If you're a fan in a big city (and some not-so-big cities) you have options when it comes to sports. Most larger markets have at least two teams and sometimes as many as five or six.
It begs the question: Which team owns your town?
For the purposes of this highly scientific study, we have to assume that all things are equal. That is to say, just pretend that every team is winning.
So if you're in Detroit, imagine that the Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons and Lions have all just won their respective titles (try to contain yourself). Which team has the most fans?
That's the purpose of this study. Since I am just one man and, sadly, haven't been to all the cities on the list, I've asked for the help of some of the B/R staff to get a sense from the real fans.
You're not going to agree with some of the decisions, but before you start unloading expletives in the comments section, sit back, think and ask yourself if your favorite team is truly your town's favorite team.
I'm surprised how Phoenix is able to lure any athletes to the desert with 120-degree summers, but they've done a good job.
They have four major sports teams and all have been competitive recently, so this one is a hard one to gauge.
The Coyotes moved to Phoenix from Winnipeg in 1996, but haven't been able to make it out of the first round of the playoffs. The team filed for bankruptcy in 2009, a sure sign that it isn't the most popular team in the city.
The Diamondbacks became a powerhouse in the early 2000s with the Hall of Fame pitching duo of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling, and they dethroned the back-to-back-to-back World Series champion New York Yankees in 2001. Since then, however, the team has been up and down and is currently in rebuilding mode.
The Suns were one of the most exciting teams in all of sports with Steve Nash and Amar'e Stoudemire. They were extremely close to making it to the NBA Finals for a few years, but could never get over the hump. Now it appears as if Nash is heading out of town and the rebuilding will soon be underway.
That leaves the Cardinals, which shocked the world by making it to the Super Bowl in 2008 with Kurt Warner, but couldn't pull it off. Since then Warner has retired, but the Cardinals remain a playoff team, thus gaining the support of the city.
Who Owns Phoenix? The Cardinals
Once the laughingstock of their respective leagues, the franchises in Tampa Bay have all managed to create respectable teams that are competitive year in and year out.
The Lightning reached their ultimate goal by winning the Stanley Cup in 2003-04 and are a consistent playoff team.
The Rays went from the AL East cellar to the World Series in the blink of an eye and, despite a minuscule payroll, have managed to become serious competitors with the Yankees and Red Sox in the AL East. But they're going to have to win a lot of World Series to make up for the atrocity that is Tropicana Field.
That leaves the Buccaneers which, although they occasionally break out the Creamsicle uniforms, managed to go from one of the loser franchises in the NFL to Super Bowl champions by winning it all in 2002.
Although the Lightning are making a strong push, the fans in Tampa Bay love their Bucs unconditionally, so they're going to have to take this one.
Who Owns Tampa Bay? The Buccaneers
I'd like to say that the Bobcats have a shot here, but they really don't. Even having Michael Jordan associated with the team can't help them.
The Hurricanes have been solid since moving from Hartford in 1997, and they even won the Stanley Cup in 2006. Other than that it's been feast or famine, as they've only made the playoffs five times in 13 seasons.
The Panthers joined the NFL in 1995 and have been a strong franchise since then, making it to a Super Bowl in 2003. The Panthers do extremely well in terms of attendance, so it's clear they have a following in North Carolina. They would probably run the city if it weren't for those two pesky college teams.
Duke and North Carolina basketball dominate the state. The Tobacco Road rivalry is clearly the only sporting event that the people of North Carolina truly care about.
That being said, we have to choose and I'm going to have to say that UNC takes this one. While Duke may get more national headlines, statistics show that UNC still has a bigger local following.
Who Owns North Carolina? The UNC Tar Heels
I know what you're thinking: The arrival of "The Big Three" certainly cemented the Heat as the top franchise in Miami.
As a basketball fan I wish this was the case, but the fact remains that Miami is not a basketball city.
It's not a baseball city either, as you can tell by the Marlins' dismal attendance figures.
That being said, it's pretty clear that Miami lives and breathes Dolphins football. I mean, when Ace Ventura endorses the Dolphins, do you really have a choice?
Who Owns Miami? The Dolphins
Tennessee has a few major sports teams, but it spread them out so that you can't group them into one city.
