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Which sport reigns supreme in each major league city?

Feb 18, 2013, 10:30 AM EDT

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Because I’m bored, let’s follow-up that Josh Hamilton post with a survey of each Major League Baseball city to see what sport — using my totally subjective There Can Only Be One criteria — reigns supreme in each city. Which team, if the city could vote and only keep one, would stay:

  • New York: High school hoops has a rich history, but professionally I think baseball. Specifically Yankees. Anyone really disagree?
  • Boston: Probably the most “all sports” town on the list, but I’d have to say Sox.
  • Toronto: Leafs, Leafs, Leafs, Leafs.
  • Baltimore: For a long time baseball, but I do a lot of sports radio in Baltimore and it seems like the Ravens have dominated for years. And really, before the 80s, the Colts probably did too.
  • Tampa Bay: Who knows? Anyone? Not the Rays, that’s for sure. Probably the Bucs. More probably shuffleboard and bocce ball.
  • Detroit: Great baseball town, but they seem to live and die with the Wings more. My relatives who live there all do anyway. I could be persuaded that Detroit is primarily a baseball town, though.
  • Cleveland: Browns. By far. Even when they didn’t exist for a few years.
  • Chicago: This is an interesting one. I feel like it’s a Bears city, but I’d like to hear arguments on it. Walking around there in the summer and the city just reeks baseball, so it’s probably closer than I imagine.
  • Kansas City: They don’t tailgate for the Royals like they do for the Chiefs and that’s not for lack of a parking lot.
  • Minneapolis: I assume the Vikings. Gleeman should weigh in, though. Youth hockey may trump it all.
  • Seattle: I really don’t know, but given that they’ve sent away a baseball team and a basketball team to other cities in the past, the Seahawks probably by default.
  • Oakland: Kind of weird because (a) they’re so close to San Francisco; and (b) the people who dress up and act insane for Raiders games all probably live outside of Oakland, but based just on what you see, the Raiders.
  • Houston: Texas = football. Even with the Oilers leaving.
  • Los Angeles: It’s a status city and good Lakers tickets have to be pretty high up there as far as status symbols go.
  • Dallas: Cowboys could go 1-15 and the Rangers could win the series and it’s still a Cowboys city.
  • Atlanta: Probably college football more than anything, but the Falcons pretty obviously trump the Braves. I think, as far as local support goes, it’s probably more of a front-running town than anything.
  • Philadelphia: I really don’t know. All sports, to be sure. But it may very well be a baseball town more. There are no shortage of Philly people here, so you tell me. Gun to my head I say the Phillies and Eagels are close, but I don’t know if that’s been the case for all that long a time.
  • Washington: It begins and ends with the Redskins and anyone who tells you differently is an insane person.
  • Miami: Well, I don’t think it’s controversial to say it’s not the Marlins. Dolphins all the time, the Heat are a big deal when they’re good.
  • St. Louis: Maybe the most baseball town of them all, even if I think that Best Fans in Baseball Thing is silly.
  • Cincinnati: I think it’s a Reds town. I don’t know too many people here in Ohio who disagree.
  • Milwaukee: It’s over 100 miles to Green Bay, but I bet it’s still more Packers than Brewers. If you disqualify the Packers for distance it’s the Brewers by default. Still a great baseball town, though. It’s not the Brewers fault that people go Packers crazy.
  • Pittsburgh: A good baseball town to be sure, but it’s the Steelers by far. They’ve become a regional thing, even. It stretches well into Ohio and many points north, south and east as well.
  • San Francisco: I think the Giants have to be it, at least since they moved to AT&T Park. And now the 49ers are moving out of the city, so it’ll probably become more pronounced.
  • San Diego: My brother isn’t the most reliable narrator in the world but he’s lived in San Diego for almost 20 years and says the Chargers are it. Having gone to a lot of Padres games I have to agree with him.
  • Denver: Broncos, Broncos, Broncos.
  • Phoenix: I really have no idea. Like, no sense at all. The Suns have tenure, obviously, but I’m not sure what that means. Spring training makes the whole city basebally for a while. I know people get behind the Dbacks when they win.  Man, I’m rather stumped on Phoenix.

So that’s my take. Talk amongst yourselves.

