Why cities like Green Bay win an outsize number of championships
After losing to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Green Bay Packers rebounded with a resounding victory over division rivals, the Chicago Bears. With one game left in the season, the Packers still hold the NFL's best record (14-1). And back-to-back Super Bowl victories are within reach.
With a metro population that’s just north of 300,000, Green Bay, Wisconsin, is the NFL’s smallest market by far. At the same time, with 13 championship seasons (including four Super Bowls), it fields one of its winningest, most popular teams, earning its nickname and then some.
By playing David to the rest of the NFL’s Goliaths, Green Bay gives hope to little people everywhere, and it proves that with enough pluck, skill and determination, anyone can compete and win at the very highest levels.
Or maybe not just anyone. How exceptional is Green Bay? The short answer is very.
With the help of Patrick Adler, I charted championships across all professional sports, starting in 1903, and mapped them. Today we’ll look at the pattern of pro-sports championships across American metros. Later in the week, we’ll examine the connection between championships and metro size.
The map above, by my MPI colleague Zara Matheson, plots the total number of pro sports championships by metro. Greater New York tops the list with 59 total championships. Boston is second with 33.* Chicago is third with 29. Montreal is fourth with 24 titles; Los Angeles is fifth with 23 and Detroit sixth with 22. With 13 championships (more than Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas, Minneapolis and Phoenix), Green Bay clearly punches well above its weight.
The next map charts championships per 100,000 residents. Green Bay is far and away the leader (not just in football but across all four major sports) with 5.3 championships per hundred thousand. Boston is next with .725, followed by Montreal (.66), Pittsburgh (.64), Detroit (.51) and Edmonton (.43). New York is now 11th (.33), Chicago 12th (.32), and LA 20 (.18).
Green Bay's exceptional nature becomes even clearer when we gauge its "championship location quotient." We base this on a modified location quotient which allows us to compare a metro’s relative share of the major league home population with its relative share of championships.
A ratio of 1.0 means a metro’s share is exactly in line with the pattern for all major league cities. It’s worth pointing out that our championship location quotient measure will be more skewed than a traditional location quotient since it considers only 47 of some 350 plus metro areas. Still, Green Bay’s CLQ is a staggering 22, meaning the metro has won 22 times the number of championships that its size would predict – and not just in football, but across all four professional sports (never mind the fact that Green Bay only has football). The next highest CLQ is Boston’s 3; Montreal’s is 2.75 and Pittsburgh’s 2.65. Detroit (2.1) and Edmonton (2.0) are the only other metros with a CLQ of more than 2. Greater New York’s is 1.34, Chicago’s 1.28, and LA’s .75, while other larger metros like Dallas (.46), greater Washington DC (.45), Miami (.37) and Houston (.28) have even lower CLQs.
As astounding as Green Bay’s accomplishment is, it’s worth remembering that it’s not as geographically isolated or as tiny as it might first appear. A veritable suburb of Milwaukee and only about 200 miles and a four hour drive from Chicago, Green Bay, in fact, is an integral part of the world's third largest mega region. Home to 46 million people and with an economy of $1.6 trillion, Chi-Pitts runs from Pittsburgh in the east through Minneapolis in the west and includes Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago—and, of course, Green Bay.
My next post will look at the broader connections between metro size and sports success.
* Correction: This post initially misrepresented the number of championships Boston had won.
Photo credit: Darren Hauck/Reuters