Quantifiers and Sports

by Brian on October 20, 2004

It’s impossible to think about anything other than baseball today, so time for a little Yankee-bashing. One of the odd things about the Yankees self-promotion (which I’m sadly exposed to being back in NY) is their frequent comparison between themselves and all other teams in _the world_. This can lead to problems, because while the Yankees have won more titles than any other team in major North American sports, they haven’t won more titles than lots of teams in major sports outside America. But it can also lead to interesting questions. Here’s an example from “Steven Goldman”:http://www.yesnetwork.com/yankees/news.asp?news_id=675, who is in general one of the best sportswriters on the internets.

bq. New York has won more sporting championships than any other city in the world.

Is this true?

My first instinct was that Glasgow would have more championships that New York running away, but maybe that’s overlooking the New York teams (especially the baseball Giants) that have left. Or maybe it’s unfair to include Glasgow. It’s certainly unfair, for example, to include all the AFL championships won by Melbourne teams from back in the years when all, or all but one, of the AFL teams were from Melbourne. So which is the most successful sporting city _in the world_?



Danny 10.20.04 at 8:33 pm

That’s a good question. I think you’re also going to need to define what counts as a major sport and whether that definition holds across different countries.

Why would including Glagow be unfair?

I can assure you, however, that under no circumstances, sadly, is Philadelphia the answer. If I recall correctly, the City of Brother Love has gone longer without a major sports championship than any other city with franchises in all four major North American sports.

Yeah, the Red Sox haven’t won the Series since 1918, but consider this: in 120+ seasons, the Phillies have won exactly one World Series. Bah.


Andrew Boucher 10.20.04 at 8:35 pm

You seem to be misinformed about what constitutes a sport. There are four: baseball, football (and I don’t mean soccer), basketball, and hockey.


Giles 10.20.04 at 8:38 pm

how about Buenos Aires – normally wins the footy and rugby?

will check stats and back later.


oneangryslavv 10.20.04 at 8:58 pm

Andrew Boucher, you get a red card!

How parochial of you to claim that soccer, the most important game of which, is watched live by almost 3 billion (that billion with a “b”) people is not a sport.

Something that fascinates me about soccer clubs worldwide is how they grew out of the social cleavages of their societies. Ask a simple identity-related question of a Glaswegian, and you can with a probability of 99.9% correctly guess their club loyalty. The same goes for residents of Madrid, Milan, Instanbul, and to a lesser extent, London.


John Gilks 10.20.04 at 9:00 pm

London would be a reasonable bet. Between the soccer, rugby, cricket, field hockey and sundry other sports it has plenty of chances.


spencer 10.20.04 at 9:42 pm

Danny –

Including Glasgow could be considered unfair because the Scottish Premier League is utterly dominated by the two Glasgow-based teams, Rangers and Celtic (who are currently losing yet another road match in the CL).

Not being a native Scot (of Scottish descent only), I do not know if there was ever a time in Scottish football when this was not true.


Brian Weatherson 10.20.04 at 9:53 pm

Andrew seems to be behind the times. In America these days the four major sports seem to be gridiron, baseball, basketball and NASCAR.

I was wondering whether it was unfair to include Glasgow because they were only intending to quantify over nationwide leagues, and the Scottish league isn’t exactly all of the UK. That would be a plausible restriction in most cases I’d think (it rules out e.g. city-based competitions that are prevalent in Australian sporting history) but I think England and Scotland are special cases.


dsquared 10.20.04 at 9:57 pm

In terms of home-grown winners of genuinely world-class contests of universally popular sports, I would hazard a guess in favour of Newmarket.


Andy 10.20.04 at 9:58 pm

Pardon me, I must get this off my chest. Baseball as played in the American League, does not qualify as a “major league sport”.

“Waaahhhh!!! Our pitchers can’t bat”

Freaking babies…

Thanks, I feel a lot better.


Chris Bertram 10.20.04 at 10:10 pm

Glasgow has soccer champions nearly every year, but a better bet would be a city with multiple teams from more than one sport. A couple of wild guesses:

Moscow (soccer + ice hockey + basketball maybe…)

Athens (soccer, basketball, handball ?)


Mark 10.20.04 at 10:38 pm

A tip of the hat for internets.


Cryptic Ned 10.20.04 at 10:58 pm

Good suggestions, Chris Bertram. Perhaps Belgrade as well?

According to this site ( http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/leagues/russia1999.html ) since 1992 the Russian hockey champions have been from Magnitogorsk thrice, Yaroslavl thrice, Tolyatti once, Kazan once, and Moscow twice, with several years not existing for some reason. During Communism though, Moscow utterly dominated.

I’m as surprised as you. “Tolyatti”?


Chris Bertram 10.20.04 at 11:19 pm

I think that’s a rendering of “Togliatti”. There must be a town or factory or something named after the one-time leader of the Italian Communist Party.


