LOS ANGELES -- One of the many enjoyable aspects of doing these Leitch Across America trips -- and this has been our fourth, though our first in a couple of years -- is that after spending a week going to games, hanging out with fans and diving deep into the local culture … I can't help but find myself cheering for all those home teams for a few months afterward. Suddenly, I'm invested in Brandon Ingram, or Rich Hill, or Jonathan Quick, and even good ol' Metta World Peace.
I'll confess this goodwill hasn't extended to Stan Kroenke and his Rams, but hey, baby steps.
I saw two Lakers games, a Rams game and a UCLA game, and I spent a pleasant afternoon roaming around Chavez Ravine, wishing there were some baseball happening. Next time, we'll get to the Clippers and USC and the Kings and the Galaxy and whatever else I can get to. There's just never enough time on these trips.
But now that our week here is behind us, we must get down to the sad nitty-gritty. We must take the lessons we've learned here -- subtle, complex matters of intricate detail -- and assign them an arbitrary number, for the purposes of ranking them against other cities. We have to classify these things somehow. It's sports. There has to be a competition.
As mentioned in our previous installments, the ranking will come from six categories, each on a scale from 1 to 10. Three categories, because I think they're twice as important, will be worth double. The categories are:
Facilities (counts double). How great are the arenas/stadiums? Are they centrally located? Are they crazy expensive? How's the beer selection?
History. How many great moments has the city/area provided the sports world? What would we be missing if the city had never existed? How many championships has it won?
Icons. What retired players still have their jerseys worn by everyone? Who are the heroes everyone adores? Are they global icons?
Loyalty (counts double). When the teams are bad, do the fans still come out? Are there sellouts even when the Marlins are in town?
Passion (counts double). How loony are the fans? How devoted are they? If you took sports away from the city, how much would it suffer?
Recent success. How relevant are the teams right now?
Completely objective, catch-all, Make Sure The Final Tally Is Precisely The Number I Want It To Be. I'm basically just doing this one to skew the numbers a bit, if I need to, though I'll give you some arbitrary "intangibles" argument to justify it.
As with other cities, we kick it off with an Arguable Assessment of ranking the importance of the local teams to the area. Here's Los Angeles' ranking:
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Los Angeles Lakers
- UCLA Bruins
- USC Trojans
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Los Angeles Kings
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- Los Angeles Rams
- Los Angeles Galaxy
- Anaheim Ducks
- Los Angeles Sparks
- Loyola Marymount Lions
- Pepperdine Waves
- Long Beach State 49ers
- Cal State Fullerton Titans
- UC Irvine Anteaters
- Cal State Northridge Matadors
- UC Riverside Islanders
Facilities (counts double). Staples Center is nicer than the Forum or the old LA Sports Arena, but it still is mostly interchangeable with every other new NBA arena of the last 10 years. Pauley Pavilion is immortal, Dodger Stadium is the downright gorgeous and the Coliseum, while not exactly NFL ready, still evokes some warm feelings. Still, while Staples Center might have revitalized downtown, it feels like it lives in a mall. Score: 14 (out of 20).
History. The 1984 Olympics. The Showtime Lakers. Kobe, Shaq and How My Ass Taste. John Wooden's incredible run. The first Super Bowl. Kirk Gibson makes you not believe what you just saw. Sandy Koufax's perfect game, and everything else. O.J.'s mad dash against USC … and another mad dash we might remember. Score: 8.
Icons. Magic Johnson. Vin Scully. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Wayne Gretzky. O.J. Simpson. Kobe Bryant. John Wooden. Jackie Robinson. Shaquille O'Neal. Kirk Gibson. Eric Dickerson. Jerry West. Landon Donovan. Wilt Chamberlain. Sandy Koufax. Luc Robitaille. Elgin Baylor. Tommy Lasorda. Chick Hearn. Don Sutton. Marcus Allen. Don Drysdale. Fernando Valenzuela. Jim Murray. Mike Trout. Score: 9.
Loyalty (counts double). Los Angeles teams don't have many down periods, but if you take, for example, the Lakers, they're still drawing plenty of fans even though the team is struggling and there's no Kobe around to take the edge off anymore. Still, in a big city, you better win, because there's plenty other better things to do here than watch you lose. Score: 14 (out of 20).
Passion (counts double). Obviously, there's still -- and is probably always going to be -- an issue with empty seats at the start of games: Stupid LA traffic! Los Angeles can't have the passion of, say, a Cleveland; there are too many entertainment options here. (The Browns are all they have! How depressing is that?) But when there's a great Los Angeles team, they can own this place. Score: 10 (out of 20).
Recent Success. The Kings and the Galaxy have won titles in the last five years, and the Lakers won one just seven years ago. The Dodgers make the playoffs every year, and the Angels won nearly 100 games just two years ago. And UCLA might be a Final Four team this year. Score: 9.
Completely Objective, Catch-All, Make Sure The Final Tally Is Precisely The Number I Want It To Be Score. Sports will never be everything in Los Angeles. But they are still a ton. There isn't a city in America that wouldn't love to have their history and, mostly, their stars. Score: 10.
FINAL SCORE: 74 (out of 100)
This puts our scores so far as:
Los Angeles 74
San Francisco 74
Some pretty fantastic places so far.
If I missed anything or got anything terribly wrong, please do email me or holler @williamfleitch on Twitter. These can only improve through you. Here's a look at all the stories filed from Los Angeles this week:
- Intro to Los Angeles.
- The deserved sadness of the Rams.
- The Lakers and the Clippers, the alphas and the betas.
- The eternal classic that is Dodger Stadium.
This concludes the fourth leg of Leitch Across America. We haven't selected our next destination yet, but it will probably come once baseball begins. I'll let you know. Until then: Let's go to the map!