Ranking The West Cities (Not The Teams)

I was feeling sorry for myself, thinking not only just how crummy I felt about the Blazers always losing but also that they lost to teams from cities I didn’t like.

I’m also a Minnesota Vikings fan, and since I moved to St. Paul ten years ago, the Vikings have been kicked out of the playoffs by teams from cities whose fans I can’t hate, so much. New York, Philadelphia, Green Bay, etc. Passionate fans; you feel bad for losing, but you also vicariously enjoy their happiness. For example, who can begrudge the fans of New Orleans getting a Super Bowl?

So it was making me crabby that Portland always lost to teams with fans I couldn’t root for. (LA – ‘nuff said.) Then I thought about it and realized – wait, pretty much all the teams in the NBA’s Western Conference hail from pretty crummy cities. We can’t lose to someplace inoffensive like Milwaukee or Cleveland because we don’t play them in the postseason. Duh.

That in mind, I made a snarky list of the cities in the conference. Not the teams, not the players, but the cities. Purely subjective, based on places I’ve lived, places my friends have lived, places we both have visited, and the like. Not to be taken seriously. (But, seriously, never move to anywhere lower than #3.)

1. Portland. You know it; you love it (or at least live there.) Gets the #1 spot because of fabulous scenery, urban growth boundary stemming sprawl, pioneering work in craft breweries.

Redeeming Virtues: I’m not kissing any butts, here. You know what they are.

Unavoidable Flaws: Combination of local self-love, insecurity a bit odd. Residents sometimes too dismissive of rest of state.

Did You Know?: You know it all. So see the rest of your state! The southern coast, the southeast arid desert, the less-known mountain wildernesses – you’ve got a heck of a place to explore. Check it out.

2. Minneapolis. Home of “Minnesota Nice” and some of the most self-effacingly polite people in America. Immigrant heritage still exists here, resulting in sickening foods and genuine cultural uniqueness (like most of the Midwest.) There are towns where old people still speak German, and they often embrace newer migrants from Laos, Mexico, Somalia, etc. It’s a crazy mélange, and the snow is actually quite pretty. Plus local superstar Joe Mauer drives interviewers to the airport himself.

Virtues: Church-basement fish-fry nights where the congregation is equal parts flaming queens and stoic Lutherans, and somehow they seem to get along. High literacy rate and low snobbery rate.

Flaws: Massive suburban expansion tempering the anti-snob vibe, somewhat. Crazy politicians seem to somehow gain more national awareness than those of other states.

Did You Know?: There’s a tourism bureau in Minnesota. Ignore it. There’s nothing to see here, unless you like mosquitoes and dumb, easily-caught inedible fish. The people are great, so visit your friends here if you have any. But it’s pretty flat and dull, otherwise.

3. Denver. Scenic mix of super-hippies, super-theologians, and the worst sprawl-induced traffic this side of LA. Good place to be a jogger inviting your friends to visit and see if they can keep up with you. They won’t.

Virtues: Mountain vistas.

Flaws: You can’t afford to live anywhere within sight of them.

Did You Know?: Robin Williams wasn’t all that much less irritating in “Mork And Mindy,” set in Boulder, than he is today.

4. Memphis. Close to the home of country music and the foothills of historic southern hill country. A mixture of modern adjustments and atavistic tribal loyalties that is alternately frightening and fascinating.

Virtues: A gateway into a totally different American experience.

Flaws: What exactly is this city doing in the Western Conference, again?

Did You Know?: Al Gore invented stealing your neighbor’s wireless Internet connection.

5. New Orleans. A sultry mix of food, music, eroticism, and the most blatant political corruption this side of the coasts (or Chicago.) Loses sympathy points for the horrible hurricane disaster because the Saints won a Superbowl this year; not because we don’t care about what happens to residents in the rebuilding process (of course we do) but because sports fans there have already gotten a pick-me-up; now it’s other sports fans’ turns. (We still hope the people of the Big Easy are treated right in other ways.)

Virtues / Flaws: Mardi Gras / Mardi Gras attendees.

Did You Know?: (And this one’s serious!) “Cajun” is a corruption of the word “Canadian”; Louisiana was settled (conquered, if you’re a native) largely by French-Canadians. Hence the French cuisine, language, etc., so far from Quebec.

6. Oklahoma City. No-one knows anything about Oklahoma City.

Virtues / Flaws: It’s not Texas / It’s right by Texas.

Did You Know?: You did? Wow.

