Wonder in the detail: Nurse shark skin

Anyone ever looked up close at a nurse shark? Like, really close. What you find is fascinating and beautiful. And most photos I’ve seen of nurse sharks do not highlight this. My friend, Nat, recently photographed some while snorkeling in Belize. He captured this shot of these warm water monsters:

Belizian Nurse sharks. Photo courtesy Nat Johnson

Here it is up close:

Nurse shark skin detail.

Their tough (yet soft, I’ve read) skin has a texture made up of a semi-squared-off dots in a random pattern but pulling from a tight color palette. It seems perfect for blending in to a sandy ocean floor although I don’t know who a 14-foot shark hides from.

I stare at this skin and am mesmerized.

It is like a table full of cafe latte, chocolate pudding and coconut jellybeans.

It’s pointillism pre-Georges Seurat.

Nurse shark skin is nature’s version of a cobblestone walkway. The original earthy tile floor. And they had this pattern long before Irish farmers stacked rocks from their fields into meandering walls.

People are drawn to the look: dozens of laminate floor and tile makers have copied this design, maybe without even realizing it. Subconscious biomimicry.

I’m reminded of Indian corn with the way the shapes are pushed together in imperfect rows.


I see it as gorgeous handmade wabi sabi art. A pattern on a loose but noticeable grid. Classic and timeless.

Replicated nurse shark pattern and nurse shark-inspired indian corn.

Many a linoleum flooring designer has (unwittingly) copied the nurse shark.

Windmill, hidden wonder

You might call it quaint. Or even cute. A rounded plump and squat tower made of imperfectly hand-laid bricks. A narrow open window at each story shows up here or there. Gently, methodically spinning round at a pace that could lull you to sleep, the rickety lattice sails dangle strips of faded and torn cloth. Yes, the old-fashioned windmill appears a relic of the old world. Part of a peaceful and serene rural farmer’s lifestyle.

Old Dutch Windmill

It stands so unassuming. The feelings you get from a seeing one may be like seeing a crude pinwheel in a European garden. Or maybe like watching a skipping girl in pigtails. Like dipping your feet in the lazy creek. Like seeing Grandma clothes-pinning the wash on the line. Innocent, honest, traditional. Homey and warm.

But unlike tulips and wooden clogs and other images of Dutch tradition… the windmill, oh yes, is more than meets the eye.

Do you even realize what’s beyond this weathered exterior?

You see, upon arriving at the farm you were charmed. You were delighted as you followed the picket fence past the house, past the meandering geese, down the winding path to the stately windmill by the stream.

But walk a little closer. Near the doorway you start to notice the hum. Nearer still you feel the vibrations deep in your gut. Opening the thick, cracked wooden door and entering the structure assaults your senses. The strong smell of grain, cornmeal and dirt fill your nose. Yet this fact is ignored as you stare at the giant primitive machine before you. Two enormous 1,000 pound stones spin in a loud agitated dance. Consistently and uniformly they turn but in such constant tension, like equal strength sumo wrestlers deadlocked in grip at the center of the ring. Grinding and biting at each other the stones never stop rotating, never declaring a winner in their cruel match. Each groove and pore of the vertical stone makes pressing intimate contact with the surface of his horizontal partner but the rocks are cold and heartless to each other.

A simple mislaid hand and your fingers would be crushed then severed off, blood and flesh exploding out the ends while the bones are turned to dust. Yes, please be careful.

How those frail sails above you could turn such enormous rocks is baffling. Whole stalks go in and in the blink of an eye, fine powder slides out.

For what you thought was merely a country road marker to help you find your way like church steeples dotting the landscape is actually one of the most powerful and useful tools in the farmer’s arsenal. It is un-exaggeratingly life-sustaining. The windmill stops and farmer starves, no way to make the feed for the cattle or flour for the bread.

The windmill disguises unrecognized power like a lion in sheep’s clothing.

