Friday, March 4, 2011

Where would YOU wanna live?

This is the first post in a series about sports history. Specifically, from a fan's standpoint, where would you want to live for the best possible sports experience? I began thinking about this question while watching a few cities have quite a good few years lately--Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston have all won numerous titles in the past few seasons. I wondered how these years would stack up against some of the great historical times: New York in the Roaring 20s, Pittsburgh in the Iron Curtain 1970s, and so on. Lucky for me, I happened to be in a journalism research class...and a project was born. So, here's the first part of my article, I hope you enjoy!!

In the game of life, as well as the game of sports, the saying often rings loud and true: being in the right place, at the right time. For those of us sports fans in cities and towns across the country, we often wonder what it’s like to be in the right place at the right time—to be there when our team goes to the playoffs, defeats all comers, and wins their championship—year after year. So, I tried to find out what exactly was the place to be in American history, both place and time. Would it be the era of the Bambino, swinging for the fences in New York? What about Dallas in the 90s, America’s Team, or Philadelphia’s “fo-fo-fo” of Moses Malone and the 1980s? How could one find any decade and city that would rule over the sports world?

To see how I tried, hit the jump!
            Obviously, there are quite a few factors that go into sports greatness, but I decided to boil it down to a few important factors:
            1) Titles: the obvious first choice, fans want nothing more than to see their favorite teams lift up the Stanley Cup, Lombardi Trophy, and the like.
            2) MVPs: Also known as star power. Who were the big players of the era, and how many times did that city see their stars bring home the bacon?
            3) Playoff appearances: not always the mark of greatness, but certainly a mark of overall success: a city with only one great team wouldn’t have the playoff appearances of a city with four good teams.
            4) Finals appearances: How many times the teams went deep in the playoffs, and also showed how often the teams would win when they got to the big stage.
            5) Winning Percentage: no matter what, these teams all needed to win a lot of games to be considered amongst the best. 
Once I’d compiled this data, it was a matter of finding a formula to be able to make sense of all this data. After all, how could I compare New York of the 1980s, when 7 teams laced up[1], and Pittsburgh of the 1970s, when just three did? I started first by choosing the 11 cities I felt would be best for the study: New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Phoenix.
            With the exception of Pittsburgh (and I only included them because of the longevity/success of their sports teams), all of these cities have four major sports teams, who have been successful over their reign. I didn’t want to start getting into too many of the 3-sport cities, though that would be an interesting study in it’s own right. After I’d ranked all 110 city/decades, I was able to quickly eliminate about 70 just from winning percentage and lack of overall success.
            Once I’d narrowed it down to the 22 city/decades who were clearly a head above the rest, I plugged them into the following formula: 10 points per championship, 5 points per Finals appearance, 3 points per MVP, and 2 points for playoff appearance[2]. This left me with the following “top 10:”

            1) New York, 1950s—282 points
            2) New York, 1930s—238 points
            3) Los Angeles, 1980s—208 points
            4) Boston, 1960s—192 points
            5) Detroit, 1950s—171 points
            6) New York, 1980s—165 points
            7) New York, 1940s—164 points
            8) New York, 1960s—163 points
            9) Boston, 2000s—158 points
            10) Chicago, 1990s—156 points

Obviously not the final data, this table shows us something fairly obvious: New York has quite a lot of sports teams. Something needed to be done, so I counted up the total number of seasons in each decade. For instance, if one team only played 8 seasons in a decade, but three others played 10, that would give the city 38 total seasons in that decade. New York of the 1980s had the most seasons with 70, so they were assigned a factor of 1. The other cities’ totals were then multiplied by the factor of seasons compared to New York, and left us with the new, weighted total:

            1) New York, 1950s—352.5
            2) Boston, 1960s—336
            3) New York, 1930s—333.2
            4) Pittsburgh, 1970s—323.9
            5) Detroit, 1950s—299.25
            6) Boston, 2000s---276.5
            7) New York, 1920s—271.3
            8) Detroit, 1940s—267.95
            9) Boston, 1980s—239.75
            10) Boston, 1950s—239.56

This gives us a much better list—New York of the 1950s stayed at the top, but now the gap is much, much closer—Boston’s powerhouse teams of the 1960s are right behind, with two Detroit teams now in the rankings. In addition, we see Pittsburgh’s teams of the 1970s jump all the way up to 4th, and Boston’s most recent decade makes a slight move upwards. 

Tomorrow: how I got my final top 10, and the start of the top 10 countdown!!

Part 2: The Countdown Begins

[1] For the purpose of this study, I used some of my own judgment when it came to choosing which teams went with what cities. In the end, I chose not to put the NJ Nets and NJ Devils with New York after consulting with multiple New Yorkers who all said those teams get the majority of their fan base from New Jersey (as opposed to the Jets and Giants, who play in New Jersey as well).

[2] I know this puts MVPs only slightly more than playoff appearances, but remember this is about great teams and decades: a good season by a player isn’t worth anything if the team doesn’t make the playoffs at all.

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