Last week, ESPN: The Magazine published its annual Ultimate Team Standings , a ranking of all 122 professional franchises in the four major North American sports (football, baseball, basketball, and hockey). The list is designed to assess the totality of fans’ experience for each team, based on criteria including “bang for the buck” (recent wins per revenues earned directly from fans); the quality of ownership, players, and coaches (on-field skills and effort as well off-the-field behavior); the stadium experience each team offers; and “title track,” the number of championships a team has won recently or is expected to win during the lifetime of current fans.
In compiling the list, ESPN is trying to determine how rewarding it is to root for a particular organization. It’s not enough to simply be good; for example, the Boston Red Sox’s lofty ticket prices and unlikeable players, coaches, and front office buried this (normally) perennial title contender at #117 this year.
How does Denver fare? Our two most enjoyable teams are the Broncos (#38) and Nuggets (#39), while the Avs (#78) and Rockies (#85) don’t score so well. In fact, the Rockies’ two-year (and counting) free fall is the primary reason the Blake Street Bombers had the biggest drop of any franchise, a 77-spot plummet from the #8 ranking they landed in 2011. (The Broncos, thanks to last year’s Cinderella playoff run and the addition of Peyton Manning in 2012, jumped 48 places from last year’s list.)
The rankings made me wonder which metropolitan area can claim, by these measures, to be the best sports town in America. To determine the answer, I took the following, decidedly pseudo-scientific approach: I looked at cities that have at least three professional teams, added each team's rankings, and then divided by the number of teams in that town to get the average ranking of each city’s franchises.
By this method, the #1 locale from which to follow professional sports, with an average team ranking of 28, is…Pittsburgh.
(Like I said, pseudo-scientific.)
The rest of the top five are Phoenix (36), Tampa Bay (40), Dallas (42), and Milwaukee (45—thank you, second-ranked Green Bay Packers).
As for the Mile-High City, we scored an average ranking of 60, good for 13th place among 22 metro areas. Could be worse. We could be New York, which would surely rank first by a mile on a Hype-o-meter. But the Big Apple's overpaid, overpriced, and underachieving teams—How’s that 113th-place finish treating you, Carmelo Anthony’s New York Knicks?—mean their notoriously rabid fans get to not-so-rabidly watch franchises that, on average, are the 89th-most compelling organizations in sports. Riffing on Mark Twain: Money may be able to buy a certain amount of love and happiness, but if you really want to enjoy yourself, head on over to Pittsburgh.
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Follow 5280 articles editor Luc Hatlestad on Twitter at @LucHatlestad.