The 25 Best Cities to Be a Sports Fan

Matt King@TheRealMattKingFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2014

The 25 Best Cities to Be a Sports Fan

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    Tom Lynn/Associated Press

    Over the last five months, Bleacher Report has taken on an experiment to find the best cities in North America to be a sports fan.

    First, we removed all bias. If you love sports, but don't have an allegiance to a particular team or sport, where would be the best place to live to get a full, enjoyable experience as a sports fan?

    We broke each city down into eight categories: the number of teams there, the success of those teams in the past five years, how nice the stadiums are, fan passion, how good the media is, tradition, and general fan experience.

    To get a full explanation of the ranking system, click here.

    So which city gets to wear the crown as the best sports city? Click ahead to find out.

No. 25: New Orleans (57/100)

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    In a city where people pay thousands of dollars a year to throw beads, it’s difficult to get a commitment out of people to spend their discretionary funds on live sports.

    Certainly, the Saints are the exception. But the overwhelming love they’re shown is a combination of post-Katrina emotion and the team’s success, which doesn’t translate to other teams, while the Super Bowls, Final Fours and the like are mostly populated by visitors.

    Hosting those big events boosts the score, but New Orleans recently lost out to other cities for the College Football Playoff in 2016 and Super Bowl LII in 2018, leaving New Orleans without a major event on the calendar for the first time in recent memory.

    Click here for the full New Orleans ranking.

No. 24: Kansas City (59/100)

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    While Chiefs fans will probably be upset at this ranking, the fact of the matter is that there's little in Kansas City for the average sports fan to get excited about, although some solid college teams sit on the outskirts.

    But the lack of success from the major sports in the area and star power (especially since Wiggins and Embiid have left) hurts the score, even though K.C. scores high in categories like stadiums and fan passion.

    Kansas City is still a great place to be a sports fan. The barbecue alone is enough to get people to the city to enjoy some games.

    Click here for the full Kansas City ranking.

No. 23: Charlotte (63/100)

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    When you talk about the overall sports experience of the Charlotte region in North Carolina, there is more to it than most Americans who live outside of the area realize.

    Not only do you have a celebrated NFL quarterback in Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, but you also have the Michael Jordan-owned Charlotte Hornets (previously the Bobcats) and a number of high-profile college football and basketball programs (but mostly basketball) within easy driving distance, with lots of loyal alumni always willing to sit on a barstool and argue the merits of their alma mater's program.

    Then there are the biggest names and teams in NASCAR who mostly live in the area even when they aren't racing against each other at Charlotte Motor Speedway, plus the Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL in Raleigh, a mere three-and-a-half hours' drive away.

    There is, in fact, much to offer.

    Click here for the full Charlotte ranking.

No. 22: Houston (65/100)

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    Houston isn’t a bad sports town. There are moments when it is a great one, in fact. But those moments are heavily dependent on teams putting a winning product on the field. If a losing team shows up, the fans historically don’t show up.

    The culture is developing, though, and it’s largely due to the slow restoration of downtown Houston as the place to be for sports fans. We’ll never have the same unique traits as, say, Chicago or New York, but we’re developing our own.

    Click here for the full Houston ranking.

No. 21: Atlanta (65/100)

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    Does Atlanta stand out as a sports city? Not particularly, and that's a statement that applies in both positive and negative fashion. 

    Though there's plenty to keep fans entertained and a fairly nice set of stadiums, championships just aren't expected—or earned—in Hotlanta. Regular-season success is the standard, but most teams end up being mediocre for far too long, hindered by the lack of appeal to free agents in most major sports. 

    At least everything appears to be trending up at the moment. 

    The Falcons look set to rebound from last season's disaster, general manager Danny Ferry has the Hawks on the rise (especially in a weak Eastern Conference) and the Braves boast an impressive core of young hitters and pitchers. With the MLS team set to arrive in only a few years, there's a chance the ATL increases its reputation further in the not-too-distant future. 

    Plus, we all know that Atlanta will always be the city where the playas play.

    Click here for the full Atlanta ranking.

No. 20: Toronto (65/100)

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    This has little to do with the fans or the culture or the history and almost everything to do with how poorly the majority of this city's teams have performed for at least a generation.

