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Best of Major League Baseball: St. Louis


By Stan McNeal

Sporting News


Some of you surely snickered when you saw this choice. You probably figured that because the Sporting News is based in St. Louis, we're just a bunch of homers who wouldn't consider there could be better baseball elsewhere.


Well, sorry. Picking St. Louis over Chicago and New York was difficult. We love Wrigley Field. We're excited for Ozzie Guillen. And who wouldn't want to live in a place where, on most summer days, attending a major league game is as simple as hopping on the Red Line to Wrigley or U.S. Cellular? As for New York, it will remain the center of the baseball world as long as Yankee Stadium is standing.


But St. Louis deserves its props, too. Great history. Class organization. And over the past two seasons, no team has won more games than the Cardinals.


This, however, is why St. Louis is the best baseball town around not named Boston: On a recent Thursday afternoon, with the temperature approaching triple digits and the ho-hum Brewers in town, 44,000-plus poured through the turnstiles at Busch Stadium.


That's just crazy, you say. Perhaps. And that's what separates St. Louis.



Best of NASCAR: Bristol, Tenn.


By Matt Crossman

Sporting News


The consensus is so strong that there's no point in arguing, equivocating, hemming or hawing: Bristol Motorspeedway is the best place to watch a Nextel Cup race. Drivers, fans, owners, crew guys -- everybody agrees.


Bristol is a quaint mountain town, full of earnest smiling, enthusiastic waving and rusty Camaros.


A can't-miss stop on race weekend is the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Museum. The city has history, beauty, tradition ... and none of that stuff matters.


What's great about Bristol is the naked aggression on the track. Drivers start their cars, shut off common sense and press pause on every synapse that keeps them (marginally) sane everywhere else.


The place is tight, closed in, the stands stretching six stories up -- so high you feel like you're standing at the bottom of a volcano, only here they sacrifice Jeff Gordon fans, not virgins (not that the two don't overlap).


The engines belch black death, a noise full of anger, except that nothing is anybody's fault -- not ever, not the most blatant wreck, not the most egregious sudden swerve to the right. It's always "That's just Bristol." And we wouldn't have it any other way.



Best of the NBA: San Antonio


By Stan McNeal

Sporting News


San Antonio is the second largest city in Texas, but it has only one big-league franchise. Well, if you have only one, the Spurs are the team to have.


With the best winning percentage in U.S. team sports over the past seven years, the Spurs have emerged as the NBA's model franchise -- just ahead of the Pistons, whom the Spurs beat in The Finals. Other teams might have more devoted fans (Kings) or a nicer building (Pacers) or a more innovative owner (Mavericks). No franchise, however, has a more complete package.


San Antonio has a championship roster (two titles in three years), strong leadership (coach Gregg Popovich and the front office avoid bad contracts and problem players), a sparkling arena (SBC Center opened in 2002) and good fortune (winning the draft lottery in 1997 when Tim Duncan was the prize).


A devoted basketball town since its ABA days, San Antonio truly kicks up its heels for these Spurs. SBC Center played to 99 percent capacity last season, and an estimated 350,000 turned out for the Spurs' championship parade along the downtown River Walk.


And with Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in their primes and under contract through 2010, those good times should keep on rolling.



Best of the NFL: Green Bay


By Katie Koss

Sporting News


It started as a simple project for Gordy and Fred Baumgart, a father and son who wanted to repaint an old school bus for the family's 30-minute trek to Green Bay for Packers games. But as the ideas started flowing, the refurbishing quickly turned into Packerland's version of Pimp My Ride.


Complete with a pair of goal posts and an actual game ball on top, the bus is a mobile monument to Lambeau Field. The exterior is painted to look like a football field, and the interior screams green and gold. Fans flock to it, fellow motorists gawk at it, players sign the walls inside of it.


The Baumgarts, who have 10 season tickets, often are joined by friends for the ride from Appleton, Wis. That makes the trip even more festive, but for Fred, nothing compares to having a seat inside Lambeau on game day. "It's like electricity's flowing through you," he says.


In Green Bay, the Packers aren't just the talk of the town; they are the town. The devotion manifests itself everywhere, from the Baumgarts' bus to fans lining the fences to watch training camp practices, from this week's Family Night scrimmage being sold out in advance to fans doing the polka to "The Bears Still Suck." Allegiance to the Pack is passed down through generations, and it bands families together.


But newcomers needn't worry: If the 14-seat bus is full, there's always room on the bandwagon.



Best of hockey: Philadelphia


By Paul Grant

Sporting News


On the surface, Philadelphia is so yesterday. Who still believes in brotherly love? And that inoperable freedom bell thingy and Ben Franklin's house are about as far from hip as Philly is from L.A. Philadelphia is a retro reality. Why does it get the glory?


Because it is one of the few cities that happily clings to its hockey past. In this case, being old-fashioned is a good thing. Rather than cry over their cheesesteaks about the absence of their beloved, locked-out Flyers, Philadelphians instead embraced the AHL's Phantoms. Or perhaps the better word is stalked. The attraction culminated with an AHL playoff-record 20,103 fans showing up at the Wachovia Center to cheer on their adopted Phantoms during Game 4 of their Calder Cup finals sweep of the Chicago Wolves. Heck, the Nashville Predators had trouble attracting that many to two games.


"This crowd was unbelievable," winger Eric Meloche says. "Philly likes champions, and right now we are the champions. Philadelphia is a championship city once again."


As an NHL city that rabidly supported an AHL team during hockey's winter of discontent, it's a winner in our books, too.



Best of college basketball: Philadelphia


By Mike DeCourcy

Sporting News


Temple guard Mardy Collins does not look like he belongs in a museum. He looks lively. He runs, he jumps, he shoots. He does all of this in the best college basketball city in America -- Philadelphia, which sometimes is wrapped so tightly to its history that the present can be smothered.


