Urban Sports Suffering

Which cities' fans are the longest-suffering? Which are the most overgorged? Find out who -- and why.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

St. Louis Wins, Baltimore Loses

Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals -- winners of the first championship since this site went live (in a contest between the two most unsafe cities in the U.S.). Though your author has no stake in the Cardinals, it was a gratifying result. Poorly as the Tigers have played over the past two decades, Detroit fans get no sympathy here in view of the Pistons' and Red Wings' six titles since 1988. St. Louis, meanwhile, was the only one of the cities among the league pennant finalists with fewer championships than expected.

It was, to be sure, a storybook season for the Tigers until the denouement. A couple years back, when the Cubs and pre-championship Red Sox nearly made the World Series together, I had a friend say that it was fitting that when the one failed to do so, the other failed as well -- since, joined in misery, they ought to be there together. But I didn't hear any regret from Red Sox nation that their drought was broken by anticlimactically blowing out these selfsame Cardinals the next season.

It's a zero-sum game and every team has its own story. The opportunities are few and far between, and for the true believers, every title is beautiful. Many a storybook has ended thus, and those who smash glass slippers don't tend to make apologies.

The methodology here was to look at the last 40 years' worth of championships for the four major pro sports leagues, and I did press a little to get this up before baseball headed into the playoff stretch. What I've done here specifically is for each calendar year to count the season that began during that year. The study starts in 1966, so the 1966 baseball season is the earliest season included.

So, in the moving 40-year window, St. Louis picks up a championship while the Baltimore Orioles -- who swept the favored L.A. Dodgers in the '66 World Series -- lose one. That pulls both St. Louis (formerly -1.79 championships against expected) and Baltimore (a tenuously back-weighted +2.04 championships above expected) towards the mean. Cold comfort for the City of Arches: St. Louis won the 1967 World Series, so unless the Cardinals defend their title -- or the Rams or Blues do something unexpected -- they'll give back that advance this time next year.

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