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Poor Criteria Used for ESPN’s Ultimate Standings

By Brian Chase


Sports fans, the really dedicated ones, love to argue about their favorite teams. I have heard endless conversations comparing the merits of the Yankees and the Red Sox, or the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos. Even better are the arguments about the best players or teams of all time, such as whether the Patriots of the most recent football season are better or worse than the 1972 Dolphins team that went undefeated. Debates like this rage constantly around the water cooler and on the web.

Well, ESPN has just thrown fat on the proverbial fire, with their second annual “The Ultimate Standings,” a list that ranks every major sports franchise of professional football, hockey, basketball and baseball by eight major categories, ranging from Bang For The Buck (fan revenue divided by wins) to players, ownership, fan relations, and how many recent championships have been (or are expected to be) won. ESPN surveyed 3,000 fans for their opinions, ranked each team from 1-120 in each category, and then compiled the standings to get the ultimate standings. How do Boston sports teams rank? The answer may surprise you.

Boston’s best known sports team, the Red Sox, come in at 22 out of the 30 Major League Baseball teams, and 95th overall, the worst of Boston’s four teams. Why? They rated quite low in affordability and bang for the buck, because no matter how successful they are, baseball’s most expensive tickets offset their accomplishments. They also scored low in coaching and championships. Apparently, Boston fans don’t think they will win it all anytime soon.

Boston’s best team, the New England Patriots, ranked as the fourth best football team and the 13th team overall. Their worst score was again in affordability, and without that weighing them down, they could have easily moved up a few spots, because they had excellent player, coach, and (obviously) championship scores. The only football teams rated ahead of them were the Green Bay Packers, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Tennessee Titans. The Boston Celtics were the 17th basketball team and 61st team overall, while the Boston Bruins were the 25th National Hockey League team and were 89th overall. Those two teams also scored worst in the affordability category, by a wide margin. Sensing a pattern?

Despite the extremely high ticket process for Boston sports, I can’t help feeling that the Red Sox and Patriots got shortchanged, somehow. The Patriots are the most dominant and team-oriented football program, winners of two Super Bowls in the last three years; they deserved to be first in the NFL rankings. The Red Sox have also been very successful in the last year, and surely don’t deserve a ranking below the Celtics and in the bottom half of the MLB. Why the discrepancy?

As ESPN writer Rob Neyer opined, the ultimate standings piece places more emphasis on all the varied aspects of fan enjoyment, and don’t make winning a huge part of the process. But winning is the process. Even if a sports team has a grumpy coach, greedy players, and a cramped stadium, their fans will love them if they win. Just look at the Yankees. If ESPN really wanted to make an ultimate standings, they should put winning percentages and championships on a much higher pedestal than nearly everything else. Then maybe the Red Sox and Pats would get the higher recognition that they deserve, as would the city of Boston.