Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Espn's TitleTown USA, or How I Allowed Another Stupid List to Annoy Me into Action

July isn't a good American sports month. Granted, the Tour de France is in full flight for those inclined toward cycling. And for you rugby fans out there, the Tri Nations action is sure to captivate every weekend.

But for the rest of us, all we have is baseball. Baseball is nice and all, but it doesn't suffice to fill the three hours a day of Sportscenter that ESPN has to pump out.

To fill that space, ESPN gives us TitleTown USA--a contest between 20 towns and cities in the US to see which is the most Title-tastic of them all.

Among the cities who didn't make the list of 20 finalists: Washington, DC (my home town) Durham, NC (where I did undergrad) and Berkelely, CA (where I did grad school).

It's not that I'm accusing the nice people at ESPN at purposefully conspiring to eliminate every city with which I have a meaningful sports connection...but the fact that Palo Alto and Chapel Hill both made the list of 20 isn't exactly putting those particular suspicions to rest.

Also, let's look at the logic used to justify which cities made the cut--San Francisco, in its justification essay, lists World Series won by the Giants in '05, '21, '22, '33 and '54. One problem, there, ESPN--the Giants were still in New York for each of those titles!

Let's compare SF, then, to DC. The Redskins have 5 world titles (two in the pre-Super Bowl days) which matches the 49ers 5 championships. Washington is also home to the 1978 NBA champs, the 1924 World Series champs, and (lest we forget) the 1998 NHL Eastern Conference Champion Washington Capitals. You can also throw in every title that Georgetown ever won (here's looking at you, 1984 NCAA men's bball champs). And really, as much as I don't like to, you should include the University of Maryland into the title mix as they're right outside of the city. I guess you can counter the effect of the 2002 men's and 2006 women's bball championships with the Bill Russell led USF title winners in the 1950s, but still, I maintain that Washington has far more of a claim to this list than SF.

Now, if SF were allowed to count adjacent Berkeley's 24 (count 'em, 24!) NCAA titles in men's rugby, then maybe they'd have a case. Cal's 17 (count 'em, 17!) crew national titles wouldn't hurt either. Neither would Cal's 14 men's water polo championships...I think you get the drift.

I'll refrain from complaining about Palo Alto (Stanford's various titles warrant a place on the list, no two ways about it).

Chapel Hill, on the other hand...Texas, Arkansas, LSU and OK State all have more national titles to their credit (rugby isn't included in this list...if it was, Cal would crack the top 8). Granted, none of these programs can point to as high profile a program as the UNC men's basketball team. But still...UNC? ESPN, I'm convinced, just wanted to add insult to injury for the Exnicios camp.

Last but not least, I should say that Durham's exclusion was probably justified. Duke's 9 NCAA titles can't compare to the big state schools (or Stanford). Ultimately, Duke has been hamstrung by an inability to win the big one, particularly in snooty, east coast team sports like lacrosse and field hockey. Making the final four consistently, Duke never quite turns the corner to take home the hardware.

Oh well...I think my rant is over now. Time for me to get back to work.


Tom Fitzsimons said...

If you're going to allow SF to add Berkeley titles, then you have to allow for Oakland as well. The Oakland A's World Series titles ('72,'73,'74,'89) plus the Raiders titles (I'm sure they have some since their slogan is "Commitment to Excellence") as well as the Golden State Warriors NBA championship in 1975. You could probably also count the Murder Capital of the U.S. titles which, while maybe not technically a sport, is certainly impressive.

Exnicios said...

See, that's the thing! You really need to consider Oak-town as a separate city, and if anything Berkeley's titles would count towards it rather than SF. All goes to show that "the Bay Area" has a lot to its credit, SF as a stand alone option really doesn't cut the mustard. Basically they're on there because of Joe Montana.

Patrick said...

Wait, did we lose the murder title? People are slacking off.

Tom Fitzsimons said...

I think Richmond, CA has taken over as murder capital. At least per capita. I think NYC still has more overall murders, but they definitely do something to make up for the difference in weight classes. You know, something along the lines of Deadliest City Pound for Pound or If John Tesh's Music Was A City.

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