Top Ten American Sports FranchisesSaturday, August 1, 2009 14:01
A few weeks ago I was listening to a morning radio program and the announcers read a list they found on the Internet of the “Top Ten American Sports Franchises”. Quite simply, the list was a complete joke full of bias for and against certain cities as well as entire sports (basketball was over-represented, to the detriment of hockey, which was not included at all).
I felt the only way to respond was to generate my own such Top Ten list.
I had to set some ground rules for my selection process. First off, since winning championships is the ultimate goal of any sports franchise, the best team in any given sport has to be the one with the most titles. No ifs, ands or buts. That is the very definition of being the best in one’s sport.
The above rule made the slotting of four teams (though not necessarily their order) very easy. For the remaining six, however, other factors come into play that could very well mean a team with less championships being ranked higher than a team with more in the same sport. These factors include the strength of the teams’ other (non-championship) history, dominance over shorter periods of time, size and scope of a teams’ fanbase, and whether the team has stayed put in one city or moved locations.
Comparisons between sports involved the length of the league’s history, the number of teams playing in the league over the years, and the sport’s overall place in the American consciousness.
Without further to do, my Top Ten American Sports Franchises:
10. San Francisco 49ers (5 championships, 5th in NFL)
The Niners were the team of the 80s in the NFL. At a perfect 5-0, San Francisco has the best winning percentage in Super Bowl history of any franchise that has played more than one game (three teams are 1-0).
9. Detroit Red Wings (11 championships, 3rd in NHL)
The Red Wings have the third most titles in the NHL, but unlike the second place Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit has recent dominance at a time when the NHL has developed into a much larger league. The grueling nature of the Stanely Cup playoffs makes any repeated runs at the title that much more impressive. Hockeytown has as much lore as any other US NHL city.
7-tie. St. Louis Cardinals (10 championships, 2nd in MLB)
The Cardinals are the senior circuit’s answer to the Yankees, but for some reason their great history of success is relatively overlooked. The Cards have seventeen pennants to go along with their ten titles and have been a consistently competitive team throughout their history. They have a great fanbase but, at least these days, don’t receive the national acclaim they deserve.
7-tie. Boston Red Sox (7 championships, 4th in MLB)
The Red Sox were these dominant team in the early part of the 20th century, winning five titles in sixteen years. Then came the long drought during which even the losses were epic, followed by the recent resurgence starting in 2004. The Boston Pilgrims’ victory over Pittsburgh in the very first World Series was pivotal in establishing the American League as a competitor to the National. Red Sox Nation is as strong as any team’s national following, and walking into Fenway Park is the epitome of entering baseball history.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers (6 championships, 4th in NFL)
The Steelers make one of the largest leaps in the ranking, jumping over two football teams with more titles than the ‘Burgh. Why? Pittsburgh has been the dominant team of the Super Bowl era, with all six of their championships coming during that period when the NFL’s size and popularity grew by leaps and bounds. The Steelers also have a great national following.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (15 championship, 2nd in NBA)
Lakers’ fans will most definitely object to being ranked fifth, but they cannot argue with the fact that the Lake Show is only second in NBA titles (albeit first in Finals appearances). The Lakers also lose points due to the fact that they moved from Minneapolis and five of their titles came in their former home (team-city stability counts). But in every other manner the Lakers are easily one of the top American sports franchises.
4. Montreal Canadiens (23 championships, 1st in NHL)
The Canadiens have the second most titles of any team in any sport, but they fall to fourth for a couple of reasons. Hockey, for a long time, has been the little brother to the other three sports in terms of popularity. The NHL also had fewer teams than its brethren for most of its history, and thus less teams to beat for the title.
3. Boston Celtics (17 championships, 1st in NBA)
The NBA has the shortest history of the Big Four and the Celtics have won over a quarter of the league’s championships. Boston’s dynasty under Red Auberach in the 1960s was as dominant as any professional team has ever been, and the Celtics hold a huge margin over their closest competitors, the Lakers, in head-to-head Finals match-ups (9-2).
2. Green Bay Packers (12 championships, 1st in NFL)
The Packers leap over the Celtics and Canadiens due to the NFL’s current stature as America’s most popular sport. Green Bay’s success is all the more impressive due to it being the smallest market of any franchise in the Big Four sports. The Pack is the only NFL team to three-peat… and they’ve done so twice! Heck, the NFL’s Championship trophy is named after Vince Lombardi, and is there any more famous football stadium than Lambeau Field?
1. New York Yankees (26 championships, 1st in MLB)
I hate ‘em, but the Yankees are the best of the best in every which way. More titles than any other team in any other sport. Dominance over an extended period of time. And baseball, despite its losses to football over the last thirty years, was the dominant sport for most of the 20th century, earning its nickname as America’s Pastime.
Most Honorable Mention: Chicago Cubs (2 championships, tied with many in MLB)
The Cubs can’t be justified for the Top Ten, due to the team only notching two World Series titles on its belt, but they are still a “great” franchise. Chicago’s greatness, however, comes not from its success but from its lack thereof. The years of losing have only fueled the loyalty and fanaticism of the Cubbie fans. Wrigley Field is the second oldest major league ballpark and a place of beauty. Quite simply, the Cubs have a mystical aura around them that transcends championship success.
Other Honorable Mentions:
Oakland Athletics (9 championships, 3rd in MLB; 5 while in Philadelphia)
Los Angeles Dodgers (6 championships, 5th in MLB; 1 while in Brooklyn)
Chicago Bears (9 championships, 2nd in NFL)
New York Giants (7 championship, 3rd in NFL)
Chicago Bulls (6 championships, 3rd in NBA)
Toronto Maple Leafs (13 championships, 2nd in NHL)
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