In the bowels of a simple windmill is an unseen contained wonder like when you slice open the dull pomegranate revealing an array of bright, juicy, flavor-laden pearls.

It is more than meets the eye like scrawny Canadian Steve Nash with his floppy hair might look like your dungeons and dragons buddy. But don’t judge by looks; he is a baller – an 8-time all star, 2-time NBA MVP and the quickest, most cleaver passer you may ever see.

Like the Wizard of Oz hiding behind the giant head masked by smoke and lights… but the complete inverse of that.

The windmill is master of the inside/outside paradox. Better than the Chameleon XLE sedan, (from the old SNL parody commercial with Phil Hartman and David Spade) the luxury sedan on the interior that’s made to look like a rusty junker on the outside so it won’t get stolen.

Let the windmill be a reminder to you: Be open to seeing potential where you thought it may not lie. See those spinning sails and think to consider what they are turning. Wonder what lies beneath. Stop and look behind the curtain. The magician does not walk in holding the beautiful doves. He must reach into the old worn top hat first. Never judge a book by its cover and do not misjudge the mighty windmill.

Donut Sunday

Do you have memories from growing up that almost feel like they happened yesterday? Memories so emotionally-charged (either positive or negative) that they can sit untouched in your brain for years but, at recall, instantly provide full, vivid, scintillating detail?

There is one such memory from my childhood that may be special above the rest. It is one of those magical memories that can bring a smile to my face at any moment. It’s one that encapsulates childhood joy and wonder, risk and reward, matching motive with opportunity and is singular in being able to cement a feeling of a time and place in my life. With apologies to my parents, this was not a special tradition or family vacation or even a learning moment. It happened at church, in fact, but was neither confirmation nor baptism.

 It was none other than Donut Sunday.

In the later years of grade school, once a month and maybe more often for special occasions a Sunday would be deemed “Donut Sunday”. I don’t know if the organizers called it this but that was its name to us. At the far end of the downstairs of our Baptist church in front of the kitchen, folding tables would be lined up end to end to end and covered with white donut boxes. Their lids were pre-opened revealing their glazed, sprinkled, cream-filled contents…

Now these were not gourmet donuts. Nothing along the lines of Blue Star or Krispy Kreme. No pink box. No bacon maple, no blue cheese cabernet. None of them had the words, ganache or brioche or mascarpone. These were not “doughnuts”, but donuts.

We’re talking run-of-the-mill, Middle-America, policeman, served with cheap coffee DONUTS. This did not matter in the slightest to me. And it certainly doesn’t tarnish the memory’s mystique. These were God’s gift to my taste buds. Upstairs I fed my soul and downstairs I delighted my stomach.

My older brother and I took Donut Sunday very seriously. And by took I mean “took advantage of”. This was no casual opportunity. It required a plan of attack. He was the captain and mastermind of our plan, I am sure, but I was a dedicated first mate and second to none in enthusiasm for it. In our lives growing up as brothers we may never have collaborated in such close fashion and with such perfect teamwork. I imagine the aspects of the plan grew organically through trial and error but by its final (dare I say, genius?) iteration it went something like this:

Upon discovering it was a Donut Sunday the onset of giddiness turned to nervousness and (like any great championship athlete) these energies were redirected into focused attempts of a flawless execution…

Phase 1: Quick and Dirty Firsts

When the church service would end my brother and I would race downstairs and beeline for the donut tables. Donuts one and two down the hatch as quickly as possible before anyone could notice. By this time many adults including my parents had made their way to the hall and so it was on to Phase 2.

Phase 2: Our Public Allotment

We could now take our time and carefully choose our favorite two donuts to enjoy in full view. Occasionally a third Phase 2 donut could be consumed should my parents have lingered too long after service and/or my general sense was that the eyes of the small-talking adults around me or the white-haired ladies in the kitchen had not fully or consciously cataloged my donut consumption.