215 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. Matt S - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    I’m from San Francisco and yes- it has shifted from a baseball to a football and now back to a baseball town in the last fifty years. The Willie Mays Giants of the ’60s were hugely popular, whereas the Niners were something of a laughingstock until the Bill Walsh era. But yes- the fact that the Giants moved into AT&T and have been generally successful in the Sabean era have really, really jacked up the fan base. It’ll take awhile for the Niners to catch up, even though it looks like they’ll be a good team for awhile now.

    Oakland, I think, is more of a Warriors town than a Raiders town. Think about it- the Warriors have been one of the worst organizations in the NBA for at least thirty years, and yet they still have a huge fan base. It’ll be interesting to see how it changes once the Warriors move to San Francisco.

    And finally, I now live in DC and The Skins do indeed reign supreme- no matter how good the Nats might be.

  2. bklynbaseball - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    First of all I agree with your assessment of Tampa Bay sports – golf and bocce ball reign supreme. But of all the “mainstream” sports, I gotta say, the Lightning probably do better than the Bucs or the Rays.

  3. crnvic847 - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:20 AM


    Are you kidding me? Get rid of the white sox? The one team that has brought this city a world series win in the last century?

    Typical Cubs fan who hasn’t come to terms that they won’t win a title in our lifetime. Ready for a 110 loss season cub fans?

    • 84cubs - Feb 18, 2013 at 1:16 PM

      Ahh yes the great white Sox, the forgotten stepchild of Chicago sports. They can only out-draw the soccer team, who’s name escapes me at the moment. It ONLY took them 84 years to win the world series. Their fans think their the second coming of the Yankees team of the Gehrig era. Oh, yea they won’t dare come to Wrigley because, get this, THEY DON’T LIKE THE URINALS! Those crickets you hear at a Sox game are occupying all the empty seats!

      • johnnynewguy - Feb 18, 2013 at 6:05 PM

        I think the conversation between the two of you proves that it is a baseball mad town. Everything else is second fiddle to the sport of baseball in Chicago.

  4. rcp29 - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:23 AM

    The Knicks sold out the Garden with $150+ tickets all through the 2000s, when they were one of the worst and most unlikable teams in the NBA. Heck, St. John’s used to sell out MSG on a regular basis.

    When the Yankees are mediocre, the stadium is empty.

    Remember Linsanity? That’s New York City crying out for a single good basketball storyline. New York for me is a basketball town.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      capacity by stadium
      MSG – 19,033
      YSIII – 50,287

      Gee, I wonder which one is easier to fill…

      • steveflack - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:41 AM

        Also, 40something games vs 80something games. Plus, indoor vs outdoor. And better location in the city for fair-weather fans, people watching, and corporate situations.

    • steveflack - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:39 AM

      Linsanity was the New York tabloids crying out for something to write about in between the Super Bowl and baseball season.

    • djpostl - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:15 PM

      Lol the Yankees have more games, it’s outside in summer time, the stadium is 125% bigger AND still sold at least 3 million tickets each year since 1998.

      Nice try skippy.

      New York is a Yankees town.

      • steveflack - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:20 PM

        I wouldn’t even go that far. It’s a baseball town through and through. When you see people wearing blue and orange, it’s Mets colors, not Knicks.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM

        The one difference is I think people want to root for the Knicks. The town has been dieing to be relevant in basketball for the longest time (as Craig mentions, rich history of college/hs, Rucker Park and W4th parks, etc). The problem has been the Knicks have been such shit for so long…

  5. indaburg - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    Bocce ball and shuffleboard in Tampa Bay. Very funny, Craig.

    The Bucs aren’t number one in Tampa either. The Glazers in Tampa are hated almost as much as Loria is in Miami. I can’t remember the last time a home Bucs game was televised due to poor attendance. Of the major sports in TB, I would actually give the crown to the Lightning. Hockey, go figure. I just went with a hunch, and it turns out my guess was right on:
    Vinik is a great owner, and he’s done a lot of good for the team, the arena (out of his own money), and the city.

    Outside of football, baseball, hockey, and basketball, our most popular sports are probably golfing, based on the sheer number of courses, and fishing, judging by the totally non-scientific method of how many of my friends own boats.

    • cur68 - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:39 PM

      I must move there.