Fred Vincy 10.20.04 at 11:20 pm

I am reminded of an old joke told to me by my father: After winning a big soccer match, a German brags to an Englishman, “I see we have just beaten you in your favorite sport.” The cool Englishman responds, “Yes. But we’ve beaten you in yours twice.”


rich 10.20.04 at 11:43 pm

“Yes. But we’ve beaten you in yours twice.”

Don Whillans, allegedly.


dsquared 10.21.04 at 1:02 am

I reiterate Newmarket – a small town in Suffolk that’s trained (give or take) more or less all the champion racehorses outside the USA for the last two hundred years. It’s the single most intense concentration of sporting success on the planet, shurely?


j 10.21.04 at 1:18 am

Danny is wrong: The Philadelphia Philles won the World Series in 1980. It may be the only one (I don’t know), but it is more recent than the Red Sox.


Giles 10.21.04 at 1:26 am

Togliatti is where they built all the cars in the old soviet days.


Andy 10.21.04 at 1:36 am

>>Danny is wrong: The Philadelphia Philles won the World Series in 1980. It may be the only one (I don’t know), but it is more recent than the Red Sox.

you’re reading it wrong – of the US cities with 4 major league teams, Philly has currently gone the longest without any championship; i.e., the Pats have won 2 recent Super Bowls. Has Philly won anything since the 76ers wins in the mid 80s?


Andrew McManama-Smith 10.21.04 at 1:36 am

Tokyo has to be it, they’ve been winning most of the titles for every sport that japan’s got


Walt Pohl 10.21.04 at 4:07 am

Philly has not won anything since the Sixers won in ’83, but I have trouble believing they’ve gone the longest without a championship. Which cities have teams in each sport?


matt 10.21.04 at 5:13 am

Togliotti is still where they build cars in Russia, for the most part, w/ the Lada factory, the GAZ factory (I believe) and a new GM factory there. It is named after the Italian communist, and is situated on the widest part of the Volga. It has a well-deserved reputation as “the Russian detroit” and is known for being a mafia-haven. I don’t know who the mens football champs are in Russia now, but the Moscow teams (Dynamo, Spartak, etc.) have been a mess for a while. My “home city” in Russia, Ryazan, claimed to have the best women’s football team, but I’m not sure that’s to be believed.


Something Polish 10.21.04 at 5:45 am

My guess is Rome [Italy]. They like ’em their sports in Italy, the city’s prob’ly got several teams in many different sports, and it’s been around for how many centuries?


Danny 10.21.04 at 5:58 am

Cities with MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA teams, along with their latest championship:

Atlanta – 1995 Braves.
Boston – 2003-4 Patriots.
Chicago – 1997-8 Bulls.
Dallas – 1998-9 Stars.
Denver – 2000-1 Avalanche.
Detroit – 2003-4 Pistons.
Los Angeles – 2001-2 Lakers.
Miami – 2003 Marlins.
Minneapolis/St. Paul – 1991 Twins.
New York – 2000 Yankees.
Philadelphia – 1982-3 76ers.
Phoenix – 2001 Diamondbacks.
Washington, D.C. (if you count the Expos moving to D.C. next year) – 1991-2 Redskins.

So it’s not even close, really. Philadelphia has gone 21 years without a championship. The next closest is Minnesota at 13 years.

I can’t guarantee that list is 100% accurate and comprehensive, but it’s pretty close if it’s not.


Jason 10.21.04 at 6:41 am

Andrew, even if you only counted the 4, ahem, real sports (I realise this is a joke, so I’m playing along), there is probably some city overseas that has won more national championships, if only because they have no real competition.


Amit Dubey 10.21.04 at 7:39 am

City which has won the most national championships?

I vote for Singapore.


Larry Staton Jr. 10.21.04 at 2:14 pm

Danny, please add this to your list:

Cleveland: 1964 Browns

Cleveland has gone 40 years without a championship, easily besting Philly.


Ross 10.21.04 at 2:46 pm

I think what’s been underappreciated in this entire discussion is the undeniable fact that the Yankees suck.

Go Sox!


Danny 10.21.04 at 4:49 pm

Ah, but Cleveland doesn’t have an NHL team. So it’s true that Cleveland’s gone longer without a championship, but Philadelphia gets a special dose of bitterness since it’s represented in all four major sports.

Couple that with the fact that Philadelphia has about 1 million more residents than Cleveland, and you’ve got boatloads of pain.


Cryptic Ned 10.21.04 at 10:13 pm

Well, I found the stats for Moscow anyway. I’m not counting teams that won double-elimination-style “cups”, just teams that won in league competition.

In just 3 sports, Moscow teams have 135 championships. I’m not sure what other sports would be considered major in Russia.

Hockey: 49 titles (http://www.russianhockey.net/rhlchamps.htm)
Soccer: 42 titles (http://www.aboutaball.co.uk/html2/countries/russia.php)
Basketball: 44 titles (http://members.aol.com/bradleyrd/eurochmp.html; http://www.bbhighway.com/Talk/Coach%20Library/History/russia_index.asp)

Now what about Belgrade, or Glasgow, or Amsterdam, or Prague? And also Tel Aviv, which I notice has won every Israeli basketball title except one.

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