Fandom: Ranking the Top 30 Sports Cities by Fan Devotion
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All teams and cities think their fans are best.
Realistically though, what cities have the most loyal and most dedicated fans?
I figured I would give this topic a shot, with a few rules:
- I'm considering major metropolitan areas as a single city (e.g. the Bay Area includes San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose teams).
- I'm also only counting cities with a minimum of two teams from the big four professional sports, so my many apologies to the Green Bay faithful.
- This list is not trying to rank cities based on their success, but rather a city's fan devotion and loyalty to its home teams.
- This list is primarily composed of American teams, but I'll throw Toronto in for kicks.
Read my disclaimer:
I do not mean this as any disrespect to any city or a particular team. I realize every team has a number of diehard fans that may be offended.
Remember, I do not mean this as a dig at a city in particular.
With all potential hard feelings aside, let us have a look.
Professional Teams: Charlotte Bobcats, Carolina Panthers
It sucks to be last, but when you've got the Bobcats, which can't figure out how to keep decent players, and the Panthers, which think Jimmy Clausen is more than a pickle heir, it's difficult to get any lower.
I don't blame the fans because they've got nothing to work with. I just wish for Charlotte's sake that Michael Jordan leaves town sooner rather than later.
Professional Teams: Milwaukee Brewers, Milwaukee Bucks
The Brewers—though potent this year—have yet to find a way beyond their beer-drinking moniker, while the Bucks are just in a heap of trouble and better avoid being hunted by better NBA teams.
Again, fans are not to blame. The teams' failures over the past 20 years can be held accountable for the dwindling fan bases.
28. Tampa Bay
Professional Teams: Tampa Bay Rays, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning
All three teams have had some level of success in recent history, such as the Buccaneers' Super Bowl win in 2002 and the Lightning's Stanley Cup in 2004.
But remember it's Florida.
There's always something better to do than watch hockey when its 80 degrees outside. The Bucs dismantled their team after the win, and their fans went with it. The Rays play in the worst stadium in MLB history, with apologies to the A's and Raiders.
Tampa is a fine city with fine sports teams, but it just isn't suited correctly to build a diligent fan base.
Professional Teams: Baltimore Orioles, Baltimore Ravens
The Orioles have a fine stadium, but no fans to fill it. How much fun is it fighting every year with the Blue Jays for fourth place?
The Ravens have a team and loyal fans, but defense is not the way to win the hearts and minds of potential viewers.
Professional Teams: Houston Astros, Houston Rockets, Houston Texans
It's too hot during baseball season to stomach sitting outside for four straight hours while a mediocre team tries to compete in the NL Central.
The Rockets are stuck as the third-best NBA team in Texas, and their perennial All-Star can barely reach down to tie his shoes.
Football is Texas, but the Texans can't seem to draw crowds like the Cowboys, University of Texas, the rest of the colleges and the rest of the high schools in the state.
Maybe they should try a different sport.
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Professional Teams: Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs
Canada is hockey, so no knocks against the Maple Leafs fans.
The Blue Jays need a new stadium. Carpet is not in anymore, and finishing above third place would be a pleasant change.
I must pity Raptors fans. One of the only halfway decent players you've ever had just bolted for Miami, and you're stuck with Andrea Bargnani. My condolences.
24. Washington D.C.
Professional Teams: Washington Nationals, Washington Wizards, Washington Redskins, Washington Capitals.
Most D.C. sports are hard to watch.
The Nationals are still marketing themselves with future talent, the Wizards finally got gun-control laws and the Redskins still need a quarterback, Rex Grossman aside.
Other than the Hogettes, Skins fans seem more content to boo the signing of Albert Haynesworth than the shoddy team and coaching staff.
The Capitals and their fans are the one shining star on an otherwise dreary D.C. day.
Professional Teams: Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators
Tennessee is music country, sort of football country and definitely not hockey country.
The Preds are a solid team, but why they are in Nashville is beyond me. The Titans still need to find a way to get over Vince Young if they want to draw fans back.
And Chris Johnson...well, he keeps running, but who's watching?
Professional Teams: Seattle Mariners, Seattle Seahawks
Poor Seattle couldn't keep their Supersonics happy enough to stay. I guess the rain forced them to bolt to the Midwest.
The Seahawks are a well-supported team (Sounders as well, but that doesn't count here), but unfortunately that doesn't translate to Mariners fans. The sparkle of Ichiro Suzuki can't help the team overcome many consecutive seasons of losing and the better half of the decade looking up at the rest of the AL West.
Professional Teams: Florida Marlins, Miami Heat, Miami Dolphins, Florida Panthers
The Dolphins have history, championships and fans.