      • indaburg - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:47 PM

        When do you hear from the kiwis?

      • cur68 - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:55 PM

        Dunno. It seems people in New Zealand take a very relaxed view to schedules and the like. I may get bored waiting for the international hire people to get back to me with permit requirements and do something else in the meantime. I’ll give it another month or so, then I’ll have a look at other places. Auckland doesn’t have a hockey team but in every other respect it sounds like Tampa Bay. With healthcare. And Hobbits. I’ll have to see if the convenience of North America (keeping my car, no quarantine for the dog, all my electronics can move with me) outweigh Auckland’s slow motion recruiting. Its starting to sound like it might.

  6. bravojawja - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Baltimore may be closer than you think. If you listened to the national anthem at the Super Bowl this year, you could hear thousands of “O’s!” coming from the stands.

    And for Atlanta, it’s SEC football, followed by high school football, followed by Signing Day, followed by ACC football and basketball. Then it’s a toss up between the Falcons and Braves, depending on who has the more exciting marquee player having a good season.

    • The Goche - Feb 19, 2013 at 2:36 AM

      The thing with Atlanta sports is that it doesn’t seem like the fan groups overlap that much. Everyone cares about a sport but few really care about Atlanta sports as a whole.

      Add in the fact that the Braves end up being almost more a regional team than an Atlanta team and it gets tough to really rank beyond the fact that college football is #1.

      But I disagree that college basketball is that big (mostly because GT and UGA aren’t ever that great, nor are the other big feeders to Atlanta, like Auburn). It seems big because they host a conference tournament every year, but I didn’t get the feeling that a lot of Atlantans lived and died by it.

      Between the Braves and Falcons, I think the Braves are the team most people identify Atlanta by, but within Atlanta the Falcons may be bigger.

  7. josh7727 - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    Cleveland is a Browns town no doubt. Now im not a browns fan exactly, but those fans are equivilant to a “martyr” in the sports world. Never winning but with a faithful fan base that’s in my opinion unequal to any other team in pro sports! I give it up to those guys who remain faithful for years with scarcely even a playoff appearance in the last 20. now those guys are real fans!

  8. eagles512 - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    I’d say football for Philly with baseball 2nd and hockey 3rd. College bball and the nba are close.

  9. kb57 - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:43 AM

    No love for the Seattle Sounders?

    • whitesoxman77 - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:36 PM

      I was going to say. you might be surprised in Seattle because they fill the Seahawks stadium for Sounders games and their fans are among the best in the MLS, but now enter the “soccer is a dumb sport” people

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:50 PM

        Soccer shows the, unfortunately, ignorance of the US populace. When the rest of the world enjoys something and you don’t, they aren’t the weird ones…

  10. hsekl - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Instead of writing, “I have no idea” for at least 4 of the cities, including Philadelphia, how about doing a little research before looking like a complete idiot with “your take” on which sports dominate in certain cities. I could have learned more from reading “The Wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and…”

  11. mscxvd - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    you are dead right about st. louis. we live, breath, and sweat baseball. There has been a baseball team here since 1882! The blues and rams don’t even compare. The blues arent as popular, but the fans we do have are definetly die hard fans. I would say the rams were huge in the late 90’s and early 2000’s but have since dropped off dramatically. As you can probably see since the rams are threatening leaving if they dont get major stadium uprgrades by 2015. Rams fans have heart but thats about it.

    • paperlions - Feb 18, 2013 at 1:18 PM

      I bleed blue. Do you?

      • mscxvd - Feb 18, 2013 at 1:20 PM

        I do, but unfortunatly im not that into hockey, but i do watch blues games when i get the chance.

  12. phillyfan75 - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:54 AM

    Philadelphia is a great sports town and there is a strong following for four teams. But the Eagles have the clear edge in terms of overall following. As in most cities, when a team is on a championship run, that team gets the temporary edge, and that’s what happened with the Phillies in and coming off of 2008. But historically it’s the Eagles 1st, Phillies 2nd. But both are loved and just because the Eagles have the edge, you can’t say Philadelphia isn’t a baseball town. It is. It’s an all sports town just like Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and New York. Those five cities are just different than everywhere else when it comes to sports, because all four sports are so well represented intertwined with the culture.

