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Original Issue

Popping the Lid On Our Id

Dubliners aredesperate for golf tips and, when those fail, for the twin consolations ofGuinness and psychiatric treatment. Or so says Google, the all-knowing Internetsearch engine, which reports that residents of the Irish capital search for"golf tips" and "Guinness" more avidly than citizens of anyother city on earth--and are second only to the people of St. Albans, England,in researching "psychiatrists" online.

Google knows whatwe're thinking because every day millions of us type into ourinnermost dreams (Dallas residents do the highest percentage of searches for"country club membership" in America), our best-kept secrets (Portlandshows the most interest in "jock itch") and our deepest desires(Cincinnati, which had America's first professional baseball team, is now firstin another category: downloading pictures of Anna Kournikova).

Google made all ofthis information public last month, when it launched Google Trends, Simply type in a search term, and you'll see which citiesdevoted the greatest percentage of their Google searches to that word orphrase, which is how we know that Krakow may have the world's worst collectivecase of "athlete's foot." That will please fast-actin' Tinactinpitchman John Madden, who has a home in Pleasanton, Calif., an Oakland suburbthat happens to be the world's second-leading searcher of "jock itch"online.

What all of thisgives us is nothing less than a spreadsheet of the earth's id--our most privateimpulses made manifest. What it provides fans is an entirely new abstract ofthe sports world. And I do mean world. The top four cities searching for photosof Kournikova are all in India, giving the subcontinent the planet's largestpercentage of people who ogle on Google, a practice so rampant it should haveits own gerund: Oogling.

Google Trendsconfirms which athletes really are global superstars (David Beckham comes fromLondon, plays in Madrid but is most avidly Googled in Caracas) and which onlyseem to be (the top eight cities searching Derek Jeter are all in New York'stristate area). Speaking of which, ground zero of Yankees hatred is not Bostonbut 240 miles north of there--in Bangor, Maine, which Googled "Yankeessuck" more aggressively than any other municipality. (Boston is behindeight other New England cities.)

With thisvoyeuristic tool we can now tell which city in the world has the most ailingrecreational 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 "jockitch" and ninth in "athlete's foot."

Conversely,Cambridge, Mass., and Providence are citadels of the sedentary: Both are in thetop three internationally in searching for those twin icons of indolence,"fantasy baseball" and "donuts."

Some of theevidence on Google Trends is circumstantial. Portland leads the U.S. insearches for "marijuana," a fact not entirely attributable to theirTrail Blazers. Miami, hometown of Jose Canseco, is the domestic leader in"steroids" searches (not to mention "Ferrari"). And long afterRafael Palmeiro's departure from the Orioles, Baltimore leads the nation insearches for "human growth hormone."

But otherinformation is inescapably damning. Salt Lake City, clean-living capital of theU.S., leads the world in searches for "nude volleyball" as well as itsinevitable by-products, "breast implants" and "mullets." (Iknow you're reading this, Salt Lake City, because you also lead in onlinesearches for "Sports Illustrated.")

Denver is theearth's epicenter of "sports" searches, and Baton Rouge is the Athensof "tailgating." But on balance, St. Louis is the all-American sportscity, leading the world in searches for "baseball" and "mom"and "God bless America." It leads, too, in such critical U.S. sportsindices as "baseball cards," "baseball gloves,""bowling" and "beer," the last of which might explain why italso leads in "weight loss" inquiries.

St. Louis issecond worldwide in searches for "apple pie" to Rochester, N.Y., whichis second in "hot dogs" to Chicago, a city of other unhealthyappetites. Indeed, the city that has devoted more of its Google searches to"sex" in 2006 than any other American municipality is Elmhurst, Ill.,the Chicago suburb in which I was born.

Perhaps sensingthis prevailing prurience, my parents quickly moved me to Minneapolis, No. 1this year in a more wholesome pastime: "softball leagues."

Like Nostradamus,Google can forecast calamities. With the British Open just a week away inEngland, it is worth noting that the London suburb of Brentford is the No. 6searcher for people interested in "streakers" and the No. 1 searcherworldwide for "Viagra." We can only pray that never the twain shallmeet.

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Clean-living Salt Lake City leads the world in Googling"nude volleyball" and its inevitable by-products: "breastimplants" and "mullets."