7. Salt Lake City: Fervent, persecuted believers carved a livable oasis out of incredibly hostile territory. Utah features some of the nation’s most diversely exotic scenery. Utahans also believe this scenery should be dug up and sold to anyone who can make a dime off of it. Salt Lake ranks right in the middle of this list because:

Virtues: A stunningly-placed paradise on earth to adherents of the locally popular religion.

Flaws: Uh, not so great if you’re not.

Did You Know?: A rare tornado once touched down on the roof of the then-Delta Center, where the Jazz play. Was it God’s call to make a roster change, or His frustration that years of Stockton/Malone failed to produce a title? Only She knows . . .

8 / 9. Oakland / Sacramento: Two permanently decaying California cities that somehow continue to exist. Good places to live if you like ferocious ugliness and enjoy having neighbors, but hating them.

Virtues: Oakland and Sacramento are both more than 350 miles away from Los Angeles.

Flaws: Oakland and Sacramento are, respectively, less than 1 mile away from Oakland and Sacramento.

Did You Know?: My great-great-grandfather, in a fit of pique, sold his share in the Wisconsin logging consortium that also included Jacob Leinenkugel, scion of the Leinenkugel beer empire (it’s big in the Midwest), and William Irvine, founder of Irvine, California (halfway between Sacramento and Oakland.) I am a loser from far further back than you are.

10. Phoenix. Hunter Thompson called it “hell,” but he was Wrong. Arizona is, perhaps, best known for being the only state in America that resisted the declaration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday as a national holiday. Fortunately, after the national shock and ridicule this caused, Arizonans have become lauded worldwide for their instinctive, unforced, generous devotion to (London) bridging gaps between nations, skin colors, and cultures. As the state motto reads: “Give Love A Chance.”

Virtues: There’s a nearby hole in the ground. It’s impressive.

Flaws: The burros which you can hire to carry you up and down that hole have less jackass in them than the citizens of Arizona.

Did You Know?: There’s a new walkway run outside the Grand Hole park, to the west, where you can stroll about 100 feet into the hole on glass footpaths and stare straight down.  Just thought it should be mentioned.

11 / 12 / 13. Dallas / Houston / San Antonio. The mystique of Texas, a place where civic pride long ago gave way to civic megalomania, is familiar to anyone who’s lived in America during the last 150 years. They keep threatening to secede. We keep stopping them. Obviously, there are forces at work here that defy all known logic and reason.

Virtues: Some of the most powerful books, movies, and music of the last 40 years use Texas as a symbol or location to evoke the ongoing balance between principled individualism and self-centered insanity that makes America the fascinating conundrum it remains today.

Flaws: And all of these make Texas seem a place best ventured no closer towards than, say, Greenland. (Oh, and by the way: everybody at the Alamo was a Wimp.)

Did You Know?: The occasional decent person was born in, and more incredibly chose to remain in, Texas.

14 / 15. Los Angeles. Perhaps the one American city that’s long been a pejorative shorthand. If you want to criticize a certain national policy, you say, “it’s getting us closer to Nazi Germany” or “Stalin’s Russia.” If you want to berate how local policy is creating an urban hellhole that worships everything vain, anti-social, and destructive in human nature – while simultaneously claiming to be the opposite of all it stands for, and getting violently angry when you dare to even hint at the contradiction – you say “it’s getting us closer to Los Angeles.” There may be cities, now or in the past, that are or were temporarily more hideous places than Los Angeles. But nothing represents the most frightening, dystopian nightmares of what our future might descend into more vividly and disturbingly. Six months in LA, and a sane person starts muttering like Brando in “Apocalypse Now.” (Those six months are also a good test to see if your friends who moved there are as sane as you thought.)

It also has celebrities and fabulous dream-houses perched on the top of cliffs and lots and lots of poor people and celebrities and Wolfgang Puck and Hot Clubs and celebrities and Tha Moveez and celebrities and the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park and celebrities and the Beach and celebrities and newspaper warnings about when oil spillage is too high to make the Beach safe for swimming and celebrities and Beaches and kids getting cancer from oil derricks or unshielded power lines and celebrities and beaches and celebrities and

[Remainder deleted --]

Virtues: Tom Petty is stoned enough, apparently, to live there. Jack Nicholson used to be a good actor. The whole thing is supposedly going to fall into the sea.

Flaws: It hasn’t, yet.

Did You Know?: As “Los Angeles” means “The Angels,” ha-ha-ha-ha-oh-my-GOD

[Selection deleted --] 

So, the ridiculous team name “Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim” means “The Angels Angels Of Anaheim.”

And there you have The List!

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