Title Town, USA

Regional honor.  Civic pride.  You take this to heart:  You know the colloquial slang.  You can name the famous people from your town.  You know each neighborhood’s personality.  You eat the food.  You own the t-shirts.  And yes, when the topic of cities comes up, you know how to boast…

“Portland has hipsters and brewpubs.”

“Boston has colleges.”

“San Fran has tolerance and bridges.”

“New Orleans has jazz and Mardi Gras.”

“Houston has the multi-cultural flair. “

“Chicago has skyscrapers, The Obamas and Michael Jordan.”

“Seattle has (had) grunge.”

“Austin is Weird.” (shh, that’s actually Portland)

And don’t get me started on everything a New Yorker might tell you.

Maybe nothing puts that infatuation with our hometown better into focus than collectively putting our unwavering faith in people running around in a stadium with matching jerseys with our city’s name on it.  They say it takes a village to raise a child.  Well, it takes a city to win a sports championship.  And that city will (riot and) take credit when it’s been won.  If we didn’t know that before, Seattle’s 12th man this past year taught us as much.

There is a great TheOnion article from 2001 that puts this concept into sobering perspective.  It’s headlined: You Will Suffer Humiliation When The Sports Team From My Area Defeats The Sports Team From Your Area.  As if no matter where our head hit the pillow, not only would our allegiance there follow but so would our unaffected opinion of that team’s competence.

Along that same line is a funny VectorBelly cartoon that subtly highlights the absurdity of putting our hopes and dreams in sports teams… but that is probably another debate for another day.

So, okay, we all think our city is the best.  But if our sports teams are our best city ambassadors, and those teams measure success with championships, then who is right?

Who has won the most titles across all sports?  Which towns see a trophy parade as a regular occurrence?  Who’s won the most per capita?  And maybe more fun to call out is what cities are the worst, er, I mean, have won the least?

Let’s take a look.

Combining the titles of the five men’s sports leagues in the US that play at the highest level: the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, MLB and MLS, here are the best of all time.

The Most Championships won:

1 New York                45 (incl. the Giants and Jets who actually play in East Rutherford)

2 Boston                     34

3 LA/Anaheim          26

4 Chicago                   18

5 Detroit                    18

6 Pittsburgh              14

7 San Francisco        12

7 St Louis                  12

9 Oakland                  9

10 Baltimore             8

10 Minneapolis         8

12 Washington DC   7

12 Miami                    7

12 Dallas                    7 

15 Philadelphia         6

Sure, NYC is the runaway winner but they also have twice the people and twice the teams!  (I do love that when the Nets moved they took on a borough name)

Let’s look at it “Pound for pound”.  The most titles per capita (including all adjacent suburbs whose residents surely love the teams) is Pittsburgh, with 14 titles (ranked 6th) representing just 2.35 million people (ranked 22nd).

However… if you combine total titles rank with per capita points and also include credit for championships across all sports the dial points toward Boston who have won titles in football, baseball, hockey and basketball in the last 10 years.  Even the Revolution, while never taking home the big one, earned a US Open Cup in ’07 and a Superliga #1 in ’08.  Then there’s the whole Boston marathon legacy and now “Boston Strong”; these guys seem to live and breathe sport excellence.

Now what about the other end of the list?  Those cities with lots of hope and little hardware?  Some might call these cities ‘desperate’.  Or ‘pathetic’.  You can argue they’re ‘deprived’.  Political correctness might dictate, “in a dry spell”:

My beloved Portland is in the ‘bad’ category, with nothing on the mantle but the Blazers’ title in 1977.  We cling to the memory of that sole championship like a toddler to his blanket.  In fact, our best sports bar is named The Spirit of ’77!

Worse still is Milwaukee, with only the Bucks’ 1971 NBA championship to boast.  And man, if you saw the Bucks play this year, that trophy seems like many lifetimes ago.

The longest title drought actually belongs to none other than Cleveland, who have not seen a final #1 ranking since 1948, a 66 year and counting wait for the Cavaliers, Browns or Indians to bring home the bacon.  Come to think of it, I can’t remember that last time any of those three were even in the playoffs, so good luck with that, guys.  Maybe with a couple more #1 picks, eh Cavs?

The per capita loser turns out to be Houston, with a massive 4.7 million-person metropolis but just 2 titles to show for their sporting efforts.