    In fact, you could make the argument that no city this size has had a rougher go of it when it comes to sports in the last 20 years.

    Dating back to 1994, New York has a total of eight championships in basketball, hockey, baseball and football. Los Angeles also has eight, as does Boston. Chicago has six. Detroit and Miami have five, while Denver has four. Dallas, St. Louis and Pittsburgh have three, as does San Francisco. Houston has two.

    Toronto? Zero. And it's not even close: not one championship appearance.

    No wonder it's tough to be a sports fan in T-Dot. But because the fans won't give up, this remains an underrated sports city.

    Click here for the full Toronto ranking.

No. 19: Miami (67/100)

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    Miami generally gets a bad rap as a sports city, but it's mostly unearned. There are plenty of great options, and the fan experience is one of the best around.

    But aside from the Heat, there hasn't been much to celebrate lately. And if this had been written a few months ago, Miami could still claim the biggest star in the sports world. But, sadly, LeBron has taken his talents away from South Beach.

    Couple that with a middling history and so-so stadiums, and you have yourself a relatively middle-of-the-road sports city. Not bad by any means, but somewhere in the middle of things.

    Click here for the full Miami ranking.

No. 18: Cleveland (67/100)

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    While Cleveland’s score will not be the worst of the bunch, it certainly will not be near the top either. The lack of success is really what killed the city by the lake.

    Because when franchises have success, they build tradition. With great tradition comes great sports coverage and new, innovative stadiums. It all starts with winning.

    The Browns look to be on the right path, and the Cavs should challenge for NBA titles multiple times over the next few years. Unfortunately, nothing is guaranteed when it comes to championships. No one knows this better than Cleveland.

    So while the rest of the country will revel in the montages of despair every time a Cleveland team makes the playoffs, true Cleveland fans know better times are ahead. I mean, they have to be right? Fifty years is too long to wait for a championship.

    Click here for the full Cleveland ranking.

No. 17: Washington/Baltimore (68/100)

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    Ultimately, when it comes to the nation's major sports markets, the D.C./Baltimore area is strikingly average.

    There are good organizations, and there are bad organizations. Heroes, villains, the whole nine. 

    The fans could be better, but you know what? So could the teams. It's amazing how that happens. A handful of outliers aside, it's pretty easy to see the good teams have good fans, the bad teams have bad fans and a change in either direction probably brings a direct correlation more often than not.

    With that in mind, the area may be on the ups, with exciting young stars lighting up different teams in both cities.

    Better times could be on the horizon, but that's been the story for a while now. Until it actually happens, these teams, and the fans that support them, are locked in a state of malaise.

    Click here for the full Washington/Baltimore ranking.

No. 16: Minneapolis (69/100)

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    Minneapolis and the surrounding Twin Cities area received a total score of 69 points out of 100. 

    A lack of recent success in the major sports hurt the city, as did a lacking history in terms of championships. To be a truly great sports city, more wins in the present and more banners from the past are required. 

    All that said, Minneapolis is likely one of America's most underrated sports cities.

    There are top-notch venues for a wide variety of teams, including beautiful Target Field and the consistently rocking Xcel Energy Center. The Vikings' new stadium is now on the horizon as well. Thanks to major facility upgrades, Minneapolis has attracted huge events, such as the MLB All Star Game and the 2018 Super Bowl. 

    Adrian Peterson and hometown heroes Joe Mauer and Zach Parise provide the perfect mix of elite, rare talent and feel-good stories. All three are huge draws. 

    Throw in a year-round craving for another winner, a strong media presence and unique fan experiences, and Minneapolis offers just about everything you'd want in a sports city. 

    Forget about the occasionally miserable weather; Minneapolis is still one of the better sports hubs in the country.

    Click here for the full Minneapolis ranking.

No. 15: Detroit (72/100)

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    Detroit often gets a bad rap, but it's a pretty solid city to be a sports fan in. There are plenty of options and usually a couple of those teams are doing well at some point. General fan experience and passion may be lacking a bit, but Detroit has a great history and a some quality stars worth the price of admission.

    Though it comes in at just No. 15, if we've learned anything it's that you can't keep the city of Detroit down for long.

