desperate for golf tips and, when those fail, for the twin consolations of
Guinness and psychiatric treatment. Or so says Google, the all-knowing Internet
search engine, which reports that residents of the Irish capital search for
"golf tips" and "Guinness" more avidly than citizens of any
other city on earth--and are second only to the people of St. Albans, England,
in researching "psychiatrists" online.
Google knows what
we're thinking because every day millions of us type into google.com our
innermost dreams ( Dallas residents do the highest percentage of searches for
"country club membership" in America), our best-kept secrets ( Portland
shows the most interest in "jock itch") and our deepest desires
( Cincinnati, which had America's first professional baseball team, is now first
in another category: downloading pictures of Anna Kournikova).
Google made all of
this information public last month, when it launched Google Trends, at
google.com/trends. Simply type in a search term, and you'll see which cities
devoted the greatest percentage of their Google searches to that word or
phrase, which is how we know that Krakow may have the world's worst collective
case of "athlete's foot." That will please fast-actin' Tinactin
pitchman John Madden, who has a home in Pleasanton, Calif., an Oakland suburb
that happens to be the world's second-leading searcher of "jock itch"
What all of this
gives us is nothing less than a spreadsheet of the earth's id--our most private
impulses made manifest. What it provides fans is an entirely new abstract of
the sports world. And I do mean world. The top four cities searching for photos
of Kournikova are all in India, giving the subcontinent the planet's largest
percentage of people who ogle on Google, a practice so rampant it should have
its own gerund: Oogling.
confirms which athletes really are global superstars ( David Beckham comes from
London, plays in Madrid but is most avidly Googled in Caracas) and which only
seem to be (the top eight cities searching Derek Jeter are all in New York's
tristate area). Speaking of which, ground zero of Yankees hatred is not Boston
but 240 miles north of there--in Bangor, Maine, which Googled " Yankees
suck" more aggressively than any other municipality. ( Boston is behind
eight other New England cities.)
voyeuristic tool we can now tell which city in the world has the most ailing
recreational athletes: It is almost certainly Philadelphia, first in
"sports hernia" inquiries, second in "groin pull" searches,
fourth in "jockstraps," fifth in "Ben Gay," eighth in "jock
itch" and ninth in "athlete's foot."
Cambridge, Mass., and Providence are citadels of the sedentary: Both are in the
top three internationally in searching for those twin icons of indolence,
"fantasy baseball" and "donuts."
Some of the
evidence on Google Trends is circumstantial. Portland leads the U.S. in
searches for "marijuana," a fact not entirely attributable to their
Trail Blazers. Miami, hometown of Jose Canseco, is the domestic leader in
"steroids" searches (not to mention " Ferrari"). And long after
Rafael Palmeiro's departure from the Orioles, Baltimore leads the nation in
searches for "human growth hormone."
information is inescapably damning. Salt Lake City, clean-living capital of the
U.S., leads the world in searches for "nude volleyball" as well as its
inevitable by-products, "breast implants" and "mullets." (I
know you're reading this, Salt Lake City, because you also lead in online
searches for " Sports Illustrated.")
Denver is the
earth's epicenter of "sports" searches, and Baton Rouge is the Athens
of "tailgating." But on balance, St. Louis is the all-American sports
city, leading the world in searches for "baseball" and "mom"
and "God bless America." It leads, too, in such critical U.S. sports
indices as "baseball cards," "baseball gloves,"
"bowling" and "beer," the last of which might explain why it
also leads in "weight loss" inquiries.