Championships and Politics

Posted on 2018 January 28


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Ever notice how championship teams usually come from the largest urban centers? In America since 1980 the NBA has been dominated by teams from Los Angeles (#2 in population), Houston (#4), San Antonio (#7), and — lately — Oakland, part of the huge San Francisco metro area (#5). In baseball since 1980, New York (#1), Chicago (#3), San Francisco, Boston (metro #10) and Toronto (4th largest city in North America) have had multiple wins. A small city might have to wait in line behind these big ones for a long time.

Granted, an urban area needs to be fairly large just to support a major pro team. So let’s cross the Pond and look at English soccer. Of the 10 top teams in the Premier League, four are in or near London (#1 metro area), three are in or near Manchester (#2), and two are in, or next to, Liverpool (#5). Not much room at the top for the smaller cities over there, either.

Sports are a big deal mainly because we love our home teams. Fans can get very worked up about it, to the point of anger. Dodger fans hate the San Francisco Giants, and vice versa. New Yorkers despise the Boston Red Sox. Knicks followers hate the Nets; Bengals supporters hate the Browns.

Why do we love our teams so much? Perhaps it’s to do with our tribal nature. We descend from people who loved their villages and protected them from attack; it’s in our blood to be suspicious of, and rivalrous toward, outsiders. In the modern urban age, we must work with, play alongside, and be neighborly to people our ancestors might have shot on sight. City life can get tense, and rooting for our sports teams allows us to blow off some of that steam. 

Maybe, in cities with champion teams, people are more satisfied at a gut level, more peaceful and less aggressive. But for every winner there has to be a loser. Do the losing cities simmer with resentment? Do their citizens need satisfaction they can’t find at the stadium?

Lately I’ve also pondered how the biggest U.S. media markets — New York, Los Angeles, etc. — tend to have left-wing voters. And then it hit me. Do most championship teams come from liberal urban areas? Do the smaller, more right-wing cities seethe with sports grudges … that they then take out on Progressive candidates at the voting booth?

Did Trump sweep the hinterlands in 2016 because Chicago took the World Series? Did he win because the flyover states rarely win the Super Bowl?

…Please don’t take this too seriously. I’m just blue-skying.

But go Dodgers!