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Bob Ryan

Boston has been ranked America’s No. 1 sports city, and who are we to argue?

Boston has at least one championship in each of the four major sports this century.CHIN, BARRY/GLOBE STAFF PHOTO

Hey! Hey! Congratulations to us. We’re No. 1!

Boston is America’s No. 1 Sports City. Says who, you ask? That’s the conclusion of WalletHub, which identifies itself as a “personal finance website.”

These people weren’t messing around, either. They analyzed 392 locales, categorizing them as either Large, Midsize, or Small, with most of the Smalls being the home of a major college sports power, or maybe not-so-major college sports power, since No. 6 in the Small City list is — no offense — Hanover, N.H.

WalletHub polled a number of academicians to determine just what constitutes a great sports city. Among them was Joseph Cooper, an associate professor at UMass Boston, who said, “A good sports city is composed of multiple professional and college sports teams (preferably teams that have a history of success with championships), a lively downtown area with several entertainment options, a host city with a team that is part of the historic rivalry, and a strong connection between the sports brands and the culture of the city and region.”

If those are the ground rules, then, yes, Boston has a lot going for it.


Start with the history. Baseball has mattered in this town since the 1870s. The Bruins were a charter member of the NHL. The Celtics were a charter member of the BAA (forerunner of the NBA). The Patriots were a charter member of the American Football League, entering the NFL via a merger in 1970.

Boston is no stranger to a championship parade.Elise Amendola/Associated Press

Championships? No city in the 21st century has been better blessed in this regard than Boston. We lead the pack with 12, and we are the only one with championships in each of the four major team sports.

We have the “historic rivalry” part covered with the Red Sox and Yankees. No one can dispute that.


I’m not sure what the downtown entertainment thing has to do with anything.

The college thing is debatable. I’ve long felt that the one thing that prevented us from claiming the top spot as a great sports city was our longtime relative indifference to big-time college football and basketball. But I must acknowledge we have no trouble filling the building when the NCAA basketball tournament comes to town, so that must mean something.

Our big college claim to fame is hockey, a very regional niche sport. No other city, and only one state (Minnesota), could hope to stage anything like the Beanpot, but no one in Tuscaloosa, Lawrence (Kan.), Grand Forks, or even Los Angeles has ever heard of the Beanpot.

I do like the viewpoint of University of Miami professor Windy Dees.

“Winning is great,” she says, “but die-hard fans are at the heart of any great sports city. When people passionately support the hometown team(s) through the ups and downs of competition, the feeling reverberates throughout the city and the sport.

“A strong sports culture is also important. If sports are not valued and supported in a particular region, local games and sporting events feel like any other date on the calendar.”

How do you compare the passion of Boston's sports fans to, say, New York's?Seth Wenig/Associated Press

Certainly, sports matter greatly here. Yet I still think it’s difficult to quantify. Are we more passionate overall than people in, say, Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York? I ask because I have long believed that the I-95 corridor from Washington to Boston is quite homogeneous culturally, favoring sports, music, and entertainment in general in equal measure.


And guess what? In the overall rankings of “Large” sports cities, WalletHub has Boston at 1, New York at 3, Philadelphia at 5, and Washington at 7. Baltimore is down at 24, and I just don’t buy it.

By the way, Los Angeles is No. 2 and Pittsburgh is a surprising 4. To me, Pittsburgh is disproportionately a pro football town, although I realize they do love their Penguins. Pittsburgh happens to be the only one in the top 20 lacking a pro basketball team.

WalletHub also breaks down the cities by sport. In baseball, they have it as follows: 1. New York; 2. Los Angeles; 3. St. Louis; 4. Atlanta; 5. Boston. Wait a minute. Atlanta over Boston in baseball? No way. And I’ll tell you right now St. Louis should be ranked No. 1 in baseball. Even crazier, Oakland is ranked No. 8. Huh?

Here’s one they got right: Boston came in No. 1 for hockey. Right behind was Detroit, and that’s important because we must put to rest any nonsense that Detroit is “Hockeytown” compared with us. But what I found completely puzzling was their ranking of St. Paul (18) and Minneapolis (51).

First of all, they must always be linked in these matters as the Twin Cities. And 18? 51? What? The Twin Cities anchor what is the best overall hockey state. Check out the current college rankings. Hockey matters in the Twin Cities. This one makes zero sense.


For the record, WalletHub ranks Boston No. 3 in football, No. 2 in basketball, No. 5 in baseball, No. 1 in hockey, and No. 21 in soccer. They also have us No. 15 in college basketball, which I find interesting. As you might suspect, Durham, N.C., is No. 1 and Lexington, Ky., is No. 2 in college basketball, although I might flip them.

There’s lots, lots more. You can go look up WalletHub yourself. But you can now proceed with a new spring in your step. You, me … we’re No. 1, baby!

Bob Ryan can be reached at robert.ryan@globe.com.