This afternoon I came across a piece by a guy named Jon Star, who isn’t much of a ’star’ in my book. He ranked the fan bases of all thirty MLB teams and judged Red Sox Nation to be only the seventh-best fans across baseball. To show you how out of touch with reality this guy is, he ranked SF Giants fans as the second-best in baseball, just behind St Louis Cardinals fans.
I know, I know… when you can manage to wipe the tears from your eyes for laughing so hard, please finish reading this article. (Wow, I just had to pause for a moment as I wiped more tears from my own eyes. Whew! This guy should be writing for sitcoms, or maybe SNL. Someone call the networks!)
Well, as you might well imagine, once the humor of the piece wore off, I decided I had to set the guy straight about who are the best fans in baseball… my comment to him is attached below:
Wow, Jon, really? I’m sorry, but your credibility with respect to this list is not very high. I will have to respectfully disagree with Rory and others, this wasn’t especially well done. It is a completely subjective piece that provides nothing to support its assertions… sort of a puff piece of baseball writing.
You must have something against Red Sox fans.
The fact of the matter is that Red Sox fanslove ‘em or hate ‘em belong at the top of the list. This is unquestioned… and I don’t just say that because I am the Sox' No. 1 fan, I say it because it is a fact.
Let’s not get into debates about the respective knowledge of fan bases… the fact is that all of the best fan bases are extremely knowledgeable. Cards fans are no more or less knowledgeable about baseball than Cubs fans, or Phillies fans, or Red Sox fans or Yankees fans. Period. The reason everybody coos over Redbirds fans is that they are more genteel than their brethren in Boston or Chicago or NY or Philly.
Fact: The Red Sox have drawn more than 2 million fans every year since 1986, except 1994 (and that abberation was attributable to the strike).
Fact: The Red Sox have finished No. 1 or No. 2 in baseball in percent of capacity in every year since 2001
Fact: The Red Sox are the only team in baseball to play to 96 percent or higher capacity in each of the last 10 years… to go you one step further, they are the only team to play to 90 percent+ capacity in each of the last 10 years.
These facts certainly undermine your contention that the Red Sox have somehow seen a bump in The Nation due to the pink hats or some semblance of “bump” from winning a couple of world championships. (To the contrary, two of the three lowest capacity figures in the 10 year period were in 2004 and 2005when you would have expected the bump would have occured).
Further, some have argued that winning the WS should have had the opposite effect… that after finally winning it all, Red Sox fans might have been less ardent as the romanticism of ‘not having won it all’ would be removed from the equation. Yet we still bang out the place year after year.
As far as your top teams go…
Fact: St Louis has a very knowledgeable fan base, agreed, but their reputation is much greater than they are deserving. Sorry, Redbirds fans, but you have attended your home games at a 90 percent+ capacity level only three times in the last ten years, - the exact same number of times you actually attended at less than a 75 percent capacity for the year. I don’t call that the hallmark of “the best fan base in baseball”.
Fact: Attendance in San Francisco dropped off dramatically as soon as Barry Bonds retired. Over the last three years they haven’t once drawn attendance at 90 percent or higher for a seasonn spite of having a fantastic ballpark as a drawing card. These are the second best fans in the game?
Fact: Not only do Yankees fans routinely boo their own players, but they don’t even show up to home games in great numbers. Yeah, I know, they routinely draw over three and four million fans annually. So what? They play in the most populous city in the country and in a large ballpark. THEY SHOULD DRAW FOUR MILLION FANS EVERY YEAR!! The fact is that they don’t draw what they should… Yankees fans are generally fair-weathered “bandwagon” types who want to be at the park to be seen in the post-season but otherwise often will find other things to do. The numbers speak for themselves… over the last ten years, the attendance capacity at Yankee Stadium (new or old) has ranged from a low of 74.1 percent to a high of 92.3 percent. Big whoop!
Fact: Phillies fans packed the old stadium at the following rates of capacity in 2001-03: 36.6 percent, 32.8 percent and 46.9 percent. In the subsequent seven years they have failed to achieve 90 percent on three other occasions. In the ten-year span under consideration, the only time they crested the 90 percent mark prior to 2008 was in 2004the year they opened Citizens Bank Park. Afterwards, they went right back to drawing somewhat poorly. Phillies fans began showing up at the ballpark again only when the team became competitive. Over the last year and a half (2009 and 2010) they have led baseball in percentage of capacity (the Red Sox were second last year and are again second this year). Now if THAT doesn’t prove that Phillies fans are bandwagon jumpers who won’t be seen anywhere near the ballpark when the team is scuffling, I dont know what will!! (NOTE: When the Red Sox were really awful in the early 1990s under manager Butch Hobson, they still drew in excess of two million fans EVERY year).
Fact: Cubs fans come closest to giving the Red Sox fans a run for their money. Ironic, huh? They have drawn at 90 percent or higher in each of the last eight years (the only other franchise that can lay claim to that level of attendance). They have finished first or second in percent of capacity five times in the last ten years (Boston - 10 times; SF - three times, but not since Bonds retired; Philly - two times, see above). Cubs fans, like Red Sox fans, show up whether their team is winning or losing… but they have a tendency to be more laid back and less passionate than Red Sox fanswhich some might consider a blessing, since Red Sox fans have a reputation for being manic.
Fact: Red Sox fans were one strike away and then watched as the ball went through Bill Buckner’s legs at Shea Stadium. And of Mets fans you wrote: “No other fans have been through the sheer horror of watching their team virtually disintegrate before their very eyes.” Are you freaking kidding me? Were you even born in 1986? ‘Nuff said. Your list has zero credibility in my book.
Look, I really don’t mean to ‘dis’ the fans in other cities. There are lots of great baseball fans in America. I have great respect for Cards and Giants fans, in particular. And as much as I LOVE to joke about hating Yankees fans, the fact of the matter is that I really just hate the OBNOXIOUS Yankees fans. I’ll grant you that is most Yankees fans, but not all. I was behind the Red Sox dugout in Yankee Stadium for ALCS Game Seven, in 2004. As the ninth inning unfolded I began crying many, many tears of joy. I was wearing my SOX1FAN license plate around my neck. Prior to the game I feared the license plate would make me a target if the Sox should win. To my surprise, not one single Yankees fan gave me guff… to the contrary, many high-fived me and knocked knuckles with me and wished the Red Sox luck in the Fall Classic. They saw just how much I love my team and put down the swords of rivalry… instead they reached out to me as fellow baseball fans, with compassion, and shared a moment with me that forever changed my mind about SOME Yankees fans.
That still doesnt mean I think they are a better fan base than the Red Sox fans… but I have to admit that it earned my respect.
Look, I’m not saying Red Sox fans are perfect. We aren’t. Far from it. We are manic and can be just as obnoxious as anyone else… and the fact that we still do The Wave during ballgames is a bit embarrassing. But we are fans that come out to the park night in and night out, even when the Sox are losing. We LOVE our ballclub with unabashed passion. We understand the fine points of the game as well as anyone and better than most. We respect a “dirt-dog” effort on the field and give a standing ovation for a top-notch effort, even when that effort is given by an opposing player (well, except for Yankees players). And even in our braggadocio, we can acknowledge when we have behaved poorly (like when we failed to support our Big Papi through his struggles earlier this year, something that gave us a black eye that we have to answer for each time we look at ourselves in the mirror).
But in spite of our peccadilloes, there isn’t a better fan base in America… not even close, my friend.
Fan base ratings: Red Sox, Cubs, Cardinals, Yankees and Giants, in that order.