The first of the BCS games was Notre Dame vs. Ohio State and I was explaining my split loyalties. Part of me would like to see Notre Dame do well simply because of a sense of support for anomalies within even the outmodedly tradition-driven and illogical BCS structure, but part of me was shouting for OSU because I've been to Columbus, OH three times, it's a big university and I think a couple of you were shouting for them at the time.
This involved trying to describe Columbus, OH. I pointed out that it was a very large city - thirteenth or fifteenth largest in the US by some measure - as well as a textbook example of urban sprawl, despite having very little reputation internationally. I compared it to Coventry in the UK. Rightly or wrongly, of course; I've possibly only once actually been to Coventry. US folks: what do you think of when I mention "Coventry"? I'm sure there a few shining stars as knowledgeable about the UK as some of us are about the US (in my case: not very, considering...) but I also suspect the levels of non-recognition are comparable.
Now obviously there's no good way for one city in one country to be a close cultural equivalent of another. The UK and the US are very different, with the significance their various cities within play being just as different. Besides, it's not as if many of us really have all that clear a measure of many of the big cities in our countries. Nevertheless, my Friends list is probably reasonably likely to be able to take as good a whack at it as any reasonably easily convenable group - and even if we don't do too great a job, it still might be fun. So let's give it a go.
London dominates the UK to an extent that no US city dominates the US, but the obvious pick is New York. Technically I mean Greater London and Greater New York respectively - our Croydon, your Connecticut - and, for the sake of argument, I'm really comparing metropolitan areas against metropolitan areas rather than zones delimited by city designations. In any case, the two cities are clearly the financial and business capitals of their countries, plus the major tourist and transport hubs. (Slightly arguable in NY's case these days.) It's a matter of name recognition as much as anything else.
The next question considers the UK's Birmingham. On strict population grounds, one might biject Brum with LA, but for me it resonates much closer with Chicago; I perceive the two to have industrial connotations as well as both being of great size and yet somehow slightly put upon by the rest of their countries as being megalopolises (megalopoles? No? All right, then) in recession.
So that leaves (Greater) Manchester to be the UK's Los Angeles, with Liverpool naturally enough following as San Francisco. Manchester is the great city of the North, as much as LA is the great city of the West - a liberal hub with wide emphasis paid by the media, sport and regional structure. I rather like the thought of the scouse culture being as much a beloved thorn in Britain's side as San Francisco's brand of hippyism, too. Blackpool is by far the biggest Las Vegas wannabe in Britain, so that's an easy pairing that follows as well.
Among the British conurbations, we next turn to Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland. It would be lame to simply allocate them to cities in Canada - too dismissive of both Canada and Scotland. Perhaps it's not excessively fanciful to draw parallels and say "England is to Scotland as Yankee America is to The South"? I'm basing this comparison on the history between the two aspects of the united natures of the countries, plus the pride that some feel in strong regional identities and the economic challenges each faces.
Noting how far north the south stretches, perhaps Edinburgh matches up with Washington D.C. in stature and tradition and Glasgow could possibly, possibly be Philadelphia, at the risk of starting a "Is Maryland part of the South?" debate. Admittedly, if you asked most UK folk to name one of the United States that was in the South then they'd say Texas, which makes the two standout options Houston and Dallas, but I'd rather play on the oil connection and ascribe them to Aberdeen and Inverness. Performing a similar sort of stretch down the northern half of england, Newcastle (oh, all right, the Tyne and Wear conurbation) has a sort of hardy party city reputation to it that could be comparable to New Orleans, which tends to match up Leeds-Bradford with Atlanta, both conurbations on the up. Keeping going, we can go as far as Nottingham and Miami.
It would be too cheesy to match Meg's Athens with my Teesside along the way, but I actually think Athens makes for a better York, which these days is similarly primarily a student town with historical ties. Perhaps Middlesbrough-Stockton-Redcar can be Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News.
I quite like matching the midwest with the West Midlands. Wolverhampton can be Detroit, Stoke-on-Trent might possibly have a hint of Milwaukee about it especially if we rope in Burton and its brewers from across Staffordshire, Coventry is Columbus as discussed and we can reach over (and neatly out of the West Midlands, thank you) to Northampton (reaching down to Silverstone) for Indianapolis.
We haven't matched up Boston yet, and that's hard. Educationally and historically, I want to say Boston is Oxford and Cambridge. Perhaps Boston, MA could be Oxford and Cambridge, MA could be Cambridge? No, no, no. Instead, I like the conceit of matching New England with the south-west of England - Boston and Bristol, Plymouth and Plymouth and so forth.
This is great fun, but I'm sure you bright sparks can improve upon it. Thoughts most welcome!