Shooting from the lip/Jan. 14
If you're a diehard sports fan who follows his local teams, where is the one place you would hate to call home this morning? It would have to be Detroit, wouldn't it? Not because the weather is crummy right now (cloudy with a high of 34 today) or that it's a bad town (because it's actually a fine town with great people). It's just that rooting for Detroit sports teams these days is like rooting for the sun not to come up. You can root all you want, but it's an exercise in futility. So here's a look at the best and worst places to be a sports fan at this very moment.
Worst place to live as a sports fan right now
Heading into Thursday night, neither the Red Wings nor Pistons were playoff teams. The Red Wings, one of the NHL's elite teams over the past 15 years, were shockingly a point out of a playoff spot, while a recent 13-game losing streak has sunk the Pistons to near the bottom of the NBA's Eastern Conference. The last time the Pistons and Red Wings missed the playoffs in the same year was the 1982-83 season. And, heck, even the Lions made the NFL playoffs in both 1982 and 1983. So you have the Red Wings struggling and the Pistons floundering. Then you have the Lions, who did show signs of life this season, but they still have won only three of their past 38 games and two of their past 31. Then throw in the Tigers, who last season became the first team since 1901 to blow a three-game division lead with four games to play. Many in Detroit can't even find solace in Michigan football. The Wolverines are coming off their worst two-year stretch (8-16) since 1962-63.
Other cities who have it rough these days
It seems crazy to have Boston on this list, but hear me out. The teams in Beantown are still very good, just not great and certainly not up to the level Boston fans have grown accustomed to in recent years. The Patriots dynasty appears over. Do you realize the Pats, who were beaten soundly in the first round of the NFL playoffs, haven't won a postseason game since Jan. 20, 2008? Meantime, the Red Sox were knocked out of the first round of the playoffs last year and the Celtics did something they almost never do -- they lost a Game 7 at home, to the Magic in the Eastern Conference semifinals. That leaves the Bruins, who were supposed to be gearing up for a Stanley Cup run but find themselves in the middle of the playoff pack, well out of the division lead.
Let's face it, things aren't all that hot around here. The Bucs are awful, the Lightning continues to flop around just outside of a playoff spot and even the Rays were a bit of a disappointment last season. And the local college football team is coming out of a messy scandal.
The good folks have nothing in Green Bay but the Packers, so you assume last week's loss to the Cardinals tastes like moldy cheese. Now they are spending half their time bellyaching about last week's officiating and the other half realizing they have to watch Brett Favre play for the Vikings this weekend.
Pittsburgh was named the No. 1 sports city in America by the Sporting News only three months ago. As of this moment, it is home to the defending Super Bowl and Stanley Cup champs. So why is it on the list? Well, the Steelers missed the playoffs, and the Penguins have lost eight of 12. Plus, the Pirates are pretty much a lost cause, aren't they?
Best place to be a sports fan today
Who would've ever thought Phoenix would be the place to be for a sports fan? For years, the Cardinals were a joke, having made the NFL playoffs only once since moving to Phoenix in 1988 until last season. Then came last year's improbable Super Bowl run and now they are coming off a thrilling first-round playoff victory against the Packers. Meantime, the financially troubled Coyotes were supposed to be a disaster this season, but instead find themselves among the leaders in the NHL's Western Conference. The NBA's Suns are 10 games over .500.
Other cities who have it good these days
For the first time in years, the Cowboys look like they have a team that matches their arrogance. They look as good as any to win the whole thing. Meantime, the NBA's Mavericks lead their division, and those in Big D who are fans of the University of Texas can brag about having the No. 2 college football team in the country and the No. 1 men's college basketball team.
True, the Giants had a horrible season, but the Jets have a playoff win, the Knicks are showing signs of life in the NBA (and LeBron James could be on his way) and the Rangers are doing fine under John Tortorella. But none of that is that big of a deal. The Yankees are the World Series champs and that's all that really matters in New York.
Does any sport mean more to a town than college football does to Tuscaloosa? The answer is no.
The Lakers have the best record in the NBA, the NHL's Kings are surprisingly good and there are rumors they are going to acquire Atlanta superstar Ilya Kovalchuk. The Dodgers were a playoff team as were the Angels right down the road.
ESPN will air 14 NASCAR Spring Cup races in 2010, including nine of the 10 races in the Chase. ABC will air three prime-time Saturday night races. ABC/ESPN's 17-race coverage begins with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 25 and concludes with the season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead on Nov. 21. In the past, ABC has carried the bulk of the ABC/ESPN NASCAR races. "Last year's performance showed us that ESPN provides the best home for NASCAR,'' said ESPN exec VP/content John Skipper. All NASCAR Sprint Cup race telecasts on the ESPN networks will continue to be preceded by NASCAR Countdown. … Golf Week is reporting that Golf Channel has not renewed the contracts of studio host/reporter Iain Page and reporter Adam Barr. … Appearing on Showtime's Inside the NFL, Junior Seau, who retired this week, said he would like to go into broadcasting full time next season.
Three things that popped into my head
1. It doesn't seem fair that the Cardinals and Ravens have to play Saturday after playing last Sunday when their opponents (Saints, Colts) will have two weeks off.
2. So the Raiders give Lane Kiffin an NFL job when he's 31. The University of Tennessee throws him a lifeline when he tanks out in Oakland. Now USC brings him in to follow one of the most successful coaches in college history. And, oh, Vols fans are upset. Why such a fuss over a guy who has a career record of 12-21?
3. If you had a choice between hiring Lane Kiffin or Skip Holtz, who would you take? I'd suggest USF did better than USC.