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Thursday, November 14, 2013
The world according to Boston

By Colin Cowherd
ESPN The Magazine

Cowherd Illo
The Red Sox's eighth championship is just the latest crowning glory for Beantown.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's Nov. 25 QB Issue. Subscribe today!

MY PARENTING PHILOSOPHY pretty much boils down to this: I love my kids; I tolerate yours. Mine just make common, age-appropriate mistakes -- phases, let's call them -- while your kids are completely undisciplined and probably need counseling. I have high hopes for my kids, and I'll defend them to the death.

Come to think of it, I'm a lot like Boston, the most peculiar and parochial sports city in America.

When I was first hired by ESPN 10 years ago, I requested to get TV ratings for every market for every event, large or small. Immediately, one truth became undeniable: Boston is the most provincial major market in the country. Rose Bowl? Not interested. Indy 500? Crickets. Final Four? Final What? Boston's ratings were a healthy notch below the norm for every major event that didn't include a Boston-area team. The numbers I found most surprising were World Series ratings. You might have seen that Boston led all markets in the audience share for the clinching Game 6 this year. No surprise there. But from 2010 to 2012, World Series ratings in Boston were substantially lower than in most major markets. They were even lower than in many markets without MLB teams.

How can that be? Boston is baseball, right? Nope. It just loves its own kids, and I've come up with two possible roadblocks Boston faces when it comes to caring about anything past its nose.

1. Boston is too smart. An article in Boston magazine titled "Us vs. America," which used polling information from Northeastern University, made the case that Boston is simply different from most major cities. It's more liberal. It has less gun ownership and less violence. Its population is younger, smokes less and works out more. The metro area is home to more than 70 universities and colleges. In addition, Boston is a financial, health care and banking hub. The city is full of educated people who have many interests and the disposable income to pursue those interests. Under that scenario, watching some other city's team doesn't make the cut.

2. History -- and not just sports history. Forget for a moment the Celtics' 17 NBA titles, the Bruins' six Stanley Cups, the coolest ballpark ever built and Tom Brady. Let's talk real history. Sports allegiances tend to emerge around 9 or 10 years old, when kids are aware enough to understand the rules of the games. They also coincide with the time kids begin learning about American history in school. And much of the American Revolution took place in and around Boston.

The Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, the midnight ride of Paul Revere -- I learned about all of these events at an early age, but they took place somewhere else. But if you're a Boston kid, all of those events were home games. Likewise, many of the names that are synonymous with America hail from the area. Ben Franklin, John Quincy Adams and Edgar Allan Poe provide the foundation, and by seventh grade you're listening to Mrs. Hathaway discuss the Kennedys.

Now, if the seminal events in your nation's history took place in your backyard, you'd probably get the sense that your city is special. And if you spent your entire childhood being told -- directly or indirectly -- that you're just a little bit better than everybody else, wouldn't you start to believe it? Seriously, even when Bostonians vacation, they do it in their backyard. From Cape Cod to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts is home to some of the country's most sought-after summer refuges.

Maybe some of this will help explain why most surveys of least friendly cities find Boston near the top. The word "smug" tends to come up. The city sees itself as more important, more informed and more historically relevant. The people who live there consider themselves descendants of American royalty. And in some ways, they're right.

It views itself as different, special -- perhaps even better than you.

And it sees your teams as monumentally unimportant.

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