SUPER CITIES

A.J. Hoffman: Ranking all of the potential host cities for future Super Bowls

And the trophy for best Super Bowl city goes to... New England Patriots website

With this season’s Super Bowl in Minneapolis, and everyone dealing with sub-zero temperatures, I have had some discussion about Minneapolis’ viability as a Super Bowl host city. This discussions led me to make a list of the NFL cities I am most likely and least likely to enjoy my Super Bowl week. To be honest, my rankings are pretty biased to my tastes in the region as far as food, beer, weather and overall ability to host everything it takes to properly host a Super Bowl. Without further ado...

THE “ABSOLUTELY NOT” TIER

 30. Green Bay: Yeah, I know. It’s home to a historic franchise, and this is in no way a knock to the state of  Wisconsin, but outside of Milwaukee (very underrated city) I have no interest in spending multiple days in the backwoods hoping I don’t end up on the next season of Making A Murderer.

29. Buffalo: I love chicken wings as much as the next guy (actually probably way more), but a week in early February in the middle of nowhere with nothing but snow and Niagara Falls to look at sounds pretty miserable. 

28. Baltimore: I’ve seen The Wire plenty of times. Hard pass.

27. Detroit: I know, I know. “It’s better than it used to be.” Detroit had no business hosting the Super Bowl before, and gave no reason why it should get it again. 

26. Charlotte: Please don’t try to tell me how great the BBQ is. I’m from Texas. Y’all ain’t fooling anyone with that stuff. 

25. Jacksonville- Northern Florida is basically an extension of Mississippi and Alabama. Not much more needs to be said.

THE “I’M SURE IT’S NICE, BUT I WILL PASS” TIER

24. Cleveland: The Hall of Fame is nearby, and the Rock and Roll Hall is in town, but let’s be honest, this city barely deserves the NFL, much less a Super Bowl. 

23. Philadelphia: Great city with plenty to do, but having stuff thrown at me or having my rental car set on fire seems extremely unappealing. 

22. Washington, D.C.:  Security would be even more of a nightmare than usual, and I can’t think of any reason why I would want to spend a week in D.C.

21. Boston: Beantown is one of the best sports town in the world. They win at everything, including football, and is home to arguably the best dynasty the NFL has ever seen. That said, it is frigid, and everyone I have met from Boston is an a**hole. 

20. Pittsburgh: This actually seems like a decent road trip. I have heard nothing but good things about the food and beverage scene, but I am too sensitive to cold to have it any higher on the list. 

19. Indianapolis: The trip there was fine, and while everything was conveniently centralized, the weather there is lame and there isn’t a whole lot to do. 

THE “TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT” TIER

18. Cincinnati: Really underrated town, but something tells me this wouldn’t be much different from Indianapolis. Also, God forbid the media hotel is in Kentucky. 

17. Minneapolis: I have never been, and skipping the Super Bowl this year may mean I never go, but I am perfectly fine not dying of frostbite and spending my entire week inside a giant shopping mall. 

16, Atlanta: The game is in Atlanta next year, and I am extremely lukewarm on the prospect. I do think it will score well in the nightlife category, but it is one of my least favorite southern cities. 

15. Dallas: They had their big chance. Massive, shiny, new stadium, and they are in Texas, which gives them a built in advantage. They blew it though, and had the biggest winter storm in history during Super Bowl week. Plus, it’s still Dallas. 

14. Kansas City: Not exactly a booming metropolis, but I feel like the strong food game and an awesome fanbase in an original AFL town might be kind of cool. 

13. Chicago: Chicago has everything going for it, except for the weather. Great food, great beer, friendly people. I have spent a week in Chicago, and you won’t run out of things to do, but it won’t be warm. 

THE “I COULD DEAL WITH THIS EVERY NOW AND AGAIN” TIER

12. Miami: The South Beach thing is fun for a little bit, but not sure I could deal with it for an entire week. It would be nice to spend the week in shorts and flip flops though. 

11. Tampa Bay: Yep, Tampa is ahead of Miami. Great beer town, and they have the good Florida weather without all the Miami pretentiousness (and the $ markup)

10. Houston: I love Houston. I live here. I think it is vastly underrated nationally as a great city. That said, I like seeing new places and trying new things. I can’t do that in Houston. 

9. Denver:  This is another incredible city to visit. It is one of the prettiest cities in the country, the people are friendly and there are PLENTY of pleasures to partake in (cough, cough). As much as I love the Mile High City, I don’t really want to pack a coat. 

8. New York: I love New York, but I don’t like going in the winter. The trip was far from miserable though. Everything was in walking distance, and you will never run out of things to do in New York. The biggest stars show up on radio row, and that helps the cause.

7. Nashville: Nashville isn’t a big city, but as a tourist town they know how to host a party. I think Nashville would do a fine job hosting the Super Bowl, though it seems unlikely unless they build a state of the art stadium. 

THE “THEY COULD HAVE IT HERE EVERY YEAR” TIER

6. Seattle: Maybe my favorite city outside of the great state of Texas, Seattle is one of the coolest places to spend a week. It can be cold, but not the biting cold of the northeast. There is great food, great beverage, and other…. Whatever, there is legal weed there, too. 