But surely there must be cities that have never even won one you might say?  You’d be right.

El Paso and Austin in Texas are big but don’t have any major league teams.  Too busy wrangling to care?  Memphis and Nashville also have the size AND have teams …but no titles.  Too busy playing music?  Or perhaps horse racing and NASCAR are higher priorities?  But most conspicuous on the list is… drumroll, please….

San Diego, our biggest loser, the 17th biggest metropolis and home to the Padres and Chargers but a big fat goose egg in the glass case.  At least they can blow off steam with some surfing.

 

A few assorted thoughts and notes on the topic:

• Much was made of the 2004 World Series title won by the Boston Red Sox.  It was a special moment in time to finally break the supposed Babe Ruth curse and give Red Sox fans their first title since 1918, 86 years in the making (and remarkably captured in ending of the Jimmy Fallon movie, Fever Pitch). But don’t feel sorry for Boston.   The city of Boston has regularly delighted in sports championships as noted above, especially their beloved Celtics (who are the most decorated franchise in NBA history).  During the baseball drought, 16 NBA titles were won by the men in green not to mention the many Bruins’ Stanley cups for Boston’s hockey fans and several early 2000s Patriots Super Bowls.

• The creation of MLS, a top league in the global world of soccer gave a lot of cities their very first taste of a title including San Jose, Salt Lake City and Columbus.  And Kansas City took home the Cup in 2013, breaking that city’s drought dating to George Brett’s Royals’ victory of 1985.

• God bless Drew Brees and his Saints, who brought hurricane-riddled New Orleans their first and only championship in 2009.

Baltimore, who seem to consistently have teams taken away from them, came up big with a Ravens’ SuperBowl win in 2000 and book-ended the Ray Lewis era with another in 2012.

• Atlanta thanks its lucky stars for the 1995 Braves because they don’t have a single other championship in any first tier men’s sport despite having long-standing franchises in the MLB, the NBA, the NFL and an NHL team from 1999 to 2011.

*Editor’s note: For simplicity, I chose to ignore Canadian Cities in American leagues who have most of their championships in hockey anyway.  But no offense meant to our lovely neighbors to the North.


 

Masters of the Tie / What’s in a Name?

Over the course of the 2013 season the Portland Timbers recorded 15 Ties (for my British friends, that’s a ‘draw’).  This led the league.  By a lot.  In fact, the next closest team netted 11, 36% fewer.  The league average was 8, nearly half the total of my beloved Timbers.  Why is this, you ask?  Could it be part of the team’s mindset, part of who we are/just what we do?  Play to our opponent’s level but not beyond?  Well, turns out it’s right there in our name!

TIMBEStheTie-ers

But that was last year, right?  Well, the 2014 season is underway and the Timbers are 0-0-2, having tied both matches so far.  Deja vu all over again.  The name fits.

Group of Death and friends

In honor of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil being less than 100 days away, I present an analysis of the strength of the W.C. Groups based on the latest FIFA World Rankings.  The term ‘Group of Death’ has historically been given to the toughest draw, a group where teams outside of the top two are expected to have easily advanced if put in a different group.  We do have a clear ‘Group of Death’ this World Cup and coming out on the shortest end of all the sticks is none other than my nation, the good ol’ US of A.

While not the “deathiest” of Groups of Death in history, this year’s is certainly rough with two top 5s together and two other strong soccer nations.  And USA ends up as the highest ranked team with two higher teams in its group.  So, come on stars and stripes!  And congrats Korea for being far and away the worst team included and yet having one of the easiest paths to advance!

But aside from the “grupo de morte”, what about names for the rest of the groups?  Below is the W.C. group, the (total number of) rankings of its teams, and a new Group Name.

GROUP G (56) GERMANY 2 PORTUGAL 4 USA 13 GHANA 37  Group of Death

GROUP D (65) URUGUAY 7 ITALY 8 ENGLAND 15 COSTA RICA 35  Group of Near-Mortal Wounding

GROUP B (78) SPAIN 1 NETHERLANDS 10 CHILE 14 AUSTRALIA 53  Group of Severe Uncertainty

GROUP E (88) SWITZERLAND 6 FRANCE 18 ECUADOR 24 HONDURAS 40  Group of Ho-Hum

GROUP C (90) COLOMBIA 5 GREECE 12 IVORY COAST 23 JAPAN 50  Group of Cake

GROUP A (92) BRAZIL 9 CROATIA 16 MEXICO 21 CAMEROON 46  Group of Look Mom, I’m on TV!

