Thursday, May 26, 2016

How Could L.A. Think It's the Best Sports City?

Former Grantlander Dave Schilling has been writing some really great stuff over at The Guardian, including his intelligent takedown of Michael Wilbon's nonsensical why-black-people-hate-analytics rubbish from earlier in the week. With that being said, on Thursday, Schilling argued that Los Angeles might have overtaken cities like New York, Boston, and Philadelphia as the best sports city in the country. Since the title of the piece specifically calls out the Big Apple ("Tremble before us, New York"), let's deconstruct Schilling's article point-by-dubious-point to show that he must have smoked some of Johnny Drama's L.A. medicinal marijuana before writing.

Point 1: "We have employed the two greatest sports announcers in history"
Counter-point: Really, Dave? You're not even gonna start with Kareem or West or Kobe or Koufax? Your first point is that you've had two great announcers? Okay, then. First off, sure, Vin Scully has become synonymous with Dodgers baseball over the past half-century. Where did he grow up, go to college, and get his start? New York. Even conceding that Scully is L.A.'s to keep, New York (and many other cities) boasts plenty of other broadcasters that can easily compete with the second announcer Schilling mentions, Chick Hearn. Hearn did have some iconic calls, but so did New York legends like Red Barber, Mel Allen, Phil Rizzuto, and Marv Albert. New York radio and TV have also featured unique modern-day luminaries like Mike and the Mad Dog and Walt "Clyde" Frazier. The start to Schilling's argument is a non-starter.

Point 2: "We have more historic venues than any American city"
Counter-point: Admittedly, the original iterations of Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, and Madison Square Garden are no longer with us. The same is true about many of the historic stadiums around the country, so this might be Schilling's best point. Here's a nice list:

Think about the men who have called these buildings home: Jackie Robinson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Sandy Koufax, Elgin Baylor, Marcus Allen, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Troy Aikman, Wayne Gretzky, Clayton Kershaw, Jack Youngblood, Shaquille O’Neal, Jackie Slater, Jerry West. I’ll stop, because it’s getting embarrassing.

However, that still doesn't change the fact that L.A.'s fans don't seem to fully appreciate their blessings. The stereotype of fans arriving late and leaving early is definitely true (and somewhat understandable because of the lovely climate), so those historic venues are wasted on many of California's fans. Besides, if we're just making lists of the famous athletes that have played in a city, New York's list would get much more "embarrassing" than that of L.A.

Point 3: "Our most dedicated fans are our most ignored citizens"
Counter-point: As far as I can tell, Schilling is using this as an argument for L.A.'s sports scene -- that it's biggest fans are priced out of the best events and seats. I understand that he's pointing out the blue-collar backgrounds of some of his city's fans. However, every area has hardworking fans, and L.A. probably has a lower percentage than places like Pittsburgh, Boston, Philly, and Detroit. If you're relying on the argument that L.A.'s sports fans are hardcore, you're pretty much grasping at straws.

Then, Shilling drops this little nugget, which is laughable to a Knicks fan:

Walk around the dark recesses of Staples Center and you’ll see the men and women who refused to abandon the Lakers during three years of desperate times and heavy losses. That the arena wasn’t totally empty, especially during the years when Kobe was out with injuries, is a testament to our dedication.

He actually wrote "three years of desperate times and heavy losses." I wonder if also he gets pissed off at L.A.'s weather when it drops below room temperature outside. Can you imagine how a Cleveland fan would feel reading that paragraph?

Point 4: "Our teams are winners. Well, most of them"
Counter-point: If we're stacking New York's teams against L.A.'s, the Yankees eclipse the Lakers, the Giants match the Dodgers, the Mets are as accomplished as the Kings, and the Westchester Knicks have been a better organization than the Clippers. That's before we even mention the occasional winning of the Islanders, Nets, Jets, and Harlem Globetrotters*. By the way, Schilling didn't brag about the Rams in the section about his city's "winners." Convenient.

*I guess the Globetrotters' winning has been a little better than "occasional."

Point 5: "Our sports anthem is better than yours"
Counter-point: This is rich. Schilling uses Boston's "Sweet Caroline" as a nice straw man in his argument for the merits of Randy Newman's "I Love LA." Hey, Dave, the title chosen by your editors mentioned that New York needed to tremble before L.A. Why don't you mention New York's anthem in this section? Is it because Randy Newman couldn't even hold Frank Sinatra's jock? Comparing "I Love LA" to "New York, New York" would be like comparing L.A.'s skyline to New York's. It's just too one-sided to even bother. I guess this point was a fitting end to an argument that started with announcers.


In 2014, Kavanaugh and I drafted the sports cities in which we'd like to live. Here's a comment from my buddy Flanagan, a New York transplant living in L.A.:

I know you were trying to ignore your allegiance to New York, but it is a travesty that it was anything but the first pick. The sheer volume of great games and events that occur overwhelms anyplace else. Better still, Rutgers' move to the Big Ten (14) means that there is light at the end of the tunnel for its only glaring weakness.

I also think you were wrong to ignore Los Angeles, particularly with the whole region included. Both the Dodgers and Angels will be perennial contenders with young stars (Puig and Trout), the Clippers and Lakers bring some pizzazz, and the hockey is remarkable for a place where it is usually 80 degrees ... You also have the best cross-city college football rivalry in the NCAA. And AND AND they play beach volleyball...

So Flanagan (probably correctly) pointed out that it was a mistake to omit L.A. from the draft. But he also (absolutely correctly) pointed out that New York is still a way better sports city. (Although, Rutgers? Really, Flanagan?)

Go back to the drawing board, Dave Schilling and the rest of L.A. It's gonna take more than a crappy NFL team to catapult you into the conversation as an elite sports city. Maybe if the Rams play in the 2021 Super Bowl in L.A., we can talk again. Until then, enjoy Randy Newman.

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1 comment:

  1. ok-here's a comment from a New Englander. I am amazed at the support the LA Kings get in a warm weather city. They are truly a passionate bunch-and supported the team-even when they were mediocre, unlike Chicago which is a bandwagon bunch. 2nd-I watched 1500 Dodger fans just fly into NYC and take over Yankee Stadium, now THAT impressed me and my fellow Red Sox Brethern. That was unexpected. LA sports fans have improved a lot over the years. I give them kudos for humiliating Yankee fans, a truly laudable feat.