The fans are the lifeblood of sport. Whether their team is winning or losing, they are at the games, dressed in their club's apparel, faces painted, cheering wildly. Or there are 20,000 empty seats.
Some teams just do not have great fan bases. Others are well-supported but the fans just do not care about the team.
With that in mind, here is a rundown of the most emotional fan bases in Major League Baseball, ranked by loyalty, commitment, attitude and general fan craziness.
It says a lot about D.C. baseball that most of the team’s fans are still in Montreal. The novelty of an MLB team in the capital has long since worn off. But hey, at least they actually play in Washington, D.C., unlike a certain football team.
There is something about baseball in Tampa which just does not make sense. Yes, it is hot and sunny – and is a much better idea than playing hockey there – but they play in a dome. They don’t even have a dome in Minnesota anymore.
Then there are the fans. The Rays, né Devil Rays, were one of the worst teams in baseball every year of their existence, until they shocked everyone and won the AL pennant in 2008. Before they were relevant, no one was at the games. I wonder why no one wants to go indoors to ring cowbells on a glorious summer’s day in Florida.
A game in September 2007 drew just 375 fans. That is not a typo. It actually says 375. For a team with a good young team, two World Series championships in the last 15 years and MLB’s only perfect postseason series record (6-0), you would think they would have better fans.
If you asked in the 1990s, the Indians could be in the top five. Nowadays, not a chance. There are more people excited about the Browns.
The Rogers Center is massive. When the Red Sox or Yankees are in town, look around the stadium and it is pretty much packed to the rafters. It is impressive. Then you realise that barely any of the people are supporting Toronto.
They almost reached the playoffs last year and had the one of the top five starting rotations in all of baseball. They also have a good history. But do San Diego fans really care about their team? It is hard to think so, especially when you look at the poor attendance, which was terrible for a side as good as the Padres last year.
There is one good thing you can say about Pirates supporters: you will not find a bandwagon fan. Take a walk around Pittsburgh and count how many items of sports apparel you see. Now, how many of them are for the Pirates? Penguins, yes. Steelers, absolutely. But not the poor Pirates.
The fans the fallen franchise do have are great, but they do cling to the memories of Roberto Clemente and ‘We are Family’.
Not every Astros fan is like the guy who ducked out of the way of a foul ball and let his girlfriend get hit by it instead.
It did not do their fans any favours though. Houston is a pretty middle-of-the-road team with fans who are middle-of-the-road in terms of emotional investment.
The Rockies always feel like the little engine that could. They have not been around for very long and have reached the playoffs only three times – all as the wild card. Their fans, though, have bought into the franchise wonderfully. They ranked 10th in attendance in 2010 and that will likely improve as the team makes a playoff run this year.
The biggest thing going against the D-Backs is their lack of history; they are one of the youngest teams in baseball. Of course, that goes both ways, and you could argue that the fact they have a solid core of diehards is impressive, given their short tenure in the league.
In the last decade, they have fallen from world champions to the worst pitching side in baseball and their uniforms have gone from epic to dull. But they still have fans who care.
The Braves had one of the best and most consistent teams in MLB history under Bobby Cox. And their fans were great, led by the Tomahawk Chop. However, with success harder to come by in recent years, the fans have become more apathetic. We will have to wait and see if they are still as emotional and passionate under Fredi Gonzalez.
The White Sox have the better team.
The Cubs have the nicer stadium.
Who has the more emotional fans?
Sorry, Sox fans, it has to be the Cubbies. Take heart, though, that is largely because you won in 2005. The Cubs are still waiting for their curse-breaking moment. You cannot compete with that level of misery.
Don’t try and pretend it’s not true. If you lived in Milwaukee, you would go to Miller Park just to watch the sausage race. Whether it is because of that or because they want to root for their team, thousands of people flock to the stadium every night, filling almost 90% on a consistent basis. They have not had much to cheer for over the 40-year history but they still cheer regardless.
There was a time when the As would be close to the top of this list. Sadly, with the second-worst attendance in the Majors, they are not the same fans they used to be. They are still crazy though, those that actually attend the games. Raiders fans are, too. Perhaps it’s something in the water in Oakland.
A surprisingly high finish for the Royals, something to which they will not be accustomed. Many fans are too young to know what it was like for their team to be good. Despite that, they pour their heart and soul into the Royals. They deserve credit for that.
Seattle fans care.
The heart has been ripped out of their city, sports-wise, in recent years. The Seahawks fell apart. The Sonics left town. The Mariners sucked epically last season. Their fans still were in the top 20 in attendance though. They have never reached the World Series but they care about their history and are pretty knowledgeable, by and large. Kudos.