The Heat have fans—well, groupies that is. Before Wade showed up, where was everybody?
Loyalty in Miami is only based on success, except for baseball. With two championships in a 20-year history, there is still never more than 10,000 in the stands for a Marlins game.
Maybe the other 10,000 wanted to cool off at the Panthers game, where there's always plenty of room to stretch out.
Professional Teams: Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals
The Reds have no personality. Maybe they should borrow from TOchocinco.
The Reds are a potentially likable, successful team, but they just can't draw. The Bengals have too many egos and too many problems to overcome the fact that they are an average team that can't compete for a title.
That spells bad news for enticing the casual fan.
Professional Teams: Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Suns, Arizona Cardinals, Phoenix Coyotes
The fans appear for spring training, but once April begins, where do they go?
Not to Chase Field, though I can't blame them. Maybe they sometimes go to watch Steve Nash and his Suns. The Coyotes draw well on occasion, and the Cardinals have that great secondary education to fall back on.
University of Phoenix was it?
18. Minneapolis-St. Paul
Professional Teams: Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild
Brett Favre burned all bridges and Tarvaris Jackson is not the best rebuilder. Joe Mauer is the face of the city, but who wants to freeze outside in April, May or September? The Wild draw well, but can't cut it in the postseason.
And the Timberwolves? KG couldn't do it, but maybe the city will start throwing the team a little more Kevin Love.
17. San Francisco Bay Area
Professional Teams: Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants, Golden State Warriors, Oakland Raiders, San Francisco 49ers, San Jose Sharks
The A's have loyal fans, but you can count them on your fingers and toes. The Giants have a huge fan base now, but before AT&T, where were they? Did anything happen recently?
The Niners and Raiders have their followings, but still seem stuck in their own ways.
The Warriors and Sharks both have very loyal fan bases despite different levels of success.
There are too many teams in too small an area to support all of them at a decent level. That's why the Raiders moved to LA, then back. Did they learn their lesson?
16. St. Louis
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Professional Teams: St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Rams, St. Louis Blues
The Cardinals are the consummate team when it comes to a devoted and loyal fan base, but where are the Rams fans?
Oh yeah, Sam Bradford is a fun novelty, but you need way more than a quarterback to be watchable.
The Blues try, but too frequently they just make their fans sad.
Professional Teams: Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts
You used to hear cheers for Reggie Miller, and now they are for Danny Granger. The Pacers enjoy scuffling through the East, only to be knocked out by legitimate foes in the early rounds.
The Colts, now that's a fan base. No questions there except what happens when Peyton leaves.
14. Kansas City
Professional Teams: Kansas City Royals, Kansas City Chiefs
Not even the return of George Brett could bring the fans back to the Royals. How does a team expect to keep a fan base when every halfway-decent player is traded for prospects and the cycle repeats?
The Chiefs have a large following and a solid team. Why can't they start playing doubleheaders with the Royals?
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Professional Teams: Colorado Rockies, Denver Nuggets, Denver Broncos, Colorado Avalanche
The Rockies' fan base is cyclical. It started out strong and weakened after years of underachieving, but now it is growing again.
No one helps build loyal fans like John Elway, and no one takes them away like Josh McDaniels. Can Tim Tebow bring the wild sheep back to his flock?
Colorado is the perfect place for hockey, and being halfway decent doesn't hurt either. As for the Nuggets, they are on the upswing, but without a superstar, will the fans return for good fundamentals?
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Professional Teams: Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics, New England Patriots, Boston Bruins
The Sox's fan base is obvious, no need to question it. The Patriots have certainly been boosted by Tom Brady, but they have always had their faithful, as have the Bruins.
The only knock I can make is about the Celtics, who seemed to immediately have a much larger fan base once they added Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.
If they're not bandwagon fans, where were they hiding? Larry Bird's house?
Professional Teams: Detroit Tigers, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Lions, Detroit Red Wings
Hockey Town U.S.A., no questions there.
It's difficult to fault Lions fans for covering themselves in shame, and likewise for the Tigers after their near-record poor performance a few years back.
The Pistons have done well in the last decade, but the Malice in the Palace must have been a turnoff for some.
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Professional Teams: Texas Rangers, Dallas Mavericks, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Stars
The Cowboys have a new stadium, did you know? And they can fill it. The Mavericks have a renegade owner, and he's nuts. Now that's worth watching.
The Rangers were in the World Series, and no, it didn't really interfere with football. You still can't make it? OK fine, I guess we won't try to win then.
Where were the fans? Best season in team history, and nobody showed.
Oh yeah, the Stars play there too. I wonder what it's like to be ninth fiddle.