    The Flyers have a really intense, core following, which is great, but it’s not as widespread as the Eagles and Phillies following. Basketball has taken a hit from where it was. In the past the Sixers and the Big 5, and even high school basketball, were really huge. But with all the changes to college basketball with the big conferences, the Big 5 just isn’t what it used to be. Obviously, the Sixers have had a major decline. There is potential for a come back, but

    • ml3939 - Feb 18, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      Nailed it.

  13. hisgirlgotburrelled - Feb 18, 2013 at 11:57 AM

    For Philly it’s definitely the Eagles then Phillies. There are a lot of people in this area, like myself, that pay attention to all 4 teams so it fluctuates in popularity with time of the year and how good each team is. But the Eagles will always dominate the talk whenever something even remotely significant comes up.

  14. hushbrother - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    The Maple Leafs are, rather quietly, possibly the most cursed franchise in all of sports. The biggest city in Canada’s hockey team hasn’t been to a Stanley Cup Finals since 1967. Or to a conference finals since 1993. They’re sort of the Cubs of the NHL. Except that they’re rarely terrible, just mediocre year in and year out. And nobody ever seems to talk about it.

  15. kevinashcraft - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:04 PM

    Kansas City is more of a “whoever is winning” region. For a 15-20 year period starting in about 1975, the Royals dominated while the Chiefs made only a couple playoff appearances. The Royals finished top 3 in the AL in attendance several years in that time period…making the playoffs 7 times in an 11-year span will do that. The Royals, like the Chiefs in the 1990s, would draw from Nebraska, Kansas, Western Iowa, NE Oklahoma, NW Arkansas. People came in to watch a whole weekend’s worth of ball on homestands.

    When the Chiefs started their run in 1990, the Royals were still a middling club that was a contender up through 1994. That is the only point in history where both franchises were somewhat competitive in the same time frame. So there is hardly any way to tell who would get more support. That is especially true the last six years, where KC might be one of the worst performing pro sports metros 2007-12. Hopefully the Royals change that this season.

    • Tyree Studio - Feb 19, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      KC is also a big college town (KU hoops, KSU football, Mizzu sports) and the soccer team Sporting KC gets a lot of “run” right now too.

      I tend to think KC leans more to the MLB side, but that may just be my bias? I think without an NHL or NBA team KC could have enough “fan-energy” to be both an NFL and MLB town at the same time. Like you said though, it would just be nice to see either franchise actually field a winning team…

  16. hushbrother - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    Edit: no conference finals for Toronto since 2002, not ’93. Still, not exactly yesterday.

  17. yahmule - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:12 PM

    I didn’t see Indianapolis listed, probably because they’re a basketball town that stole their football team in the middle of the night.

  18. summeroftony - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:23 PM

    I’ve lived in the Philadelphia suburbs my whole life. Right now it’s a baseball town. Imo there are more phillies fans than eagles fans because baseball is a more family friendly sport. Soccor moms have phillies logos on their vans. Eagles fans are just louder because they are more drunk. Flyers fans are by far the most loyal.

  19. glinchey - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:25 PM

    The problem I have with this list is that while you say NY is a Yankee town, an Baltimore is a Ravens town, NY has much better NFL fans for two teams than Baltimore has for one. I also think that Knicks fans are far more passionate than Lakers fans. As for Hamilton’s comment, though Dallas may be the Mecca of football, no one can dispute that Rangers fans have been incredible during his stretch with the team. They’ve have got to rank among the top 5 fan-base over the past 5 years. They always show up at that stadium and back that team.

  20. brentdeck - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:26 PM

    Chicago I can almost guarantee is a basketball driven city

    • whitesoxman77 - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:40 PM

      wrong. Bears all the way and this is coming from someone who borderline despises the NFL

      • johnnynewguy - Feb 18, 2013 at 6:18 PM

        Its neither. Its baseball. There are two teams and thus more fans. If everyone loved football soooo much then they would have had their own stadium before the 1970’s. There are fights over which baseball team is better, entire neighborhoods devoted to a team, statues of baseball broadcasters, certain Cubs fans (Ronnie Woo Woo) who are more known in the city then current Bulls or Blackhawks players. The Red line actually has a stop not called 35th st. Its called SOX/35th st. The entire city blamed one fan (when it wasn’t his fault) on why a team doesn’t make it to its first world series since 1945. The mayor had air raid sirens go off during the height of the Cold War because a team makes it to the World Series. If you rank the most popular SPORTS not teams baseball takes the top four spots and six out of the top ten.