    Click here for the full Detroit ranking.

No. 14: Bay Area (73/100)

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The Bay Area has everything a fan could want in terms of variety, star power and fan passion, but a couple of critical areas get dragged down below average because of the sheer number of teams.

    In other words, for every AT&T Park, there's an O.co Coliseum.

    On balance, though, the Bay Area grades out pretty well. And if you're choosy about which teams you support or which stadiums you frequent, your own experience can be far better than the overall score above indicates.

    Click here for the full Bay Area ranking.

No. 13: Phoenix (75/100)

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    Phoenix isn’t on the level of cities like Los Angeles or Boston in terms of championship glory. 

    Since the four major sports in Arizona have brought the city just one championship, Phoenix fans tend to be a humble and grounded bunch.

    They understand how difficult it is for teams to win on the highest stage and sustain that level of success for long periods. When titles start to become expected as the norm, it breeds a stance of arrogance toward other sports lovers. Phoenix is devoid of that by default.

    All four major teams struggle to draw high totals of fans into the picturesque stadiums—none more so than the Coyotes. That fact doesn't work in Phoenix's favor, but each team still has a loyal niche of diehard followers.

    Being a sports fan in the Phoenix area is often met with disappointment, but who doesn't love a good underdog?

    Click here for the full Phoenix ranking.

No. 12: Denver (76/100)

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    The Rockies drag things down some, despite the lovely environs of Coors Field. Truth be told, the organization is a giant mess, with the co-owner even trading some shots of late with the fans. The Nuggets are no great shakes either, having missed the playoffs last season and losing some of their star power in recent years. 

    But Peyton Manning is here. The Avs are on the rise. And no matter what, people in Denver have plenty of sports to choose from. It's one of America's top sports towns and probably always will be.

    Click here for the full Denver ranking.

No. 11: Milwaukee (76/100)

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    Without the NHL or Major League Soccer, Milwaukee does not have all the amenities associated with larger cities. But per capita, it just might lead the country in accessibility, variety and overall fan experience.

    Click here for the full Milwaukee ranking.

No. 10: Indianapolis (77/100)

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    Indianapolis used to be known as the "Amateur Sports Capital of the World." That still holds true, but it's grown into much more. Indy is now able to handle anything from high school basketball state championships to the Super Bowl with equal aplomb.

    The combination of top-notch facilities, a walkable downtown, a diverse experience on and off the court and a Hoosier spirit that's infused into every event makes Indy an ideal destination for nearly every event, big and small. Super Bowl? Final Four? National championship? Bring it on.

    Walk from the new Lucas Oil Stadium past the circle, up Mass Avenue, where you'll find great restaurants and bars, then back to your hotel—the entire town seems built for it. In many ways, it is and will continue to be. Downtown has become the spoke for the city, but its engine is sports.

    Click here for the full Indianapolis ranking.

No. 9: Chicago (78/100)

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    All in all, Chicago has a lot of easily accessible options for sports fans of all types. While lacking a bit in current star power and overall recent success, it is still a city with plenty of hope and optimism (even if you’re a Cubs fan, I'd venture to say).

    Click here for the full Chicago ranking.

No. 8: Pittsburgh (79/100)

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    Pittsburgh is an NBA team away from having perhaps the best all-around sports experience in the United States. The fans are passionate yet respectful, the city has two of the best young stars in sports with McCutchen and Crosby and few cities have a team that can match the Steelers' legacy.

    An NBA team—if it could actually thrive in a community that is largely agnostic toward pro hoops—is the missing ingredient. The city is one poor Penguins season away from going through the first four months on the calendar without a legitimate rooting interest. Having so much of the winter riding on the Penguins is OK when Crosby is in his prime, not so much in the lulls between superstars.

    Heinz Field's overall mediocrity and the last half-decade of disappointment from the Steelers also knock the Steel City down a peg. Again, had we done this list in 2013, shoehorning the success of a 2009 Super Bowl might have helped. Instead, Mike Tomlin and Co. have missed the playoffs more often than they've made it in the last half-decade.

    Overall, Pittsburgh is an underrated city that doesn't get enough credit among the best U.S. sports towns. Which, in a way, is what makes it so great.