Phase 3: Taking it Underground

Phase 3 was where the plan got real. We were in a large open rec hall/gymnasium-type space. In the layout of this room there was alcove off to the left. It was a sort of vestibule/mud room, maybe 10’x10’ with some coat hooks on the wall. It had a door to the kitchen, a door to the parking lot and an opening to the main room. This was our secret home base and it worked perfectly to our advantage. From this locale we could, within just a few steps, grab a donut and quickly be out of sight to enjoy another delicious pastry. Two, three or more donuts were had in this way, our 5th, 6th and 7th of the morning. We could take our time between donuts and wander the room and see if anyone was noticing us. We moved past the crowd of adult legs like snakes through grass.

Phase 4: The Beg

By now folks were finishing their conversations and beginning to head home and the thinning crowd meant time to ask my parents if we could please have another donut (or two). Things were wrapping up and there were still some donuts left on the tables, we informed them. The yeses were increasingly hesitant but generally did come. And usually the begging only had to kick in with Phase 4’s second donut.

My dad was in the Air Force and we moved throughout my early childhood. If I wanted friends in a new place I had to (get on my bike and) go out and make them. I learned to be independent, fend for myself, take charge of my own destiny in a way. I don’t know if this part of my personality came into play in my attitude toward taking full advantage Donut Sunday but it came in handy.

The reason this memory is so vivid and fond for me may have been something about my inner childhood rascal getting to come out. See, I was normally a really good kid. It was the feeling of getting away with a deed quite close to the line of wrongdoing. It was something that I probably wasn’t supposed to be doing and thus I was “getting away with something” and yet was not so bad as to actually upset anyone or get me into real trouble should I be caught.

It was getting to hone and execute a plan: applying ingenuity and innovation, savvy and cunning. Playing spy and thief. Getting to feel both giddy and honery. It was a feeling a bit like Bus driver Chris Farley in the scene from the movie Billy Madison where he laughs all the way through eating a white bread PB&J from 30 stolen bag lunches.

Honestly… I don’t know how I never threw up. I don’t know how I ate lunch or dinner that day. I don’t know how my button-up shirt still fit.

I believe enough years have past that I can fully admit the extent of my donut skulduggery. Maybe this post should be titled, Donut Sunday: maple-glazed confessions of church kid. Again, very sincere apologies to my parents and a heartfelt Thank You to whatever faithful churchgoers regularly provided that endless supply of Sunday Donuts. God bless you.

On Summiting Mountains: Life in the Shadow of the Cascades

My first Mountain Top experience came at age 14. On a summer Boy Scout trip to the Philmont Ranch in New Mexico we trekked to the top of Mount Baldy, or ‘Old Baldy’ as the old gold miners called it. I recall it as a tougher-than-average hike but that was just compared to my usual Scout hikes on the Pacific Crest Trail. As a kid I didn’t appreciate the accomplishment like I do today. I didn’t even take a picture. I certainly didn’t think it was any kind of defining moment in my life. The hike that day wasn’t very long and aside from some loose rock (scree, serious climbers call it) on the final scramble, it wasn’t technical.

Another term serious mountaineers use, topographic prominence, refers to a mountain’s relative height to its surrounding landscape. Baldy’s is just 2,701’ and I believe our hike was only 3.5 miles each way. It may be the easiest summit I’ve completed despite being the second highest peak I’ve experienced. It only struck me much later, looking back, that Baldy’s 12,445’ elevation sounds fairly impressive. At least in these parts.

Cousin Dave on Mt St Helens’ crater rim.

By comparison one of the most difficult summit journeys I’ve done is Mount St. Helens whose blown-out crater rim “summit”, paltry by comparison, only measures 8K’ and change. But the elevation we gained that day was 4,500’.