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Professional Teams: Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Hawks, Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta Thrashers.
Ted Turner may be crazy, but he did create a great venue and team for Georgians to enjoy. The same can be said for the Falcons, but with Michael Vick instead.
The Hawks, well, they are still working on that whole fan thing, and the Thrashers, they play hockey, enough said.
8. Los Angeles
Professional Teams: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Los Angeles Dodgers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings
So many teams, but so much else to do.
The Lakers will always have fans because of their success and Hollywood hype; the Clippers will as long as Blake Griffin stays healthy.
The Dodgers have fans, but the numbers are dwindling because of the recent backlash from the Giants winning the World Series. The Angels still have their rally monkey, and the Ducks have Disney movies to hype them.
Did you know the Kings play at Staples Center too?
Professional Teams: Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers, Cleveland Browns
I have more sympathy for Cleveland fans than any other. It's tough to have your hometown hero spit on you, but at least the river didn't catch on fire—again.
The Indians are making a comeback, and after a few lean years, the fans are returning as well.
The Browns have always had fans. Ah, the lovable loser title is fun, isn't it?
As for the Cavs, the grieving process continues, but time heals all wounds—in theory.
6. New York City
Professional Teams: New York Mets, New York Yankees, New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, New York Giants, New York Jets, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers
Ah, the Big Apple. So little space that they outsourced to New Jersey.
The Yankees' fan base is unquestionable, so I won't. I feel for Mets fans, though; stats say a random championship should drop in your lap sooner or later.
The Giants and Jets should really combine to make one championship-caliber team, though I don't know if that would work for football rivalries.
Rangers and Devils, you keep on trucking, though it's going to be a bit tougher for the Devils. Islanders, at least you don't have to fight the Manhattan traffic.
The Nets are moving, in theory. Will they be better? If Jay-Z holds a concert before and after every game, ticket sales should jump.
And the Knicks. Your fans are the most fickle of them all. Allan Houston be damned, you've already challenged the Celtics, Lakers and Heat to fisticuffs this year. Too bad two-and-a-half players isn't enough to make a full basketball team.
Also, thanks for hiding the past 10 years, only to reappear the moment something good might happen.
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Professional Teams: Pittsburgh Pirates, Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Penguins
Despite the Pirates' unconventional style of poor franchise management, you still rank high on this list Pittsburgh.
Steelers fans are some of the most dedicated in the NFL. Sitting through a four-hour game while its 10 below and your offense moves at a painfully slow 3.4 yards per play has got to be difficult.
Penguins fans are up for a bit more of a treat, as the team is both successful and exciting to watch—though recent injuries might convert them to Steelers fans.
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Professional Teams: Philadelphia Phillies, Philadelphia 76ers, Philadelphia Eagles, Philadelphia Flyers
All cruel Philadelphia fans jokes aside, it is hard to deny their loyalty.
There were certainly some lean years for all teams. While the 76ers and Flyers are the only ones scuffling a bit, it's refreshing to know you'd prefer to freeze and support your team than sit at home and watch on TV.
3. New Orleans
Professional Teams: New Orleans Hornets, New Orleans Saints
Yes, the Hornets barely avoided being relocated to San Jose, but that's just because everyone, and I mean everyone, is busy at some event involving the Saints.
Dey—excuse me—they, are the best fan base in the NFL and were finally rewarded for it.
Professional Teams: Buffalo Bills, Buffalo Sabres
Never has a city seen so many chances fall by the wayside.
Bills fans are dedicated. I can't imagine any other city standing by their team after so many heartbreaking defeats, close calls and near misses. They still sell out nearly every game despite the Buffalo weather. It does raise the question: If they move to Toronto, will the fans move, too?
The Sabres have done their best in recent years to live up to the Bills' standard of "excellence," and with the playoffs starting soon, they too could almost win a championship, but not quite.
Luckily for them, the fans will stay.
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Professional Teams: Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Chicago Bulls, Chicago Bears, Chicago Blackhawks
There have been good times, and there have been bad times.
Good times for the Bulls with Michael Jordan, and perhaps new good times on the near horizon. The Blackhawks have brought the Stanley Cup to the shores of Lake Michigan, so the arena sports are pulling their weight.
The true loyalty of fandom comes from blind devotion no matter the recent results.
And by recent, I mean the previous 100 years.
Bears fans have been there for years and years and years, and only Rex Grossman kept them from realizing their dreams.
And finally, of course, we've got the Cubs. More than 100 years, and still they fill Wrigley Field. Every day, every night and soon, I promise you soon, the curse—yes, the curse—may one day very well end (just keep your hands outside the field of play).