  21. misterj167 - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:34 PM

    Keep in mind that both the Cubs and the Sox are far older than the Bears are, and Chicago has one of baseball’s two iconic stadiums (and Wrigley is the only Federal League stadium still standing). Chicago also had TWO of the original NFL teams, the Bears and the Cardinals. Hockey and basketball each have a following. But as far as baseball is concerned, the Cubs are always placed ahead of the Sox, regardless of how good or bad either team plays. I live in Chicago and I happen to like both teams myself, but not being a native I really don’t count.

    I grew up in Brooklyn, and when I was there (sixties-seventies), baseball was still more of a religion than a sport, and like L.A., they don’t even have a football team. I grew up a Mets fan myself but when my family moved to Orlando I became a Braves fan because they were the only team I could watch on TV. That was in 1979, and I’m still a Braves fan.

    And bravojawja is right, Atlanta is a college football town first and foremost, that’s just their history. Also, most people who live in Atlanta weren’t born there, so there’s no feeling of childhood loyalty.

    • whitesoxman77 - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

      how old a team is does not matter. the Sox are one of the worst teams are far as attendance goes in the league. The Cubs have some of the most fair weathered and uneducated baseball fans in the country. The Bears are by far the most supported team in the city. If I had to rank I would say:
      1. Bears
      2. Blackhawks
      3. Cubs
      4. Bulls
      5. White Sox
      6. Fire! (MLS Soccer for those who don’t know)

      • johnnynewguy - Feb 18, 2013 at 6:11 PM

        Well WhiteSoxman77 you missed the point of the question as so many others have. Baseball rules Chicago. Period. Its not which team it is which SPORT!!!

      • whitesoxman77 - Feb 18, 2013 at 7:23 PM

        And the White Sox and the Cubs combined don’t match the Bears

      • johnnynewguy - Feb 18, 2013 at 6:26 PM

        Also, being a White Sox fan it pisses me off but Cubs fans being fair weathered? That place will sell 3 million tickets and they will lose 100 games. How are they fair weathered fans? Dumb? Yes. Uneducated about baseball? For sure. But fair weather fans? No way.

      • Jackson Scofield - Feb 18, 2013 at 9:09 PM

        Wrong about some parts.

        Bears definitely in first, anyone that denies that is insane. Agreed.
        Cubs and then Bulls are next, as much as people love the Blackhawks, they’re still a step behind now.
        Then your Sox… then the Fire, Wolves, Rush, and Sky.

        Not to mention NW, U of I, DePaul, ND, etc.

      • Alex K - Feb 18, 2013 at 9:33 PM

        You guys realize that just because you say that Cubs fans don’t know anything about baseball doesn’t make it true, right? There are plenty of baseball knowledgeable Cubs fans, just like there are plenty of Sox fans that don’t know squat about baseball. The Cubs just have a much, much larger fanbase so by sheer numbers there are more dumb Cubs fans, but as a percentage I wouldn’t say that it is that big.

        And, johnnynewguy, we all understand the question fine, we just don’t agree with you.

  22. Brinke - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    SF loves the Niners and is INSANE about the Giants.

  23. yahmule - Feb 18, 2013 at 12:53 PM

    I didn’t see Indianapolis represented, probably because they’re a basketball town that stole their football team in the middle of the night.

  24. Stiller43 - Feb 18, 2013 at 1:01 PM

    “Houston: Texas = football. Even with the Oilers leaving.”

    You do realize Houston has since gotten a new franchise, right? The Texans…

    I ask because it seemed like you thought the Oilers are the last team to play in Houston.

  25. andrebeingandre16 - Feb 18, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    LA was a Dodger town up until the showtime Lakers took off but based of the recent success of the Lakers and all the buzz surrounding the Dodgers it might be closer than some people think. Dodgers have sold over 27000 season tickets up from 17000 last year and all reports from AZ say that there are already tons of fans at Spring Training.

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