Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The 'S' is for super and the 'U' is for unique...

I've been a geography geek for most of my life. I attribute at least some of it to my interest in sports. I learned where most of the major cities in the US were located by following the sports teams that played in them. Baseball was my first love and the only sport I really cared about until I was in the fourth or fifth grade. I had a baseball dice game that I used to spend hours playing as a kid. When I got really ambitious/bored, I would create my own baseball league. I'd create a handful of teams, give them names, and even design logos that I would draw on a map of the US. I'm pretty sure that my suburban Detroit hometown always had a franchise. In general, I liked to give franchises to places that didn't have big league ball teams. The only one of my expansion teams that I can remember are the Idaho Potatoes. Where am I going with this story? As most sports fans probably know by now, in all likelihood, the Seattle Sonics are going to be moving to Oklahoma City. For a number of reasons, this whole thing reminds me of the obscure baseball expansion franchises I created as a kid. They'll be the first major pro sports teams in Oklahoma and one of the few between the Mississippi River and the west coast (outside of Texas, Denver, and Phoenix). In terms of population, the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area has about 1.2M people, which is not huge but it's larger than several other MSAs that have major professional sports teams. It's also much larger than Boise, the presumptive home of the Idaho Potatoes.

While OKC is about to join the ranks of medium-sized cities with major professional sports teams, in my opinion, Seattle is about to join an even more interesting club. Once the Sonics leave town, Seattle will have only two major professional sports teams despite being the 15th largest MSA in the country (and one of the few large non-sunbelt MSAs growing at an appreciable rate). Eventually, taxpayers somewhere are going to get sick of subsidizing sports arenas for billionaire sports owners. From what I know about the situation in Seattle, I don't think that's what happened here, but I could see it happening in a place like Seattle. Now that you can follow your favorite teams from anywhere on earth, hometown allegiences are not as important as they once were. Take an MSA that is full of transplants who didn't grow up following the local team and add an especially shameless owner who is trying to extort taxpayer dollars for a underachieving team in a sport other than football and possibly, baseball, and I think that a city just might be willing to give said team the heave ho.

2 comments:

Michael David said...

I'm also interested in metropolitan areas and their relationships to sports teams, although I'm more interested in how teams and communities decide where to have the stadiums. I think my interest stems partly from the fact that I live in the only American city with five major sports teams that play inside the city limits, and partly from the fact that the favorite team of my youth is one of the few that bucked the trend and moved from the suburbs to the city center.

dhodge said...

I was trying to think of other cities with 4+ major pro sports teams that have all of their stadium facilities within city limits. Philadelphia was the only one that came to mind, though you can argue that all of the LA-based sports teams play inside of the city of LA as long as you exclude the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.