Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Vital Rankings Tied to More Than Sports

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Vital Rankings Tied to More Than Sports

Article excerpt

This just in: Pittsburgh ranks as the third-best large city to be a sports fan and fourth-best city overall.

Big whoop.

WalletHub, whatever that is, announced the rankings this week. It put Pittsburgh third in football (behind Green Bay, Wis. and East Lansing, Mich.), first in hockey, second in baseball (behind St. Louis), 85th in basketball and 95th in soccer. The only big cities with a higher cumulative score are Boston and Denver, largely because they are four-sports cities and much of Pittsburgh yawns when faced with pro basketball.

The question is, who cares? People go to rankings such as these to see where their city is and then forget everything else about it.

The larger question - and here, I realize I'm risking heresy - is whether we want Pittsburgh's civic identity so closely tied to our sports teams. This may be a crazy day to ask, what with the Steelers season opener tonight against the New England Cheats. But our love of our hometown teams is not what makes us different from other cities. It's what makes us like other cities.

As WalletHub - a personal finance website, it turns out - said, the North American sports industry rakes in $60 billion each year. So while the top three topics on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette website on any given day might be Steelers, Steelers and Steelers (the team's need for a kicker far exceeds interest in, and comprehension of, the Iran nuclear treaty) that hardly sets us apart.

In Boston, where Nobel Prize winners are as common as Starbucks franchises, the Boston Globe website gets way more hits for its Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and Bruins stuff than it does from news on any stinking physics or economics laureate.

I take no umbrage at this truth. I may risk losing respect and readers by confessing I couldn't name more than five players on either the Steelers or the Penguins, but I have such an insatiable interest in the Pirates: I write an irregular Stats Geek column for the PG website's Pirates Blog. The beauty of sports is that there is a clear winner and loser each day, a clarity that is largely absent from the rest of life. …

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