Wednesday, June 24, 2009

City of Champions: The Debate Continues

In lieu of the Penguins wrapping up their third Stanley Cup, a debate has started to emerge over the notion of whether or not Pittsburgh has regained the "City of Champions" helm that it touted during the late 70s when the Steelers and Pirates were both at the top of the league.

In my browsing, I came across the Donovan Index (no relation to McNabb), which not only accounts for the number of chanpionships won by each city, but the number of teams in the league at that time. Therefore, all the stanley cups that teams like Detroit and Montreal won back in the day are "discounted" because there were only 6 teams in the league. The basic formula is something like this:

Number of Teams in the league for each championship won/Seasons in the league
The basic idea is, if there are 20 teams in the league, each team should win once every 20 years, so the metric number here is 1. A score above 1 means the team wins championships on a higher than average basis, while an index below 1 indicates the team has been disappointing in the success department.

The index accounts for all professional Basketball, Football, Baseball, and Hockey clubs in a city.
Not surprisingly, New York and Los Angeles came out as #1 and #2. With the 26 titles the Yankees have won and the 10 the Lakers have, it's not surprising that these two cities topped the list.

But guess who was #3? That's right, Pittsburgh.

Pretty impressive, right?

Well, there's a catch. In "identifying the true city of champions" the Donovan index does some creative shuffling.

If you look into the teams accounted for in the "New York" calculation, you will notice that the Islanders do not appear. Rather, they are listed under the "Nassau/Suffolk" city, despite calling themselves "New York". In addition, all of the Brooklyn teams are listed under "Brooklyn" rather than New York, completely ignoring the fact that Brooklyn has been an incorporated part of New York City since 1898.

Since the New York Jets and Giants play their games in the same arena complex as the New Jersey Devils/Nets, (which isn't even in the state of New York) it seems odd that they are included in the "New York" listing whereas Brooklyn teams (which have all played in NYC Proper) and the Islanders (who call themselves "New York") aren't.

Adjusted New York numbers (to include "Suffolk" and "Brooklyn" teams):

54 Championships, 987 "points", 628 seasons. 1.57 index.

Adjusted Top Cities:
1. Los Angeles - 1.64
2. New York - 1.57
3. Pittsburgh - 1.55

By the same standard, if you want to include the two Anaheim teams with the LA teams and not separate, LA's number becomes:
19 Championships, 456 "points", 299 seasons. 1.53 index.

Adjusted to include Anaheim:
1. New York - 1.57
2. Pittsburgh - 1.55
3. LA/Anaheim - 1.53

Whichever way you slice it, in spite of the Steelers being bad from 1933-1970, the Penguins being crappy before drafting Lemieux in 1984, and the Pirates recent streak of misery, Pittsburgh still has one of the top 3 index ratings in the country. And there's no fancy inflated math needed to get our number to where it is (like excluding teams that play within your city limits).

In fact, let's break it down a little more and look at the matchups head to head.

vs vs
If this was just the Steelers and Giants, it would probably be a push at best. As the two teams showed last year, they were two of the best teams in the league, with the Steelers hoisting the trophy at the end of the season. These two teams are the last two Super Bowl Champions and have accounted for 9 Super Bowl trophys between them. However, when you throw the dismal Jets into the mix, I would argue this gives the Steelers the advantage here. Let's look at Donovan's numbers:

Current teams:
Steelers: 2.61
Giants: 1.56
Jets: 0.57

This gives us a sum of Pittsburgh 2.61, New York 1.21, Los Angeles

Including all historical teams:
Pittsburgh: (172 points, 76 seasons) 2.26
New York: (159 points, 162 seasons) 0.98
Los Angeles: (40 points, 68 seasons) 0.59

Teams included: Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates, New York Giants, New York Jets, New York Bulldogs, New York Yanks, New York Yankees, New York Titans, Brooklyn Lions, Brooklyn Tigers, Brooklyn Dodgers, Los Angeles Raiders, Los Angeles Rams, Los Angeles Buccaneers, Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Dons

Whichever way you cut it, Pittsburgh is on top as far as football is concerned.

vs vs

Anyone who would argue that the Pirates right now are better than any of these teams is out of their head. In the big market game of baseball, people with cash to spend have better teams, and let's face it, New York and LA teams have that cash.

Current Teams:
Yankees: 5.22
LA Dodgers: 2.16
Mets: 1.09
Pirates: 0.94

As we can see, Pittsburgh is getting served here, partially because the LA Dodgers have existed for a much shorter period of time as a franchise than any of the other three, which leads to their inflated rating.

All Historical Teams:
New York: (642 points, 258 seasons) 2.49
Los Angeles: (108 points, 50 seasons) 2.16
Pittsburgh: (98 points, 104 seasons) 0.94

Teams included: New York Yankees, New York Mets, New York Giants, New York Highlanders, Brooklyn Dodgers, Brooklyn Superbas, Brooklyn Robins, Los Angeles Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates

If the Angels are added in to the LA team count, their number drops from 2.16 to 1.42. Either way, the order is consistent: New York, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh.

vs vs

The Rangers won three championships before World War II, and have won one since. The Islanders dominated during Reagan's first term. Pittsburgh has won the cup 3 times since I was born. The Kings have never won a title.

Current Teams:
Islanders: 2.33
Penguins: 1.78
Rangers: 0.63
Kings: 0.00

Including all historical teams:
Pittsburgh: (73 points, 41 seasons)1.78
New York: (136 points, 136 seasons) 1.00
Los Angeles: (0 points, 43 seasons) 0.00

Teams included: Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New York Raiders, New York Americans, Brooklyn Americans, Los Angeles Kings, Los Angeles Sharks

Pittsburgh has a pretty clear advantage on this one, giving us the advantage in 2 of the 3 major sports so far, with only one remaining, it's nearly safe to say we've got this one in the bag. But let's not count our chickens before they hatch.


The Lakers are obviously the best of this bunch and arguably the best team in the NBA this decade. But right now, who really would have taken the Knicks or Clippers last year if they went head-to-head with the Pitt Panthers? Sure it's a different style and a different game, but with Levance Fields, Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, I think Pitt could have held their own against either the Knicks or Clippers. Just saying.

Current Teams:
Lakers: 5.06
Knicks: 0.49
Clippers: 0.00

Including all historical teams:
Los Angeles: (248 points, 76 seasons) 3.26
Pittsburgh: (11 points, 5 seasons) 2.20
New York: (50 points, 72 seasons) 0.69

Teams included: New York Knicks, New York Nets, Pittsburgh Pipers, Pittsburgh Ironmen, Pittsburgh Condors, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Stars, Anaheim Amigos

Tallying everything up, here was the final scorecard:
1st: Pittsburgh (2), New York (1), Los Angeles (1)
2nd: New York (2), Pittsburgh (1), Los Angeles (1)
3rd: Los Angeles (2), Pittsburgh (1), New York (1)

Overall, across all 4 sports historically we see these numbers:
New York (987 points, 628 seasons) 1.572
Pittsburgh (354 points, 226 seasons) 1.566
Los Angeles (426 points, 284 seasons) 1.500

It is very close between all three, and New York has definitely been carried by the strength of the Yankees and the Lakers are holding their own in Los Angeles. The Steelers and Penguins are mutually bearing the load for Pittsburgh, and they are also both in possession of shiny silver trophies right now, and you really can't argue with that.

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