If your town could save one sports team—college or pro—and the others had to relocate to Vladivostok, Russia, which one would stay?
In Denver, for instance, the fans would keep the Broncos and happily drive all other teams to the airport. Proof: If you added your name to the season-ticket waiting list now, it'd be nearly 190 years before you got a call.
Some cities are easy that way. St. Louis is a Cards town. The Skins own DC, lock, stock and pork barrel. Dallas belongs to the Cowboys, and if you don't believe it you better be wearing steel-toed boots. The rest of America? Glad you asked:
ATLANTA Georgia football. Every SEC grad gets a job in Atlanta. The Braves can't even sell out playoff games. Everybody thinks the Hawks moved to Calgary years ago.
BALTIMORE Ravens, in a squeaker over Michael Phelps.
BOSTON Red Sox. Once, Boston was a hockey town, and Orr's Bruins ruled. It's never been a Celtics town—despite Russell and Bird—partly because of the finally fading racism. Patriots? Pssshhht. They're not even in Boston. The Red Sox, though, sell out a cramped, rusted ballpark as though there were Hope Diamonds under every seat. Says longtime Boston sports yakker Eddie Andelman: "Who can have a decent conversation about anything else?"
CHARLOTTE NASCAR. Bobcats players could give fans halftime mani-pedis and still not draw.
CHICAGO Bears. The Cubbies are the Windy City's cute Labradoodle pets, but the Bears are in the blood. "Everybody in Chicago loves the Bears," admits Cubs shortstop Ryan Theriot. Pro football is to Chicago what airplanes are to Dayton. In third, the Bulls. Fourth, Notre Dame football.
CLEVELAND Browns. Name one other city that lost a team and had the league give it back! Name, uniforms, everything! If the Cavaliers left, two janitors might look up.
DETROIT Red Wings. It's called Hockeytown, not Basketballtown.
HOUSTON Yesterday. Everything in Houston was better in the old days—Luv Ya Blue, Hakeem the Dream, the Ryan Express. Now everything is an Applebee's opening.
INDIANAPOLIS Colts, which is funny. Four years ago, they couldn't even sell out the RCA Dome, smallest venue in the league. Now they've got brand-new digs.
LOS ANGELES Lakers. The real folks in town—bus drivers, gardeners, school-teachers—own Lakers jerseys. Dodgertown was in Florida. "There's a radio guy here with 'I Slept with Shaq' tattooed on his forehead," marvels Laker Derek Fisher. Think anyone's got "I Slept with Chris Kaman" tattooed on his forehead?
MIAMI Dolphins. Second: U. of Miami football. Third: Miami spring football. Last: Marlins, once again the C-SPAN of MLB attendance.
MINNEAPOLIS Vikings. The Twins get no love. Once, they were playing a Saturday afternoon game in the HumpDome, and it went extra innings. The game was stopped so the stadium crew could get the field ready for a football game that night. Ouch.
NEW YORK You see more Yankees hats in NYC than all other teams combined. Win 26 titles, that happens. Then there's this: MoviesUnlimited.com lists 21 flicks about the Yanks, four on the Giants and Mets each, two on the Knicks and one on the Rangers.
PHILADELPHIA Used to be Eagles, now it's Phillies. This is partly because of the Phils' young stars and partly because the Iggles owner has handed it to them. Jeffrey Lurie is a Boston guy who's made $800 million so far on his Eagles purchase but not many friends. You always get the feeling that his jet bound for his beloved Beantown is double-parked.
PHOENIX The Suns are hanging on, with Arizona State closing fast. Suns owner Robert "Foam Finger" Sarver has turned off so many fans while the ASU AD, Lisa Love, has turned so many on. Cardinals? Worst ownership in the history of owning things.
SAN FRANCISCO Says San Francisco Chronicle columnist Scott Ostler: "A second-string 49er having his chakras aligned is bigger news than any other team's top player winning the MVP, a Nobel Prize and dying, all on the same day."
SEATTLE Seahawks, but that's new. "When I first got here," says Matt Hasselbeck, "we'd play at Husky Stadium. They'd get 72,000 on Saturdays. We'd get 25,000 the next day, and 10,000 would be there for the Raiders."
TAMPA Bucs. "How can the Rays be ahead of two of the top franchises in baseball history and still get only 14,000 some nights?" asks Bucs corner Ronde Barber.
So there you have it. Meanwhile, I'm getting a time-share in Vladivostok. It's going to have some sick teams.