Forget TitleTown: Where do you want to be a fan?
By Eamonn Brennan / Y! Sports Blogs
It's summer, which means at least one thing: ESPN is entertaining its masses (read: desperately grasping at ratings) with an American Idol-esque voting challenge. Last year, it was the execrable "Who's Now?",
which pitted athletes against each other in some sort of nonsensical pop-culture tournament. True to form, ESPN has dubbed its 2008 feature "TitleTown." If you couldn't guess, its goal is to settle which city deserves to have the name "TitleTown,"
even though Green Bay's called itself TitleTown for years. Brilliant.
We couldn't let this market-oriented, advertiser-optimized, crowdsourced "brilliance" abide. Who cares about "TitleTown," anyway? Sure, titles are cool and all, but life is short, choices are shorter, and the real question is: Where are the best places for sports fans to live? Sorry, ESPN, but these are the real contenders:
The good: Chicago is uniquely divided by its two baseball teams -- crosstown fervor here is matched only in New York -- and uniquely united by its Bears. Wrigley Field remains one of the world's great sporting destinations, U.S. Cellular Field is a modern baseball standard, Soldier Field is recently renovated and the United Center housed some guy named Michael Jordan. Throw in a local recreational sporting tradition -- 16-inch softball leagues are terrifyingly competitive here -- and Chicago's a near-perfect place to live if you love sports.
The bad: Besides the Bulls, "winning" isn't exactly a habit in Chicago.
The ugly: Jay Mariotti; the weather.
The good: New York is the epicenter of modern basketball tradition. Madison Square Garden is a shrine. Rucker Park is a mecca. The Yankees are sports' most successful all-time franchise, one with the financial clout (and, suddenly, the organizational intelligence) to compete any year they please. The Mets offer a slightly cuddlier alternative. The Giants, in case you haven't heard, had a bit of a successful Super Bowl this year, and the Jets' fan base is as devoted as any in sports. As in all things, there's not much New York doesn't offer, especially when it comes to sports. Oh, and street hoops are awesome.
The bad: Ironic hipster kickball
-- not so awesome. Fans delight in booing their favorite players. Crowded. Expensive.
The ugly: Shea Stadium; pretty much everyone who likes sports in New York.
The good: The weather. Duh. Beyond the ability to play rec sports outdoors all year long, Los Angeles offers two high-profile collegiate programs, a rarity not found in most big cities, and one which helps negate the lack of a professional football team. Under ultimate dude Pete Carroll, USC is both entertaining and dominant, and UCLA's basketball program is one of the top five in the country (and the best of all time). Don't forget the Lakers and the Clippers -- one the glitzy, star-ridden uber-team, the other a lovable (if incredibly cheap) underdog.
The bad: The notion of having to drive to various stadiums makes this writer shudder. Also, no professional football team. Does L.A. really not care about the NFL?
The ugly: Lack of breathable air makes chances of surviving aforementioned pickup basketball game minute.
The good: Hate it or not, Boston's teams have won, and won, and won. The Patriots are a dynasty (albeit a potentially fading one), the Red Sox are the best-run franchise in Major League Baseball and the Celtics just cleaned up on their way to a 17th NBA title. The latter two teams have some of the best tradition in sports -- Fenway Park is beautiful, and even the most ardent Lakers fan can smile at old clips of Red Auerbach.
The bad: Where to start. Were you to move to Boston, you'd be forced to put up with the most annoying fans in the history of the planet, people that "suffered" and "anguished" for "80" years before they totally earned that first Sawx title. Because of that "anguish," those fans now believe success is a birthright, and have become everything they once hated -- Yankees fans.
The ugly: Pink hats at Fenway. Everyone in Boston sports media not named Gordon Edes. Hooded sweatshirts with the sleeves chopped off.
The good: Atlanta offers the big three in fine fashion -- the Braves are one of the more successful baseball franchises in the country, the Hawks (stay with me here) are an idiosyncratic basketball junkie's dream and the Falcons are, well, they used to have Michael Vick, and that was pretty cool. Not sure what happened there. Beyond pro sports, though, Atlanta sits at the nexus of SEC country, a short drive from the country's most raucous college football stadiums. "Where do we want to tailgate this week? UGA? Knoxville?" Just thinking about it sounds incredible.
The bad: Atlanta has pro sports teams, and, besides the Braves, they happen to be terrible.
The ugly: Navigating southern roads after a day of tailgating.
The good: University of Texas offers a giant campus full of recreational sports, while UT's basketball and football programs consistently flaunt top of the line athletes. Where better to see budding lottery picks like Kevin Durant than in Rick Barnes' talent factory? What's more, Austin isn't an overwhelmingly large city but is within driving distance of the following professional franchises: San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Houston Texans, Houston Astros, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers and Dallas Stars. If high school sports are your thing, well, Texas is as crazy about high school sports as Friday Night Lights' author is about blogs.
The bad: Gas prices are high enough, and the Spurs are sort of boring.
The ugly: There's at least a 50 percent chance The Real World will show up there at any moment, and we're not here to make friends, OK?
The good: Raleigh, like Austin, sits at the sort of nexus that gives the well-rounded sports fan something of everything. Want NASCAR? North Carolina freaks for NASCAR. Want college basketball? Duke and North Carolina are literally minutes away. Want the NFL and NBA? Charlotte is just over yonder. Want golf? Because of its sprawling but not-too-urban nature, Raleigh has a tremendous recreational culture and the golf courses to match.
The bad: If you can't stand the Duke-UNC rivalry, Raleigh's probably not for you.
The ugly: No comment.