A little on that trek: My hiking partners, cousins Sam and Dave, and I started out about 11pm, hiking through the night in hopes of a sunrise summit. In the dark of night and cover of snow, we ended up losing the trail. We were still heading basically for the intended crater rim spot but ended up ascending a more steep and icy route just at that time of night our bodies were tiring. And then the wind began rapidly picking up to significant speeds and the ice-frosted snow underneath thickened and stopped securely crunching under our footfalls. Thank God for good crampons. We conquered the steep slope but ended up taking an hour break pressed against an outcropping of rocks trying desperately to stay warm and keep that blasted wind off us. It was a sobering experience for a father of two, to be sure, and a good reminder of why we take the safety precautions we do. And to think I’ve started hikes at trailheads higher than this summit!

These experiences are all relative.

Now, I am definitely not a Mountain Climber. I don’t own rope you measure in meters. I don’t own carabiners rated for anything more than securing a towel to your golf bag. What I’m doing is more like ‘extreme hiking’. With an ice axe, boot crampons and a helmet we can look the part of climbers but most of the time we’re really just walking. Up steep mountains. Over snow, ice and sometimes boulders.

We start at the prescribed trailhead (usually the highest point up you can drive a car). Then we backpack a common route to the summit, sometimes with a short tent sleep somewhere in the middle. I may have some “rope up” treks in my near future but I’m not there yet.

Other mountain enthusiasts pick more difficult or longer routes up grander glaciers or rock formations. Noble and impressive. Then again, other climbers take any advantage they can get to hit the top, such as on Mount Hood, renting a ride in a SnowCat to chew up the first 2,500 feet from Timberline Lodge to the Palmer Chairlift. To each their own.

Some spend days at altitude to acclimatize and another full day to summit. Some elite athletes race up and bomb down on skis in a single morning. And I’ll never forget on a dry and warm day on South Sister watching a grade school girl in sandals begin the final ascent past grown men in technical boots who’d said they weren’t going to continue. The men changed their minds.

Pride is powerful; the body’s built-in miracle drug.

Despite differences in method and style there is a certain bond mountain summiters hold. The community you will find on dedicated Mountaineering websites and blogs out there shows as much. And on a trek when summit ascenders pass descenders, a quick friendly conversation is nearly always had.

My brother Ryan makes his way up the final chute after the Pearly Gates on Mt Hood.

View of Central Oregon Cascade peaks from Middle Sister.

There are a lot of downsides to this activity. The risk of injury or worse, for sure. But the guaranteed downside is pain. All kinds of pain. There’s the cold. The muscle ache and body fatigue. Sleep deprivation. Sore knees, feet, backs. Blisters, rashes, scrapes. Altitude headaches and nausea.

But the upsides. Oh, the upsides. For a person who loves the outdoors, loves sport and competing but also gets high on color and texture, witnessing unique shapes and ‘scapes… it is wholly ideal.

I summit:

  • To see the icy textures up close.
  • To experience the landscape changes from valley floor to forest to timberline to peak.
  • To gain unique vantage points, looking down onto the land you normally inhabit.
  • To see more stars at night than you ever thought possible.
  • To be within view of civilization but feel so, so far away.
  • To witness “mountain shadow” (a mountain peak’s sunrise shadow on its Western face or, even cooler, right in front of you on top of clouds or haze)
  • To realize in such a unique way the size and ferocity of these landscape dominators.
  • To constantly experience completely new views of mountains you thought you were pretty familiar with.
  • To take the final step and realize, after hours of toil, that you’re there. That you can now spin 360 degrees and see absolutely nothing above you and miraculous topography below.
  • To push myself mentally and push my body physically to accomplishments just not replicated in a gym.
  • To glissade down (basically the longest sled run you’ve ever taken)
  • And then there’s the simple accomplishment of it. It’s like the biggest, fastest roller coaster at the theme park. Sure the smaller rides are fun and you’d rather just do the bumper cars with the kids… But it’s there. It’s the big one. How can you say you “did” the park without hitting its main attraction?

Mountain shadow of Mt Hood.