5.  San Francisco: I may have enjoyed Northern California more than most, but I found it to be a really nice setup. Everything with the exception of the stadium was centralized in the downtown area. Public transportation was available to take you all over the area, and the weather was beautiful. I would love to go back here again. 

4. Phoenix: One thing you know when the Super Bowl is in Arizona, you won’t need a coat, and it isn’t going to rain. It may be the most ideal climate to spend a week in February, and the food is amazing. Beer could be a little better, but the parties in Phoenix are always strong. 

3. Las Vegas: This is pure speculation, but I think Vegas will be an amazing spot to host Super Bowls. The infrastructure is built in, and if you can’t have fun in Vegas on a work trip, there is probably something wrong with you. 

2. New Orleans: New Orleans has long been the gold standard. No one throws a party like New Orleans, and they are (rightfully) a regular in the Super Bowl rotation. I can go to New Orleans any time of year and have a grand time, and it is hard to beat the food and libations. 

1. Los Angeles: L.A. is going to be a natural fit for the big game. They will soon have a state of the art stadium. It will be a destination city for celebrities and I imagine the parties there during Super Bowl week will be top notch. More food and drink than you can shake a stick at, and the weather will always be strong. I expect Los Angeles to be heavy in the rotation from now on. 

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The Astros will have some new rules to adjust to in 2023. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

If you are savvy enough to read next week’s column, you will be doing so with spring training underway in Florida and Arizona. Hip, hip, hooray! Astros pitchers and catchers have their first workout scheduled for next Thursday, with the full squad due early the following week ahead of games starting February 25. Spring training baseball is not meant to be exciting, but the major rules changes that will take effect this season will be in full effect in the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, making spring games more interesting to follow.

The biggest change is the death of infield shifts. As reminder or to get up to speed, the first and second baseman must now always be aligned on the first base side of second while the shortstop and third baseman must both be on the third base side of second. Plus, all infielders must have both feet on the dirt of the infield.

There are legitimate points to be made as to why shifts should be allowed, and also why modifying the rules makes sense. I get the argument that if hitters can’t take advantage of an open side of the infield, shame on them. However, taking advantage of a shift is not as easy as it looks.

The best argument against shifts is that they clearly more penalized left-handed hitters. You think Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez will miss losing some hits on balls smashed on one hop 30 or 40 feet into the outfield only to have a second baseman make the play? If once every other week Tuck or Yordan picks up a hit that the shift would have taken away, over 500 at bats, that’s about a 25 point difference in batting average. Defenses couldn’t shift in the same fashion against right-handed hitters because unless the batter/runner has Martin Maldonado or Albert Pujols level (non)speed, throwing guys out at first from 30 or 40 feet out in left field is not viable.

Welcome the pitch clock. There will be griping from some pitchers and hitters. Suck it up buttercups! Adapt or die. In the minor leagues the pitch clock knocked off 20-25 minutes from the average game length. The average big league game should not take more than three hours. For darn sure a 3-1 or 4-2 game shouldn’t take more than three hours.

With no runners on base a pitcher has 15 seconds from when he gets the ball to start his motion, with runner(s) on base 20 seconds. Failure to comply is an automatic ball. It’s called the pitch clock but batters are on notice too. There is simply no need for batters to be stepping out of the batter’s box to contemplate the meaning of life every pitch or two. Batters not in the box and ready when the clock gets down to eight seconds get an automatic strike. There are several exceptions, such as a batter gets one timeout per plate appearance,

The bases themselves are 20 percent larger. Instead of 15 inches square they are now 18 inches square which serves a couple of purposes. There will be a bit more space for infielders to avoid baserunners at the bags. That’s sensible. We’ve all heard “Baseball is a game of inches.” Legendary General Manager Branch Rickey is credited with coining the phrase. Rickey is also the guy who brought Jackie Robinson to the Major Leagues, and the guy who basically invented the farm system.

Anyway, back to game of inches. The larger bases shorten the distance between first and second, and second and third base, by four and a half inches. A massive change it is not, but a meaningful change it is. Think of the close calls on stolen base attempts, or a runner going from first to third on a single. It’s not mastering advanced calculus to get that a shorter distance between bases makes it easier to successfully get to the next one. Anything that increases the value of speed in the game is a good thing.

Base stealing will also be impacted by the new pickoff limitations rule. Say Jose Altuve leads off with a single. Up comes Jeremy Pena. The pitcher gets two “disengagements” during Pena’s at bat. Pickoff attempts and stepping off the rubber both count as “disengagement.” A third disengagement not resulting in a pickoff is an automatic balk. Does Altuve take a huge lead to draw pickoff throws knowing that after two non-pickoffs he gets a big advantage?

Might any unintended consequences result from the rules changes? Let’s find out.

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Stone Cold ‘Stros is the weekly Astro-centric podcast I am part of alongside Brandon Strange and Josh Jordan. On our regular schedule it airs live at 3PM Monday on the SportsMapHouston YouTube channel, is available there for playback at any point, and also becomes available in podcast form at outlets galore. Such as:

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