North of the 400

North of Toronto, South of a championship

Further Notes From the Bottom of the Sports World

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I wouldn’t normally ask something like this, but is it just me or does ESPN have it in for Toronto?

ESPN The Magazine, everyone’s favorite sports glossy with an unwieldy name, recently named the Toronto Maple Leafs the worst team, of all teams among the four majors. They ranked behind the Cleveland Browns, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Columbus Blue Jackets. They even ranked behind the Sacramento Kings, whose owners are doing everything they can to make the city of Sacramento hate them.

One wonders how poorly the Leafs would’ve faired if MLS were included in the list: certainly the Toronto FC are just as awful. And what if other leagues were included? Remember, a Grantland columnist once called Toronto the worst sports city in the world, which means it’s worse than Pyongyang, Tehran or Freetown.

Unlike that ranking, the Leafs one comes with some justification: teams were ranked in categories like Bang For the Buck, Fan Relations, Affordability and Title Track, because RINGS BABY, THAT’S WHAT MATTERS.

It’s an interesting list: the Oklahoma City Thunder are tops overall, but didn’t finish first in any category, while the San Antonio Spurs lead four categories but are third overall. And somehow, the Phoenix Coyotes are sixth on the list, a puzzling placement, considering they’re ahead of every baseball team, including the Blue Jays (79).

Indeed, Toronto doesn’t fare too well on this list. The Jays are the highest ranked GTA team at 79 with the Raptors at 103. Who knew that the Rog was so awful at 112, the second-lowest ballpark on the list? That the stadium experience is wildly better for the Raptors (83) than it is for the Leafs (104)? That the Raptors are better coached than the Jays and Leafs? Or that Toronto’s chances at a championship go like this: Jays, Raptors, Leafs, with a gap between the Rogers Centre and the ACC that’s longer than walking from Eglinton to Union Station. And did you know ESPN doesn’t consider the CFL a major league? Well, neither does most of Toronto.

Still it makes me feel a little old: I can remember a time when the SkyDome, as it was then called, was something of a model stadium: a retractable roof, a giant television in centre field and a hotel way up on top. Now? There’s a bar on the street level of the Rog, a convenience store on the raised side and two stores where you can buy jerseys. At least they took out the video rental store (did anyone ever actually rent DVDs there?).

It sounds bad to hear the Leafs are the worst, but this poll clears up a few things about where the Big Smoke fares in the greater North American scheme of things. Remember when Toronto was the worst city in the world? Now it’s a little better! Between it’s three teams, Toronto’s got an average of 93, a number that’s actually a little ominous for reasons that nobody from outside the GTA gives a shit about.

But who’s worse than Toronto? For starters, there’s Oakland, coming in with a score of 98 between its four teams (I counted the Golden State Warriors). Also lower is San Diego: 104.5 between two teams. I didn’t rank everyone with two or more teams, but I think that’s it. If one includes one-team towns, Toronto finished higher than Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton, Sacramento and Columbus. Long Island is lower, too, if one wants to consider that separate from New York City.

What does this say about Toronto? Do I still root for the Worst Sports City in the Milky Way? Not really. Things have gotten better since then: the new owners of the Leafs and Raptors hemorrhage liquid money. The Jays have something resembling a future, thanks to Brett Lawrie, Colby Rasmus and hopefully Travis D’Arnaud. The Raptors likewise have Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and DeMar Derozan.

Things are looking up across the GTA. Even the Argos have turning it on lately, like in their comeback win against the Ti-Cats, at a hostile Ivor Wynne Stadium (is Ricky Ray the best quarterback Toronto’s had since they heyday of Damon Allen? I think so). We all can take pride that even if the Leafs are the worst, at least we aren’t any more.

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  1. […] try to run a positive blog here; there’s a lot of negativity around Toronto sports sometimes. But it’s not always feasible. This is one of those […]

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