The Greatest Sports City in the World

What is the greatest sports team? It’s a question that has plagued the minds of sports enthusiasts such as myself since professional sports became a thing. It’s a question that will never have a definitive answer. However, there is a consolation prize to another question: What is the greatest sports city in the world? Thanks to ESPN The Magazine, fans have been gifted with statistics over the last ten years that have allowed ESPN to rank every NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA team. Founded on a combination of surveys and statistics, ESPN The Magazine is able to calculate what fans want from their sports teams. The formula they develop also differentiates fans’ needs by percentages. For example, fans rated fan relations as the most important element to a sports franchise while ranking coaching and title track at the bottom of the list. Therefore, fan relations composes 25.2 percent of a franchise’s ultimate ranking score. The total formula is listed below, all of which you can find, along with total franchise ranking breakdowns, here:

Fan relations: 25.2 percent; Courtesy of players, coaches and front offices toward fans and how well a team uses technology to reach them.

Affordability: 17.4 percent; Price of tickets, parking and concessions.

Bang for the buck: 16.8 percent; This information is developed with researchers at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Sports Marketing Center to figure out how efficiently teams convert revenues from fans into team performance including postseason victories.

Stadium experience: 12.4 percent; Quality of venue, fan-friendliness of environment, frequency of game-day promotions.

Players: 11.3 percent; Effort on the field, likability off it.

Ownership: 10.2 percent; Honesty and loyalty to core players and to the community.

Title track: 3.6 percent; Championships won or expected within the lifetime of current fans.

Coaching: 3.1 percent; Strength of on-field leadership.

Now if you clicked on the link, you’ll see which teams were ranked high and which teams weren’t. What you won’t see is which cities have the best sports teams. However, with some basic arithmetic you can find out. Write down all the cities in the country that have at least three major sports teams. If they have more than three, write those down, too. Take the three best franchises that each team has, add the three rankings and divide by three, which will give you an average ranking of a team from that city. The city with the lowest average has the best franchises.

The results may surprise you. You’d think the cities with more teams would have an advantage because after all, that means they only have to pick the best three, which cancels out any mediocre teams they may and probably do have. However, that’s not the case.

It’s not Miami, who actually has the worst at an average ranking of 80.6 despite the Heat’s 25th ranking. It’s not New York, Los Angeles, Chicago or Detroit. The greatest sports city in the world in 2013: Pittsburgh. Below are the stats to prove it.

  1. Pittsburgh: Penguins (7), Steelers (31), Pirates (52)     Average: 30
  2. Tampa Bay: Rays (17), Lightning (30), Bucs (65)     Average: 37.3
  3. Chicago: Blackhawks (14), Bulls (42), White Sox (62)     Average: 39.3
  4. Detroit: Red Wings (13), Tigers (22), Pistons (84)     Average: 39.6
  5. St. Louis: Cardinals (12), Blues (26), Rams (85)     Average: 41
  6. Los Angeles: Kings (24), Angels (51), Clippers (55)     Average: 43.3
  7. Denver/CO: Broncos (15), Nuggets (43), Rockies (73)     Average: 43.6
  8. Atlanta: Falcons (20), Braves (23), Hawks (89)     Average: 44
  9. Boston: Patriots (39), Celtics (45), Bruins (48)     Average: 44
  10. Arizona: Diamondbacks (6), Coyotes (47), Cardinals (81)     Average: 44.6
  11. Minnesota: Wild (50), Twins (58), Vikings (69)     Average: 59
  12. Washington: Nationals (49), Capitals (68), Redskins (86)     Average: 67.6
  13. Dallas: Mavericks (29), Stars (70), Cowboys (107)     Average: 68.6
  14. Oakland: Warriors (32), Athletics (61), Raiders (116)     Average: 69.6
  15. Cleveland: Indians (44), Cavaliers (60), Browns (109)     Average: 71
  16. Philadelphia: Phillies( 59), Flyers (67), 76ers (94)     Average: 73.3
  17. New York: Giants (66), Rangers (76), Islanders (78)     Average: 73.3
  18. Miami: Heat (25), Dolphins (97), Marlins (120)     Average: 80.6

The stats back it up. Now is this a fool-proof system? No, it’s not, but it’s the closest we’re going to get to a concrete answer.

The Penguins were ranked as the best team in hockey, ranking second in fan relations and if you know anything about the Penguins, it’s that they know how to interact with the fans. The Pens were awarded fourth in ownership and stadium experience, which can both be accredited to Le Magnifique himself, Mario Lemieux, who bought the Penguins and the Wilkes-Barre Penguins out of bankruptcy in 1999. He was also instrumental in keeping the team in Pittsburgh and in negotiating the construction of the Consol Energy Center in 2007. The Consol Energy Center earned the Penguins a fourth place finish in stadium experience as well, showing that the new accommodations truly are a sight to see. The Pens were also ranked eleventh in players and tenth in title track, meaning the sights are set high for the Pens for the next couple of seasons.

The Pittsburgh Steelers, also known as the Sixburgh Steelers, were ranked eighth in ownership. The Rooney family is known for its high moral standing when it comes to signing players who demonstrate the highest ethical issues and those who fail to meet that standard are usually let go no matter what accomplishments that may make on the field. For example, Santonio Holmes won Super Bowl XLIII MVP, with some arguing he won the Super Bowl for the Steelers single-handedly. When Holmes was caught selling marijuana a second time, the Steelers traded him for a fifth-round pick to the New York Jets. The Rooney family is not all about the money as are plenty of franchise owners (looking at you Toronto Maple Leafs and Sacramento Kings owners). They want to win, but they also want to put appropriate role models on the field that people can look up to, something that, even if you’re not a Steelers fan, you have to admire. The Steelers were ranked fifth in title track because they are Sixburgh after all and the ninth-best football franchise.

Finally, we have the Pittsburgh Pirates, a team that went through one of the darkest periods of pro sports history when they had an MLB record 20 consecutive losing seasons. The epitome of losing could be found in Three Rivers Stadium for most of my childhood, which I think is why I’m not a Pirates fan or a baseball fan for that matter. It was one of the most miserable spectacles of sports performance ever witnessed that how the team did not go bankrupt or leave town I have no indication. However, the Pittsburgh Pirates have finally gotten their ownership and managing on the same page, a group of people who actually understand how to make a team, and have made the Pittsburgh Pirates into a contender again. The team ranked ninth in bang for the buck, tenth in stadium experience, and 18th in affordability. They were also ranked the 14th best baseball franchise.

Since the Super Bowl era began in 1967, only four times has a city had two of its three major sports franchises win a championship in the same year, the 1969 New York Jets and Mets and the 2004 New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox being two of them. The other two? The 1979 Steelers and Pirates and the 2009 Steelers and Penguins. Pittsburgh is the only city to win multiple championships the same year twice and there’s a very simple explanation to why this is the case. We’re Sixburgh. We’re the best. We are the City of Champions and until you do it twice, you can’t take that away from us.


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