No, we don't want to forget about the contributions of Ben Franklin, Guy Rodgers, Bill Mlkvy and Howard Porter. But Big Five basketball still is a vital, electric enterprise. "People don't really understand how important those games are and how hard we're playing," Collins says.


The city has six Division I programs: the Big Five (Temple, Villanova, Saint Joseph's, Penn and La Salle) and Drexel. Where else can you find that? The arrival of conferences such as the Big East and Atlantic 10 altered the dynamics of the Big Five, which traditionally had matched all the teams in a double round-robin series contested exclusively at the Palestra. But the competition survived that threat. The games sometimes are played in other gyms and arenas but still contain a special intensity that is hard to match.


"It's definitely different because the records don't matter," says Drexel coach Bruiser Flint, a former St. Joe's point guard. "Anybody who has been around it, been in the atmosphere, knows how important it is."


Flint says one explanation for the importance of Philadelphia basketball is the local media, despite the abundance of professional teams, take the college game seriously. "Because they write about it, people in the city read about it," Flint says.


Through much of last February they read about Temple coach John Chaney's directing one of his players to purposefully foul St. Joe's players as a physical protest against alleged illegal screens. It was not the most pleasant episode of the 2004-05 season, but it certainly commanded attention. The basketball isn't always pretty in Philadelphia, but it's always pretty intense.



Best of college football: Iowa City


By Tom Dienhart

Sporting News


Go ahead. Call Iowa fans bumblebees. They'll shrug their shoulders, scream louder and hug their Hawkeyes tighter.


That's what it's all about in Iowa City. Hootin'. Hollerin'. And -- most of all -- living and dying Hawkeyes football, all while decked out in black and gold. (Yee-haw to the crazies proud enough to strut in those bib overalls with the vertical black-and-gold stripes!)


But that passion and reverence is only part of why the crown of best college football city is nestled along the Iowa River. The action between the white lines the past three years -- 31-7 record and three consecutive January bowls -- has been unprecedented in these parts, elevating the program to college football's luxury suite. All of this tall corn has offered legendary Hawkeyes radio play-by-play voice Jim Zabel ample opportunity to chortle his favorite refrain: "I love it! I love it! I love it!"


A quaint blip-of-a-burg located a short Drew Tate toss off I-80 in eastern Iowa, this is where you will find King Kirk. (That's coach Kirk Ferentz to you nonbumblebees.) And red-brick Kinnick Stadium -- named for 1939 Heisman Trophy winner Nile Kinnick -- is the X-marks-the-spot of Saturday insanity.


Downtown, bumblebees pour in and out of establishments such as Joe's Place, an Iowa classic. Many fans never make it off their bar stools to the game. A short walk away is Kinnick, where the players trot onto the field hands locked, with the captains in front -- a grand entrance, inspired by Hayden Fry, called the "Swarm." Fitting. About that time, P.A. announcer Mark Abbott trumpets: "Here come the Hawkeyes!"


That's enough to set off the fans lucky enough to be in the stands, where they hope later to sing "In Heaven There Is No Beer" when the game is in hand -- which almost always is the case these days for their Hawkeyes.


Nothing like football in Iowa City on a cool Autumn day.

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Ugh. Philly's a DECENT hockey town at best. I'd still put Detroit waaaay above them on my list. Also, I'd say Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and even Cleveland (loath as I am to admit it) are all up for that great football town stuff.


This article seems to be picking NON-typical sports towns that you wouldn't think of rather than the obvious winners (It'd be hard for me to justify not picking a COUPLE of places in each sport, because one place doesn't quite do justice).


But, opinions are like buttholes, everyone's got one.

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Guest FishFanInPA

Decent Hockey town???? Does Detroit have a title winning AHL team??? Remember...there was no NHL this past season so therefore they only have the minors to go off of.....and since we won the AHL, we're the best.

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Yea, Detroit has gotta recieve the honor of Hockeytown. But for college bball Philly is definately the right choice, my roommate from PA can vouch for that.


Philly is pretty good about there hockey. You can't go in there and say you are a fan of another team or else you risk getting your ass kicked by even the little old ladies. :lol

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philly college B-ball is great ... watch a big 5 set at the Paleastra and nothing else will compare with the spirit of the game


Philly is also a tremendous hockey town ...i'd go to phantom games in college and it was a blast ... the flyers get great support and the fans are loyal and knowledgeable


however, i still think i'd take mpls/st. paul over philly ..... between the mens and womens university clubs and the wild when they are going, MN is hockey crazy ...... everyone knows and loves the sport .... kids play it in the park on -10 degree days ..... definitely the best hockey city i've been to

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actually the philly hockey crowd isn't that tough, unless you're a fan of the devils or rangers


fans of most teams can intermingle in with the flyers fans without a problem ... there will be some talk, but you'll actually get more good discussion than threats


another reason why their fans are so good ... i think the high ticket prices keeps out some of the philly trash that makes baseball and football games so "exciting" ....... phantom games can get a little rowdy though


the atmosphere there is crazy .. you have screaming kids sitted next to screaming drunks and the higher frequency of fights on the ice just gets the crowd fueled up even more


i'd rather be a sharks fan at a flyers game than an amerks fan at a phantoms game

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Wait a minute...


So, a good sports city has to have loser fans who will act gay at the drop of a hat to other fans?


Ummmm... No.


How about fans that are passionate for the sport. I can go to Michigan as an Ohio State guy and NOT get my butt kicked. It's about the game, not about side-crazy-psycho b.s. because some loser wants to fight over teams we root for or againt.

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