two. Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Northridge and UC Irvine all field at least one team that competes at the NCAA's highest level.
What this city lacks in pro football teams, then, it more than makes up for across the rest of the board.
Success of Teams in Last 5 Years: 16/20
Few cities can compare to L.A. in terms of championship success, particularly over the last half-decade.
At the pro level, the Kings, the Lakers and the Galaxy have all won two titles apiece since 2009. That same span has seen the Angels play in the ALCS (2009) and the Dodgers in the NLCS (2009, 2013), and the Ducks and Clippers have captured two Pacific Division crowns each.
At the collegiate level, UCLA and USC have combined for 21 national championships since 2009.
Not that the picture has been entirely rosy across L.A. in the past five years. The Lakers missed the playoffs for just the sixth time in franchise history in 2014 while posting their worst record (27-55) since moving from Minneapolis. The Clippers were their usual terrible selves until the 2011-12 season, when Chris Paul's arrival occasioned the rise of Lob City alongside Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
The Dodgers were torpedoed by their own ownership woes from 2010 through 2012 until a Magic Johnson-led group blew Frank McCourt away with a $2.15 billion offer for the team. The Angels have been steady under Artie Moreno...in that they've steadily missed the playoffs every year since 2010. The same goes for Chivas USA in MLS.
Still, if championships are the most important currency in sports, L.A. has spent the recent handful of years stuffing its coffers.
L.A.'s contingent of sports facilities features a unique array of arenas and stadiums that are state-of-the-art, historic or both.
In the middle of it all is Staples Center. The crown jewel of downtown's L.A. Live has only been open for 15 years but has already hosted nine banner hangings—five for the Lakers and two apiece for the Kings and the WNBA's Sparks.
As terrific a venue as Staples is, though, it can't quite hold a candle to the city's enduring sports monuments. Dodger Stadium has become one of baseball's pre-eminent parks since it first opened in 1962 and now shines as brightly as ever thanks to renovations funded by the Guggenheim Partners.
UCLA's Pauley Pavilion reopened in 2012 after undergoing a yearlong facelift that cost $136 million according to Bruins Nation's Ryan Rosenblatt. The university also played a pivotal part in organizing the renovation of the 93-year-old Rose Bowl, home to UCLA football, two Summer Olympics, five Super Bowls, the 1994 FIFA World Cup and, of course, the Rose Bowl game, among other events.
The region's less venerable venues aren't too shabby, either. Angels Stadium—known otherwise as "The Big A"—is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and has long ranked among MLB's prettiest ballparks thanks to its famous waterfall in the batter's eye.
Anaheim's Honda Center has a nickname of its own (The Pond) and a championship banner courtesy of the Ducks to match. USC's Galen Center hasn't yet hung anything for a major sport but does well to emulate the field-house feel of arenas found in Indianapolis and Lawrence, Kansas.
If there's any spot in Southern California that's lagging, it's the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. Like the Rose Bowl, the Coliseum has hosted Olympics, Super Bowls and numerous other major sporting events, including the Dodgers' first game in L.A. But the Coliseum, which came under USC's control in 2013, remains in disrepair, with renovations slow to come.
Once the Coliseum is brought up to date, L.A.'s slate of sports venues will be as impeccable as any in the country.
Fan Passion: 7/10
Los Angeles fans get a bad rap, though it's not entirely undeserved—or without explanation. In an expensive city with so many entertainment options, sports and otherwise, residents don't always feel the need to support a bad team, especially if doing so requires a hefty investment of capital.
This isn't to say that there aren't plenty of L.A. Lakers diehards who can be found far and wide throughout the city. There are plenty of people who've supported the Clippers through thick and thin, though mostly thin. Like the Clippers, the Kings have built up a tremendous fanbase—perhaps the best in town—over the course of their bumpy history.
Dodgers fans have been filling the stands in Blue Heaven for years now, but many stayed home in protest of Frank McCourt's ownership in the lead-up to his ouster.
And the rivalry between UCLA and USC always brings out the true colors of those involved, yours truly included.
In truth, the fair-weather-ness of L.A. fans might not simply be a function of the celebrity culture in town. Simply put, L.A. fans aren't used to losing. The city is home to so many successful outfits.
And when those teams are doing well, Angelenos come out in droves to support them.
General Fan Experience: 13/15
Now, for those who are interested in being sports fans in L.A., the city offers options to suit every interest and price point.
Looking for cheap seats and a pleasant atmosphere? Check out the bleachers at Dodger Stadium, which include an all-you-can-eat section. Want the VIP experience? High-rollers can shell out for boxes and dugout club passes to Dodgers and Angels games or opt for similar arrangements at Staples Center, which features its own nightclub, Hyde.
If you'd rather grab a drink and watch the game with friends and like-minded fans, you'll find no shortage of bars and restaurants across this expansive city. Every enclave that Randy Newman sang about is home to its own slew of venues to explore.
That variety is particularly helpful for fans with out-of-town allegiances. No matter your affiliation, you can find a place to watch your favorite team with your fellow fans.