Ice formations at sunrise on Mt Adams.

When you live near a mountain range, these are our main attractions. I live in the shadow of the Cascade Range so my bucket list looks like this (four down, six to go). There are bigger ranges in the world but these peaks are my peaks.


On the long slog back down the mountain (when the snow has softened too much to glissade) with our knees throbbing, quads screaming, heads aching and stomachs growling, we play a game called “How much money would it take for you to turn around at the trailhead and go right back up again”? I believe the first time we played it my figure was around $10K. Subsequent trips may have ended up five or ten times that. I honestly think on most occasions, even with iron will power, my body simply would not have been able to make that happen.

Many times the phrase “That’s the last mountain I will ever climb” is uttered by someone. But “The Pain is Temporary, the Pride is Forever”, right? Or “Time heals all wounds”, they say. Well, time also heals memories of wounds it seems…

The over/under on time passed until we start planning the next one is about three months.


You feel “on top of the world” on a clear day on Shasta.

If the effort doesn’t get you, the altitude headache will. Looking back up whence we came on Shasta.

My high-point on earth. 14,179′. Here’s to going higher.

St Helens


View from the top of Adams.

Our signature post trek photo in our matching MSR Mountain SnowShoes.

Pole Power: The white eagle flies on the gridiron

Another oddity from the world of sports happened over the weekend and I could not let it go unnoticed…  If you watched the Raiders-Patriots NFL game you would have seen every point in the contest scored by a name ending in -KOWSKI.  First a FG by Sebastian Janikowski.  Then a TD by Rob Gronkowski, followed by the PAT by Stephen Gostkowski.  Then another couple FGs from Janikowski and a pair from Gostkowski for the final score of 16-9 in favor of the Pats.  But no matter the team result, not a bad day for the Polish proud!  The noble white eagle deserves to firmly grasp an American football in its clearly capable golden talons…


A Donovan Tribute

The all-time top goal scorer and assist leader for USA soccer.  Number one in MLS for career goals: regular season, playoffs AND all-star game.  This is none other than Landon Donovan.

In light of his recent announcement to retire from the LA Galaxy and Major League Soccer, I present a tribute to what many feel is his greatest goal.

By the way, the announcement comes right on the heels of Donovan scoring the game-winning goal in the MLS All-Star game versus Bayern Munich.  Anyone else think Jurgen Klinsmann, coach of goal-challenged Team USA, noticed that Donovan (whom he left off the World Cup squad) blasted a goal past German goal keeper Manuel Neuer (the man universally called the best keeper at WC14)?

This tribute is a visual of the ball path leading to Donovan’s 90th minute goal versus Algeria in the 2010 World Cup (which as we know, would end up being his last).  The significance of the goal cannot be understated, as it single-handedly took the USA from elimination to winners of Group C, advancing to the round of 16.  The last minute goal of a 0-0 game brought pandemonium to the country, as awesomely documented in dozens of fan reaction videos, garnering many millions of views online. The accomplishment was defining.  The moment was electric.

The play developed thus: a sure-handed stop of a header toward’s USA’s goal by Tim Howard, who immediately overhands an outlet to Donovan.  Donovan takes the ball in stride and streaks down the right side.  The play starts with a perfect pass to Jozy Altidore who crosses to Clint Dempsey whose point-blank shot is blocked by Algerian keeper Rais M’Bolhi. The rebounded ball sees a quick flick of the inside of Donovan’s right foot and rest is history.

Included is the delightful and historic commentary of announcing great, Ian Darke.


Darke’s commentary:

“…Distribution: brilliant.  Landon Donovan.  There are things on here for the USA… Can they do it here? Cross. Dempsey is denied again… But Donovan has scored!!  Oh, can you believe this?!  Go(al) go(al), USA! Certainly through.  Ohhh, it’s incredible!  You could not write a script like this!”

