Is Your City a Sports Haven or Sports Hell?

It’s Saturday on the second weekend of the college football season. Tomorrow (Sunday) marks the opening of the NFL season (okay, the season really kicked off Thursday night). Also, we’re hitting the home stretch of the major league baseball season, and the playoffs are just around the corner. With all of that in mind, this marks a good time to ask, How good is my city when it comes to sports?

If you live in Cleveland, you don’t need any scientific study to tell you you’ve suffered through some miserable seasons. But what about the rest of the United States and Canada? The blog Urban Sports Suffering has one post, and one post only, but it addresses the issue of the most successful sports cities. Jason has compiled the results of teams from the four major North American professional sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA) over the past 40 years. He determined whether a team made it to its league’s semifinal game and whether the team won the league championship for each year. These results were standardized for the number of teams in each league (ie, in a league of 30 teams, you’d expect your team to win the championship 1.3 times in a 40 year span) and grouped based on urban centers. His results are below the fold.


The X-axis measures the number of semifinal appearances for teams from a particular city standardized for the number expected if each team in the league had an equal chance of making the semifinals. A team that makes the expected number of semifinals scores a zero using this metric, less than expected is less that zero, and greater than expected is greater than zero. The Y-axis shows the number of league championships for a city standardized for the number of teams in each league; once again, zero is the expected value based on random sampling. The diagonal line shows the expected relationship between semifinals reached and championships won if a team wins the championship once every four times it makes it to the semifinals. Cities above the diagonal have teams that come up clutch in the big games, and cities below the diagonal are chokers.

Cleveland sports fans will take comfort (or self-pity) in the fact that they make it to the semifinals less that any other city besides San Diego, and they win fewer championships per team than any other city in the past 40 years. Philadelphia stands out in its choke-tacular performance. They are on the high end of semifinals reached (with the Eagles, Sixers, Flyers, and Phillies disappointing fans by coming oh so close), but they underperform when it comes to the big game. On the other hand, Montreal teams (especially the Canadians) don’t make the finals much more than expected, but when they do, they win. And the New York/New Jersey area teams are mind-boggling successful, buoyed by the great success of the Yankees. This also offers further proof that Boston really needs to ditch the suffering image, as they have seen all four of their major sports teams (Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, and Red Sox) win championships in the past 40 years.

Go check out the article for more analysis and a breakdown of some of the more successful teams.

(Via Deadspin.)


  1. #1 The Ridger
    September 9, 2006

    And Baltimore can take comfort in knowing they chased the Grey Cup winners out of town to suck up the NFL once more… oh, right. CFL wasn’t on the chart.

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