GROUP F (105) ARGENTINA 3 BOSNIA 17 IRAN 38 NIGERIA 47  Group of Kittens and Ice Cream

GROUP H (120) BELGIUM 11 ALGERIA 26 RUSSIA 22 KOREA 61  Group of We Probably Rigged the Draw

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Nothing makes me prouder to live in Beaverton than this sign

Nothing makes me prouder to live in Beaverton than this sign

Somehow I just expect the crudely-carved little wooden beaver to be attached to a stick and a man standing behind the sign, sliding him along a cut-out track, having the beaver make his way past the boob-shaped deep green hills of Beaverton in front the setting sun. And he does this for every passerby who make their way past the city limit, and maybe every once in a while when he feels a bit spicy, makes the beaver bounce ever so slightly as if happily dancing along. Happy trails, Mr Beaver…

NFL Mascot strength: update… how are they faring?

With the NFL season now 2/3 complete, here is an update to my Mascot strength rankings.  The horses are galloping away.  Lions, Tigers and Bears are pretty good.  Those who spend time on the sea are all wet.

(average # of wins categorized by type of mascot)

Horses 8.0 (Best) – Broncos, Colts
Dogs 6.0 (Great) – Browns (bulldog mascot), Saints (St Bernard mascot)
Native Americans 6.0 (Great) – Chiefs, Redskins
New Americans 6.0 (Great) – 49ers, Cowboys, Patriots
Bears 6 (Great) – Bears
Birds 5.6 (Good) – Seahawks (An Osprey?), Ravens, Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons
Cats 5.25 (Good) – Tigers (Bengals), Lions, Panthers, Jaguars
Aircraft 5 (Average) – Jets
Working Americans 4.5 (Below Average) – Steelers, Packers
Lightning 4 (Below Average) – Chargers
Mythological Peoples 4.0 (Below Average) – Giants, Titans
Horned Mammals 3.3 (Poor) – Rams, Buffalo (Bills), Texans (Bull mascot)
Marine Mammals 3 (Poor) – Dolphins
Pirates 3.0 (Poor) – Raiders, Buccaneers
White People 2 (Worst) – Vikings

NO, SERIOUSLY.

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Did the poor child every get a serious answer?

deep thought acorn hats

deep thought acorn hats

One of my favorite shapes in nature is the acorn/oak nut (etymological root – Oak-horn, love that). On a bike ride with my son, mid autumn, we stopped to look at all the deep red fallen oak leaves and what I assumed would be loads of acorns in a grassy area next to a busy road. Indeed there were hundreds in the small area where we were but nearly every one was an empty “acorn hat”, the meaty middle vanished. While it’s probably an easy conclusion to make that all of these have been eaten by a busy group of bluejays and hoarded by the army of squirrels in our neighborhood – the stark remainder of oak droppings gave me pause. Aside from the bellies of a jays and squirrels, there are many more fun conclusions to draw about where this enormous group of nuts ended up… So using its still perfectly in-tact leftovers I asked the absent acorn crop (and no one in particular) its fate. Hopefully a passerby or two will also give pause to examine the message and think about something they would never have considered that day.

NFL mascot strength

Some people predict who will be the best sports team in a season based on their top players.  Some track recent success and extrapolate.  Some use a complicated formula led by geographical bias and who has or hasn’t been in the news recently for DUII.  Some though, (and often it seems this is women) go purely by visual aesthetics of the team colors and uniform or by favorite mascot.  This last method intrigued me and so I present to you a performance recap (1/3 of the way into the 2013 NFL season) I came up with based solely on kind of mascot.  Here is average wins within a mascot type and how that ranks:

Horses 4.5 (Best) – Broncos, Colts
Dogs 4.0 (Great) – Browns (bulldog mascot), Saints (St Bernard mascot)
Native Americans 3.0 (Good) – Chiefs, Redskins
New Americans 3.0 (Good) – 49ers, Cowboys, Patriots
Fish 3 (Good) – Dolphins
Airplanes 3 (Good) – Jets
Birds 2.6 (Average) – Seahawks (An Osprey?), Ravens, Cardinals, Eagles, Falcons
Horned Mammals 2.0 (Below Average) – Rams, Buffalo (Bills), Texans (Bull mascot)
Bears 2 (Below Average) – Bears
Lightning 2 (Below Average) – Chargers
Cats 1.75 (Poor) – Bengals, Lions, Panthers, Jaguars
Mythological Peoples 1.5 (Poor) – Giants, Titans
Working Americans 1.0 (Worst) – Steelers, Packers
White People 1 (Worst) – Vikings
Pirates 1.0 (Worst) – Raiders, Buccaneers