The Agent of Champion

I recently attended the Pre Classic track meet in Eugene, Oregon (AKA Track Town, USA).  It’s one of just two Diamond League events in the USA and has been, arguably, the most competitive professional track meet held in this country. A great day of watching track with the Rasca twins, fellow track junkies and Pre nuts.


Upon entering Hayward Field I took a place standing right at the fence at the south end of the track across from the high jump area.  After the national anthem, up walked a fairly imposing 6’6″, broad-shouldered, salt ‘n’ pepper-haired man who took a place next to me. I looked up and said, “How ya doing?”  He gave me silent, polite nod. He wore a red polo and multiple meet credentials around his neck so I ventured a conversation starter, “Are you a meet official?”

In a thick Eastern European-esque accent he replied, “No, I am agent.”

A secret agent? Wait, if he’s Russian, is he KGB? The mob?… The reality of my surroundings sunk in quickly enough however and I replied, “Oh, who are your athletes?”

“Chicherova.” Which, in his quick Russian speak sounded to me like “Chchhhvuh.”  After reading my face, which may have given away my lack of total comprehension he added, “She is champion”.  A snarky version of me would have countered, “Well, aren’t we all?”  But a quick search on my iphone revealed, yes indeed, he was referring to the Russian, Anna Chicherova, both the reigning Olympic and World Champion in the high jump. If you come across the world for whatever “agent work” there might be in an afternoon of track for a single athlete, she is not a bad one to represent.  He was happy to chat and talked about how he like liked the area and what a great meet this was.

While all the women warming up for the high jump competition looked similar – tall and slender with long pony tails and many wearing matching magenta Nike warmups, I was, indeed, able to find his muse, who walked around the red track surface, not unlike a giraffe, with a slow, measured grace.

Later as I watched from the stands as Chicherova easily cleared 2.01m (6’7″) to win the meet I quickly looked over to the south fence and saw the giant Russian give a silent satisfied nod and clap politely. His girl is champion again.

World Cup Brand competition

World Cup fever is continuing to swell with competition in Brazil starting in just two weeks.  News and stats have been coming out recently regarding brands involved with World Cup players and teams. And in light of Adidas and Nike thought to be about equal, currently, in soccer revenue and Puma coming on strong lately in pursuit of teams but, interestingly, also deciding to hold off all its marketing push until after the World Cup, I thought I’d provide some visuals regarding these three giants of the footwear and apparel industry. Of the 32 teams involved in WC14, 27 are sponsored by the big three: Image

Nike sponsors six of the top 10 most marketable players (calculated mostly by perception of global awareness).  This year’s Ballon D’Or winner, Ronaldo, interestingly, has three times the number of Facebook and Twitter followers as the average of the rest of the top 10…



*Note: Not all top 10 most marketable will get to continue their exposure over the next month.  Zlatan’s Sweden failed to qualify for WC and 36 year-old Henry is not on Les Bleus’ squad.

Houston = Portland?

On one odd day in late April, 2014 the cities of Houston and Portland took a long look at each other on the field of play and may have felt like they were looking in a mirror.  Despite their notable differences in player personnel and style, the professional teams from these two cities found they had identical offensive output at the end of the game… in two different sports on the same day!  So, kinda weird, right?



Okay, maybe not so shocking since we know the Timbers are (not so) secretly the Tie-ers, and the Blazers and Rockets have gone to overtime 3 out of their 4 games so far in this 4/5 NBA playoff first round match-up of teams who had the same regular season record (54-28).  But nonetheless, I give pause to this sporting world anomaly we may never see the likes of again.


Title Town, USA

Regional honor. Civic pride. My town/our town. You take this to heart: You know the colloquial slang. You can name the local famous people. 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 (or most visible) 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

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 NJ Nets moved across the river they took on the 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.  Now, I imagine nearly every soccer title parade pales in comparison to NBA or NFL but hey, a title’s a title.

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

Baltimore, a city who seems 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.

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