Granted, the fan experience hasn't always been so great in the City of Angels. Dodger Stadium is much safer now for all fans, home and opposing, than it was a few years ago, when Bryan Stow, a 42-year-old Giants fan, was beaten in the parking lot.
Hopefully, the situations at the Rose Bowl and the Coliseum will see similar improvement on the days when UCLA and USC play each other. Unfortunately for the vast majority of fans of both schools, the crosstown showdown has occasioned violence outside the stadium from time to time.
Once upon a time, L.A.'s sports media contingent was about as good as any in the country. So many great writers working today—including J.A. Adande, Tim Brown, Mark Heisler, Jonathan Abrams, Marc Stein, Ramona Shelburne and Bleacher Report's own Howard Beck—plied their respective trades at the town's biggest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the L.A. Daily News.
But with the downfall of the newspaper business has come the departure of all those notable names, along with scores of others to national outlets. Now that ESPN has an L.A. office, though, some of that talent has either returned or stuck around, albeit not on behalf of a local affiliate.
The city's roster of broadcasters isn't quite what it used to be, either. Chick Hearn's death in 2002 kicked open a revolving door in the Lakers' broadcasting booth that now has Bill McDonald (regrettably) manning the microphone. Vin Scully's age (86) shows more often than most Dodgers fans would care to admit, but he's still the gem of all gems, with scores of stories to share on every broadcast.
Unfortunately, most folks in L.A. don't get to hear Vinny anymore, "thanks" to the cable wars that've kept Dodgers games off too many of the town's airwaves.
On the plus side, Ralph Lawler is still as charismatic as ever in calling Clippers games, and the duo of Bob Miller and Jim Fox makes the Kings that much more fun to watch.
Star Power: 10/10
When it comes to star power, L.A. is second to none—and not just because of the whole Hollywood thing. The biggest names in sports have long flocked to and/or come out of Southern California, as much for the comfortable living as for the top-flight winning.
Jackie Robinson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar both shined at UCLA, with the latter forcing his way back to L.A. from Milwaukee in 1975. Magic Johnson spent his entire playing career here with the Lakers, mostly as Kareem's teammate, and has since gone on to become a local mogul with the Dodgers.
Wilt Chamberlain came to L.A. to turn the Lakers into champions late in his career. Wayne Gretzky came close to doing the same with the Kings.
Shaquille O'Neal became a champion in this town, with plenty of help from Kobe Bryant, who has since hung two more banners ostensibly on his own.
The list of great names could go on forever, from Marcus Allen, Tim Brown and Bo Jackson in the NFL's L.A. yesteryears to Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw, Albert Pujols and Yasiel Puig in today's MLB. Even the roster of coaches who've worked here—which includes John Wooden, Phil Jackson, Bill Sharman, Tommy Lasorda, Joe Torre, Terry Donahue, Rod Dedeaux, John Robinson and Pete Carroll, to name more than a few—reads like a who's who list of notable names and all-time greats.
Whichever way you slice it, there's no shortage of stars in L.A. sports. There never has been and likely never will be.
Any and all sports-crazed transplants in L.A. would immediately have something in common with most of the city's major teams: They came from all over, seeking opportunity that could only be found here.
The Dodgers were one of the first pro teams from another city to put down roots in L.A. when Walter O'Malley moved them out of Brooklyn in 1958. The Lakers followed suit in 1960 when they left Minneapolis. Nearly a quarter-century later, Donald Sterling uprooted the Clippers from San Diego—against the wishes of the NBA—and led them up I-5. Most recently, Chivas expanded from its base in Guadalajara, Mexico, to start a new franchise in MLS.
L.A. hasn't only received other towns' teams, though. The Angels got their start sharing Dodger Stadium with the Dodgers in 1961 before moving to Anaheim in 1966.
Nor have all the transplants stuck around. The Rams (from Cleveland in 1946) and the Raiders (from Oakland in 1982) both skipped town in 1995.
The only indigenous L.A. teams that haven't moved since their founding? The Kings and the Galaxy.
This all doesn't mean that L.A. lacks great sports history and tradition. Just about every team that's set up shop here has found at least some semblance of success after doing so.
And those that have been here all along (i.e. the top college programs) are arguably the most successful in all of sports. UCLA is the all-time leader in NCAA team championships with 111. USC checks in third in that department with 100 but can boast about its 11 national titles in football and 24 Rose Bowl victories, the latter of which ranks as the most in the history of the Granddaddy of Them All.
Final Tally: 83/100
As a sports town, Los Angeles has something for just about everyone.
You can be a diehard fan, a casual observer or anything in between. You can watch a game with beautiful hillside views at the Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium or enjoy a first-class indoor experience at Staples Center.
Football, basketball and baseball have all taken their turns as Southern California's sport of choice, with hockey quickly working its way up the ladder.
If not for the NFL's nearly two-decade vacancy, L.A. would probably be the premier city in America for athletics. Even so, the City of Angels compares quite favorably to America's other metropolises when it comes to sports.
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