The Twins have been well-supported for a long time. Then they moved from the Metrodome to Target Field and attendance became the sixth best in the Majors. Some of that will be down to the novelty of the new stadium. Some will be because the Twins are a very good team and a strong playoff contender.
And some will be due to the fact that Minnesota has a large fan base, disproportionate to the relatively small market in which they play.
For a team who, until last season, had been largely unsuccessful, the Rangers have some great fans. Now they are actually winning, have their first pennant under their belt and are tearing the cover off the ball in the early going in 2011.
That means more pink hat fans, but believe it, the diehards are there and they have been for a while.
Sorry, Bengals fans. This is a baseball town.
The Reds have a smaller market than many teams and still live in the shadow of their previous dominance, in the 1970s. Rather than languish in their present relative lack of success, however, the fans are wickedly supportive.
The Os have bolted out of the starting gate in 2011; they are 6-3. For the first time in far too long, it feels like Baltimore is relevant. This is a just reward for their fans who have remained incredibly loyal to one of the great baseball franchises.
Their fan base was attacked by the Expos’ move to Washington and the team has been atrocious in the last 15 years, last making the playoffs in 1997. Try telling that to Orioles fans, who are so devoted to their team they staged a mass walkout of a game in September 2006, in protest at the team’s owner Peter Angelos.
You can call them gimmicky, with the Rally Monkey and thundersticks, but the fact remains, Angels fans support their team like no other. They have a pretty ballpark, great weather, and some immense fans.
If you are a Tigers fan, you are a Tigers fan. It is not because you liked their uniforms or your boyfriend kind of likes them, so you might as well buy a hat. It is because you care about your team. The recession has really hit Detroit hard; one has to admire the fact people still turn up to the games in droves.
The Mets’ support is akin to that of the New York Jets. They might not have much success but they have a lot of fans and boy, they are passionate!
At times the Mets seem more interested in finding new and interesting ways to lose, but that does not appear to matter to their fans.
Much of the great attendance figures the Giants had in the early part of the decade can be attributed to Barry Bonds. He has gone now, though, and the only reason the Giants still play to packed houses is because their fans love them. A World Series title is bound to bring bandwagon fans but the majority are still diehards.
You know you have one of the best and most emotional fan bases in the league when your team’s 10,000th loss is still almost a sellout. Phillies fans – with their predisposition for running onto the field – are passionate and loyal; now they can add ‘successful’.
St Louis lay claim to the title of ‘best baseball town’ in the country. If TV ratings are anything to go by, they might have a point. The Cards are consistently one of the most-watched teams, both on television and at the stadium.
What makes that all the more remarkable is the fact they play in such a small market. The history and success of the franchise go a long way; their fan base is incredibly invested in their team. They know their team and the game, and you know that their general wellbeing depends on the game the night before.
The Dodgers have had quite a few different names over the years – many of them unofficial. The Bridegrooms, the Superbas, the Robins, the Grays. The one that everyone remembers? ‘Brooklyn’.
When the Brooklyn Dodgers moved across the country to California, there was outrage, protesting and grieving on such a scale, you would not think it was about a baseball team. There are still people who want the Dodgers to move back to the East coast. Now that’s loyalty.
In June of 2009, the Yankees were well on course for a postseason berth, could easily win the AL East and were one of the favourites to win the World Series. But despite all that, they had lost eight straight to the Red Sox, so obviously everyone wanted manager Joe Girardi fired.
In the last two years, Girardi has delivered two ALCS appearances and a 27th world championship, yet the fans will still want him canned if the Yanks go on a five game losing streak.
Then, of course, there is the small matter of every single person in the world owning a Yankees cap. Or at least that is the way it seems. Since most people with an NY above their forehead know nothing about baseball, one could argue their fan base is diluted, but it does not change the fact that fans of the Bombers are fiercely loyal. And crazy. In a good way.
The Boston Red Sox started the season 0-6. When they were just 0-3, people were saying their summers had been ruined already, the team was done, the manager and GM should be fired, and they were going to watch soccer when the NHL and NBA seasons were over. (Okay, they did not go that far.) Now at 2-8, it is only getting worse.
Sure, they are not as emotional as they were before 2004, but they have sold out over 650 consecutive games at Fenway Park.
Behind the right field wall at Wrigley Field, just past the bleacher seats, on the roof of an overlooking house, there is a counter. Right now it reads: ‘0265102’, which serves as a constant reminder to Cubs’ players and their beleaguered fans that they have not won the division in two years, the National League in 65 and the World Series in over a decade.
Ask anyone in the North side of Chicago; many would give their first-born child to see the Cubbies win the championship. But that does not make them go to the games. When scalpers are charging a mere $3 for grandstand seats in the first week of the season, you know something is awry with your supporters.
Still, misery is an emotion, right?