Assessing the importance of North American cities by their major league sports presence, revisited

A few years ago, I dissected what a city’s sports footprint says about it, a fun (for me) exercise that gave interesting perspective to the American landscape. In light of Stan Kroenke’s merciless city-bashing as he took his Rams out of St. Louis this week—he’s from St. Louis! He’s named after two local sports heroes! And he told the city it’s a national laggard!—I’m revisiting the list, updated below.

Herewith, a revised tally by city of the major sports markets in America, covering MLB, NFL, NBA and NHL teams, in descending order of size, organized by my own arbitrary but numerically derived categories.

The majors
New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington, DC. These dozen cities are the hosts with the most: a team from every sports league. Of them, New York is the most major of all, as it has two teams in every league, if you include the Jersey-based football teams with NY in their logos. (New York’s position atop the hierarchy is much cleaner with the Nets’ and Islanders’ moves to Brooklyn.) Chicago gets bragging rights for its two baseball teams, while Dallas gets a partial bye, since its baseball and football teams technically play over the border in Arlington; and Los Angeles, long a football pariah, has a team once again, and may have two NFL franchises by the end of the decade.

The mid-majors
Cleveland, Houston, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Tampa Bay, Toronto. These cities have 3/4 coverage, not a bad haul, especially for cities you wouldn’t otherwise think are major or important on other scales, like Tampa. With the Rams’ move to L.A., there are now just six cities with this kind of sports presence. I almost demoted San Francisco because the NBA Warriors still refer to their location as “Golden State,” which makes no sense to me, even with the Golden Gate Bridge in their logo. Also, bonus points to Toronto for being so American that it boasts several of our pro sports teams.

The players
Charlotte, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Kansas City, New Orleans, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, Nashville. Each of these cities has two pro teams. Interestingly, all of them count a pro football team as one of the two (with the exception of Milwaukee, which has Green Bay up the road). Indianapolis and Nashville get less credit here than the others, because they have teams that cite a hometown state rather than the city. And woe to St. Louis, longtime home of the proud Cardinals baseball team, which has now suffered the loss of an NFL franchise—twice.

States that matter, because their cities don’t
Minnesota, Utah and New Jersey each have teams that don’t bother to name-check any town in particular. Poor New Jersey not only lost the Nets, but the Jets and Giants, who have played in the Meadowlands for decades, continue to pretend their port of call is across the Hudson River. And Utah has a lone sports team, which migrated there from New Orleans but retained its name, so we get to enjoy the dissonance of a team in straightlaced Salt Lake City called the Jazz.

Legacies
I love cities that have a sports team much larger than they would otherwise deserve. Green Bay, for one, with its legendary football club. And San Antonio with a leftover from the NBA-ABA merger in the 1970s–which, by the way, explained the New Jersey Nets for more than 30 years.

Canadian cities that make the list thanks to the NHL
Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver. I bet the CFL has a team in each of these cities. (Montreal had an MLB team until a few years ago, and Vancouver briefly sported an NBA franchise.)

One-sport oddities
Columbus has a hockey team. I don’t know why. Jacksonville has a football team, and not even the NFL is sure why. They play basketball in Memphis and Oklahoma City, mainly because wealthy men chose to buy teams and plunk them across town from their estates. Orlando, on the other hand, has a fairly strong basketball presence but no other teams.
Portland has a lone and legendarily popular basketball team; Sacramento also has an NBA presence. A few miles south, San Jose has a hockey team, which I’ve also never understood, although they always had a pretty terrific logo.

And speaking of hockey, the NHL has a team in Raleigh, N.C., which is probably why they call themselves the Carolina Hurricanes. Got all that?

The year in cities, 2015

Eleventh edition! Here is everywhere I visited and slept overnight in 2015. Repeat visits denoted with an asterisk—lots of them this year.

New York
Palm Beach Gardens, FL *
Lake Buena Vista, FL *
New City, NY *
Livingston, NJ *
Toronto, Ontario, Canada *
Denver, CO
Hershey, PA
Gloucester, MA *
Groton, CT *
Edgartown, MA *
Athens, GA
North Creek, NY *