How much does where you live matter as a sports fan? The short answer: It depends.
If you're an Alabama football fan, there's no better place to live than Tuscaloosa. If you're a Red Sox fan, there's no worse place to live than New York City.
But what if you were a free agent, so to speak? What if you loved sports but didn't have a specific affiliation to any team?
Say you're moving to a new city. Which metropolis would have the most to offer you as a sports fan? Which would give you the best overall experience?
We used writers who really knew their cities for this project—people who live there or grew up there and could therefore give us an authentic portrayal of what it's like to be fan. It was important that we didn't have an outsider trying to describe a city.
Our goal was to look at all cities as objectively as possible. We came up with eight categories in which to score each city, then totaled the points to compile the rankings. Here are the categories:
Number of teams/events: 20 points
A great fan experience has to do with choices. The more teams, the better. Are sports more year-round, and are there more games to watch/go to? Are there college teams nearby that your city has basically adopted? Does your city host other major events?
Success of teams in last five years: 20 points
Look, nobody really likes rooting for crappy teams. Sure, some diehards do, but it's just not as fun being in a city full of losing teams as it is being in one that has celebrated recent success. When a city is winning, the feel of that city is different. It's palpable.
Stadiums: 10 points
Going to games in a new stadium is great. It's nicer, cleaner, etc. But even older, legendary stadiums like Wrigley Field can be a great experience. Certain other stadiums, by comparison, are just no fun—they're either a pain to get to or just a dump. Where you watch the game has a big impact on you as a fan.
Fan passion: 10 points
While this is not an examination of the best fanbases, there's no denying that living somewhere with people who are passionate about the local teams makes for a more fun experience. Sometimes fans can be fiery to the point of being annoying, but you have to weigh that against everything. The fans in the city can be just as important as the city itself.
General fan experience: 15 points
This is where the local expertise comes in. What are things that people outside your city don't know about? What makes the city great or not so great for following sports? You can include anything here, like the cost to go to the game, great bars near the stadium, etc.; it's open for interpretation.
Media: 10 points
Are local games always on TV? Do you have great announcers who make the experience more enjoyable? Do you have a great local beat writer? Do games get blacked out? We don't follow sports in a vacuum, so how do the people who cover this stuff for a living impact the experience?
Star power: 10 points
Sometimes the players make it worth following teams no matter what. Does your city lay claim to must-watch players who are worth the price of admission? Is it better to live in Cleveland now because you get to watch LeBron all the time and see him in person? I say yes. How does your city stack up?
Tradition/history: 5 points
Although it doesn't have a huge effect on being a fan at the present moment, there's still something special about being in a city with teams that have a storied history. That's worth something.
Over the course of three months, we will be rolling out the top 25, one city at a time.
Where will your city be?
Update: Here is a countdown of the top 25 in full.