    Click here for the full Pittsburg ranking.

No. 7: Seattle (81/100)

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    While Seattle may just be known for the birth of grunge music and a lot of rain, one would be foolish to discount what the city has going on with each of its sports teams.

    Although it may not be cleaning up in championships year after year, the city boasts incredible stadiums, a large, passionate fanbase and superstars who amp up the fans.

    With young, exciting teams on the rise in each of the major sports, you can bet Seattle will continue to make an even bigger ripple among all other cities in sports.

    Click here for the full Seattle ranking.

No. 6: New York (82/100)

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    The phrase that best sums up the current New York sports scene is quantity over quality, but as a sports fan, there's nothing wrong with that.

    Sure, the championships aren't flowing through the Hudson River with the regularity of dinner cruises, but there is always something happening in this city. Whether it's hometown teams or marquee league events, there may not be a better locale in North America to be a sports fan.

    And while the biggest names and best teams don't exist in New York/Brooklyn now, sports are cyclical. Considering the big budgets just about all of these teams possess, it's just a matter of time before the streets are cordoned off for a championship parade taking place either in Manhattan, a nearby borough or New Jersey suburb.

    Click here for the full New York ranking.

No. 5: St. Louis (82/100)

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    The numbers might tell you that StLouis isn't the best city that an American sports fan could call home. As a sports fan who has called it home, I can tell you that's crazy. StLouis sports fans want for nothing.

    Qualitatively, that's my assessment. You can have your Boston or New York or Chicago—StLouis wouldn't trade you the Cardinals for 15 NBA teams, Michael Jordan in his prime and the chance to host the next four World Cups.

    Click here for the full St. Louis ranking.

No. 4: Dallas (83/100)

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    Dallas-Fort Worth fans have been treated in recent years to one local big-league champion (the Mavericks) another contender (the Rangers reaching two World Series) and access to other title-determining events thanks to the presence of the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium.

    During the seasons held from 2010-14, locals have been able to watch the following in person without leaving the area: a Super Bowl, two World Series, an NBA Finals, a Final Four and the upcoming inaugural College Football Playoff championship game.

    It's good to be a fan in Big D.

    Click here for the full Dallas ranking.

No. 3: Philadelphia (83/100)

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    When it comes to Philly sports, there is indeed more than meets the eye (or more than the traditional narrative about the rowdy fans). Philadelphia is an amazing town if you have a passion for sports.

    In fact, if you don’t have a passion for sports, you’re in the minority. Because there’s nothing quite like chomping down a cheesesteak or roast pork sandwich while watching the Iggles. And if you don't think that sounds like a great time, well, I only have one thing to say to you:

    BOOOOOOOOOOO!

    Click here for the full Philadelphia ranking.

No. 2: LA/Anaheim (83/100)

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    As a sports town, Los Angeles has something for just about everyone.

    You can be a diehard fan, a casual observer or anything in between. You can watch a game with beautiful hillside views at the Rose Bowl and Dodger Stadium or enjoy a first-class indoor experience at Staples Center.

    Football, basketball and baseball have all taken their turns as Southern California's sport of choice, with hockey quickly working its way up the ladder.

    If not for the NFL's nearly two-decade vacancy, L.A. would probably be the premier city in America for athletics. Even so, the City of Angels compares quite favorably to America's other metropolises when it comes to sports.

    Click here for the full LA/Anaheim ranking.

No. 1: Boston (90/100)

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    Boston is one of the premier sports cities in the country, and its professional teams are in the midst of an exceptional run of success. Here's some food for thought: Of the four major sports, the Boston team that's currently endured the longest championship drought is the Patriots, who won their last title in 2004.

    A few factors prevent Boston from netting a perfect score here, such as its lack of premier college football or basketball programs, the exorbitant cost of attending a game in the city and its distance from Gillette Stadium. But really, this is nitpickingBoston is as close to the ideal sports city as you can get, despite its relatively modest population. 

    There are cities with more teams, bigger stars, a forgiving media and affordable games. But there are few, if any, places in the country that excel in as many areas as does Boston when it comes to sports.

    Click here for the full Boston ranking.