This will probably seem completely swerve-y compared to the posts so far, but it could look completely in place compared to what could come later, even if the topic eventually chosen has nothing to do with sports. (Keep commenting on the post below this one!) If your eyes completely glaze over at this stuff, please skip past it to the posts below.
ESPN has an intriguing story on Portland, Oregon’s efforts to land a major league baseball team, namely, the Florida Marlins, who are currently engaged in stadium woes. The case is compelling, with a stadium deal on the table, and one of the largest markets without an MLB team. Of the four traditional major sports, Portland holds only one, the NBA’s Trail Blazers; it’s the largest metropolitan area in the 2000 Census with but one team from the traditional four major sports, and ranked behind only San Diego for having two or fewer. (The Census has since broadened its definition of a metro area, splitting Baltimore from Washington and nonsensically splitting Riverside and San Bernardino counties from the LA area into its own metro area that tops all three.) According to the article, one research group ranked Portland behind only New York and LA for having the highest ratio of population to traditional big four teams.
On both ratio and being the largest market with either only an NBA team or no baseball team, Portland is behind Orlando and Sacramento on Nielsen’s list of TV markets. But both those markets are far closer to their natural alternative alliegiance (Tampa Bay and the SF Bay Area, respectively) than Portland is to Seattle, the nearest MLB team.
Las Vegas, Charlotte, and San Antonio are also mentioned as expressing interest, and Northern New Jersey (which would make MLB join the NHL as the only even remotely prominent leagues with three teams in one market), Orlando, and Norfolk/Hampton Roads are also flirted with. Under the old Census definition, Hampton Roads is the largest metro area without any traditional major league team, with Las Vegas right behind, but both have their problems (in Vegas’ case, the whole gambling thing). Connecticut leads the list of Nielsen markets, though it does have the WNBA’s Sun, followed by West Palm Beach, Grand Rapids (who have the Arena Football League’s Rampage), Birmingham AL, Harrisburg PA, Hampton Roads, and Las Vegas.
The Marlins are not the only team with stadium woes. The NHL’s Penguins are also haggling over stadiums and may be out of Pittsburgh next year. Kansas City is considered the front-runner, but Houston is the States’ largest old-definition metro area and largest Nielsen market without an NHL team (and have reportedly expressed interest), though it’s very south and the league’s southern movement is seen as to blame for its recent woes. Seattle follows close behind in both; though there’s theoretically an attraction with the Vancouver Canucks, being a Seattleite myself I don’t see it, though one difference with baseball in Portland is we don’t get the Canucks on TV. Quebec City and ex-NHL city Winnepeg are Canadian metro areas 7 and 8; the Canadian NHL teams line up with the top 6 metro areas exactly.
Seattle itself is the center of stadium woes in the NBA, as the Sonics have gotten fed up with their stadium, a decade old and made antique by the replacement of the Kingdome with new baseball and football stadiums. Spice was added to the fire when a group of investors from Oklahoma City bought the team; the New Orleans Hornets have done amazingly well in exile in the OKC, and the city has been angling for an NBA team (and the Penguins if they can’t get it). A move out of Seattle, the largest market with stadium woes I’ve talked about so far and with much more fan loyalty than in South Beach, would be a “Cleveland Browns” situation if there ever was one. The NBA has a history of being the only game in town; Orlando, Sacramento, Portland, and San Antonio boast NBA teams as their only traditional major league teams. But it doesn’t have more teams than those others, so they have to come from somewhere: San Diego and St. Louis are the largest old-definition metro areas without NBA teams, and in St. Louis’ case it’s the only traditional major league they’re missing. The STL ranks only behind Tampa Bay (another market with everything but the NBA) in Nielsen markets, followed by yet another MLB-NFL-NHL market, Pittsburgh (though that may not be for long, of course!), and finally Baltimore.
The NFL, of course, has the “LA Gap”, and like baseball, by the old definition Portland is the largest metro area without a team other than LA. Also like baseball, the NFL has Orlando and Sacramento as the only Nielsen markets ahead of Portland. The NFL, though, has teams in curiously small markets like Buffalo, Jacksonville, and Green Bay; they make up for it with a lack of a team in Milwaukee, no team in LA, and only one team in Chicago (baseball is the only traditional major league with two Chicago teams).