Oregon Coast in Pelagic Polymers

16"x24" Found objects on cardstock

16″x24″ Found objects on cardstock

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I have made regular excursions to the Oregon Coast since moving to Oregon in 1988 and my family has been taking yearly trips to the coast that always involve several beach walks. Never can I (nor anyone in my family) recall seeing so much trash on the beach as we did in this year’s trip, most notably the thousands upon thousands of small plastic bits. They lay in wavy rows up and down the sand, left by the lines of the high tide.

This is surely due to some recent change in this trash’s ability to make its way from somewhere in the ocean to our beaches, not an increase in dumping or littering. Winds or currents or both (or…?) have caused this flotsam to now gather on our coast. Whether it hails from the Pacific trash vortex (the ever-increasing garbage accumulation in the North Pacific gyre) or is at least partly Japanese tsunami debris I cannot know, but its presence is startling and unsettling. Almost none of it appears to be trash you would expect on the beach, like objects from boats, fishing paraphernalia, or other beach-town industry waste.

These particular bits (plastics of different varieties) are small – most smaller than my thumb and many of them smaller than my finger nail. Clean-up crews like Solv and beach-combers come by at irregular intervals to collect large pieces of trash and debris but I was most struck that likely what I was seeing will never be picked up. Due to its size, it would be extremely labor-intensive to collect and separate from the sand and natural beach accumulation around it.

However, for a small time, I did just that: With the help of several family members, over a couple hours on a stretch of beach in North Lincoln City, we collected over three pounds of these small plastic pieces. I added to the collection by a half-pound a couple weeks later on a trip with friends to Pacific City, 20 miles north, where I saw the same issue. A drop in the bucket, sure, but seeing the bits gave me an idea. I was intrigued by the variety of colors, mostly shades of white, clear and blue (but also every hue you can imagine plastic coming in), most of it textured and color-gradated from long exposure to sun and splashing salt water.

If plastic is turning up on our beaches in greater numbers, what would a beach scene look like that is made completely of that plastic?

I know there are artists who create sculpture from large beach trash but I wanted to create something on a smaller scale, working more intricately (a lot of tweezer work) with the smaller pieces I believe don’t have much hope of ever being removed from these natural spaces.

I decided to create this work as a response to what I was seeing (for my own edification) and with a vague hope that some awareness of the magnitude of the problem at the Oregon coast could come from it. While creating it I found myself going back and forth between trying to make the scene realistic-looking and trying to make it look more like it’s made of trash. I got excited at arranging pieces that truly looked like rocks or beach sand and alternately worked to add pieces that are recognizable as a broken piece of something else but still fit in the scheme of the image. I hope, in the end, it looks like trash from up close and evokes an Oregon beach postcard scene from farther away. Realistically trashy or trashily realistic?

The first, most obvious dichotomy of this piece is the creation of a scene from nature using strictly objects of man-made refuse. On another level, the fact that these items of refuse came from the environment they now represent is the more powerful idea. Through accident and circumstance these man-made pieces lay across our landscape and now through man-made effort they intentionally become that landscape. Order to disorder and back again. And not only is beauty formed where it did not exist before, the act of removing what was once litter, in turn, restores beauty in a place where it had previously existed.

This also then becomes a commentary on the current state of our beaches, our oceans and the whole environment. Many would agree that our efforts so far to address these issues have not been sufficient, and from the look of things, it could get much more dire in a hurry.

Of course, it would take a lot for our currently beautiful coast line to turn into a place so dense with trash it resembles my picture, but maybe the thought of just such a thing could spark some change.

Check out these links for more information on these issues:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/09/07/as-japan-s-tsunami-debris-arrives-can-u-s-west-coast-handle-it.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

http://www.solv.org/what-we-do/solve-spring-oregon-beach-cleanup

I hope you enjoy it.

ManU Ginobli

 

ManU Ginobli

ManU Ginobli

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