Philadelphia Inquirer - November 24, 1980

Mike Schmidt goes to bat, this time for the art museum

 

Major league home run king Mike Schmidt went to bat for the Philadelphia Museum of Art yesterday and helped raise more than $1,000.

 

 

Schmidt, the Phillies third baseman, signed autographs in the lobby of the Philadelphian, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., as legions of admirers waited in line for his signature and to make a donation to the art museum.

Philly No. 1?  That figures

 

By Bill Lyon, Inquirer Staff Writer

 

Pro sports in Philadelphia, as you may have suspected, have been riding a tidal surge.

 

There is a suspicion that this is the best sports town in the country. Comes now Bob McMahon, armed with charts and stats and percentages and surveys, to say that isn't just a provincial suspicion but unadulterated, provable, uncontestable fact.

 

McMahon's figures show Philadelphia – its teams and its fans – are No. 1. Those figures are based on wins and championships, on attendance, and on the opinions of athletes.

 

First off, he has a chart showing the regular season won-loss percentage of each city in baseball, basketball, football and hockey, and then the composite total of all four sports.

 

Philadelphia is first, its teams winning 67 percent of their games. (These numbers, incidentally, are based on the baseball season just concluded, and the 1979-80 basketball, football and hockey seasons.)

 

Boston's teams were second, with a.620 percentage.

 

OK. But maybe a team is in a weak division. So how do the cities compare when the regular seasons end and the playoffs begin? McMahon is glad you asked because he charted that, too.

 

And Philadelphia came out first again, the Phillies going all the way, the Flyers and the Sixers reaching the finals, and the Eagles advancing to the second round. McMahon scored this as you do in golf; lowest number wins. Philly beat out Los Angeles, which won the NBA title and made the Super Bowl but was dragged down by the Dodgers' failure to win a division and the Kings' weak showing on the ice.

 

Houston was third in the postseason performance rankings, followed by Boston and Pittsburgh.

 

All right, so far McMahon s survey has focused on how a city's teams performed. But that is only one measurement of a city. Franchises get moved. Frequently. Cities, however, do not.

 

So, McMahon reasons, a true test of a sports town is the allegiance of its fans.

 

To judge a city strictly on total gate numbers is obviously unfair and inaccurate because of population discrepancies and capacity differentials. No stadium or arena is uniform.

 

So, McMahon reasoned, a more precise method would be to take the average attendance. And to be even more exact, consider attendance from the standpoint of percentage of capacity.

 

In this area, Boston finished first and Milwaukee (counting in the Green Bay Packers) nosed out Philadelphia for second by hundredths of a percentage point.

 

Boston fans filled their sports arenas to 87 percent capacity. In this case, size, or rather lack of it, was a distinct advantage. Crammed, Fenway Park holds only roughly 60 percent as many people as, say, Veterans Stadium. Similarly, Boston Garden is not the largest place in either the NBA or NHL.

 

So, on total attendance, Boston would finish far down the line. But, as McMahon's figures suggest, its fans should be applauded for their support.

 

Milwaukee and Philadelphia each averaged 80 percent of capacity. The Flyers led the way, of course. They have had something on the order of 300 consecutive sellouts and played to a full house again all last season.

 

The Eagles were at 97 percent capacity last season and, given their success this year, should at least equal that. The 76ers averaged 11,700 last season, which is 64 percent of capacity. Certainly that figure is far lower this season, which tends to dispute the thesis that people automatically support a winner.

 

And the world champion Phils? Their crowds averaged 33,996, which was second only to L.A. in McMahon's survey. That was 58 percent of the Vet's capacity. Boston, L.A. and Kansas City had higher percentages.

 

Bob McMahon looked at all his material and decided something still was missing... the human element.

 

You can't ask fans about fans because (1) they're too biased, and (2) most of them go only to games in their own town.

 

Aha! How about polling the players themselves? In all four sports, and with one very important provision – you cannot vote for your own city. That ought to make it more objective.

 

But then how do you ask athletes to rate cities? If you take the Chamber of Commerce approach and do it on the basis of climate and scenery, the San Diegos of the world rejoice while the Buffalos know they don't hae a chance.

 

So, McMahon asked the mercenaries to rate the towns in four areas, three of which relate directly to the fans: (1) the most enthusiastic; (2) the unfriendliest; (3) the most knowledgeable; (4) their favorite cities, the ones they like because of food, entertainment, accommodations and atmosphere.

 

The pro football players rated Houston's fans the most enthusiastic (Philly was third), Pittsburgh's the most knowledgeable (Philly third again), Philadelphia fans the most unfriendly (b-o-o-o-o-o-o), and Los Angeles their favorite place to play (Philly finished ninth).

 

In the NBA, Portland was a runaway for most enthusiastic fans (Philly fifth), New York's the most knowledgeable (Philly fourth), San Antonio's the unfriendliest (Philly eighth) and New York was the favorite city.

 

In hockey, Philadelphia fans were landslide winners in enthusiasm and barely edged New York's as unfriendliest, while Montreal was voted most knowledgeable and favorite city.

 

In baseball, Philadelphia was first in the NL for both enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans, New York's the unfriendliest (Philly third) and San Diego favorite city (Philly fifth).

 

In the American League, New York fans won for enthusiasm and hostility, Boston for knowledgeable fans and favorite city.

 

 

So what does all of McMahon's work prove? Nothing startlingly new. Rather, it reinforces – in the standings, at the gate and in the minds of athletes – what most of us have suspected for quite a while now. If you're a sports fan, there isn't a better city than right here.