In Memphis you have the Grizzlies, which may have recently developed some bandwagon fans, but can't be considered Tennessee's team.
In Nashville there are the Predators, which came into the league in 1998. Despite featuring Carrie Underwood's husband, the Predators still haven't managed to gain a grip on the state's sports fans.
The Titans moved to Nashville from Houston in 1997 and immediately won the hearts of the state's football fans by going to the Super Bowl in 1999. Although they lost, it kept the Titans at the top of the list of sports teams in Tennessee—even with Vince Young's shenanigans.
Unfortunately for the Titans, there's another football team in town that will never be supplanted—the University of Tennessee Volunteers. Although located in Knoxville, the team's orange and white can be seen from one end of the state to the other.
Who Owns Tennessee? The University of Tennessee Volunteers
With all the woes in the Cleveland sports scene, being named the king of the town is like being named winner of the "least-ugly pageant."
The Indians were certainly on top during the mid-90s when they went to two World Series, but they couldn't manage to win the ring that has eluded them since 1948.
The Cavs were at the top during the LeBron years (who thought we'd be saying that two years ago), as they sold out Quicken Loans Arena for 102 consecutive games. But now it seems like it will be years before the Cavs even think about the playoffs.
That leaves the Browns, which were gone from 1995-1999 and have only made the playoffs once in the last 17 years. Despite the lack of success, you can't say the fan base isn't there. The people of Cleveland have embraced their misery, and that starts first and foremost with the Browns.
Who Owns Cleveland? The Browns
Canada has a baseball team and a basketball team but, outside of the Blue Jays in the early 90s and the Raptors in the Vinsanity days, they have never really been much of a draw.
That leaves the hockey teams and, although there are many, there are two that stand out above all the rest—the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens.
We don't get much of it in the United States, but the rivalry between the Leafs and the Canadiens (they're called "the Habs" north of the border, which is short for the extremely French, Les Habitantes) is a bitter one.
They are the two most successful franchises in the NHL, but the Habs have an overwhelming lead in terms of Stanley Cups (24 to 13).
In Toronto, the Leafs win for sure, but if we're talking all of Canada, we have to give it to the Canadiens.
Who Owns Canada? The Canadiens
Is it bad that I didn't know the Minnesota Wild existed until about 30 seconds ago? People in Minnesota do love their hockey, but the franchise just started in 2000 so it needs more time to build a following.
The Timberwolves were the talk of the town for a couple years during the Sam Cassell/Kevin Garnett era, but that quickly ended and the team went back to being, well, the Timberwolves.
The Twins have managed to be consistently good despite often not being able to sign (or re-sign) top free agents. Their most recent World Series title was in 1991 and the team became even more popular when they locked up Minnesota native Joe Mauer to a 10-year extension.
Although the Twins are loved, you can't deny that the Vikings rule Minnesota. While the rest of America was pissed off having to sit through the Brett Favre saga every year, people in Minnesota were glued to the television set waiting for an answer.
The old man may have played a year too long, but the people of Minnesota wouldn't have had it any other way.
Who Owns Minnesota? The Vikings
Although the "Fear the Deer" campaign worked wonders for the Bucks last season, a backslide this year cost them any momentum they might have in the city of Milwaukee.
The Brewers are an up-and-coming team with a lot of young talent, and some experts have picked them to be the sleeper team of 2011. They have a strong fanbase and draw consistently well, but there's just one other team that can't be messed with in the state of Wisconsin.
Although they play 120 miles from Milwaukee, the Green Bay Packers are the city's team. As you can see from the picture, even at a Bucks game the cheeseheads come out in full force (note the guy is also wearing a Brewers shirt...if only he had a Fonzie leather jacket on he would be Milwaukee's greatest citizen).
Thanks to the Packers' recent Super Bowl victory, I'm sure they'll hold the top spot in Milwaukee and the rest of Wisconsin for a long time to come.
Who Owns Milwaukee? The Packers
The Mile High City is a great sports town with four major franchises. Let's start with the Avalanche, which immediately gained a following by winning the Stanley Cup in their first year in Denver in 1996 (they moved from Quebec).
The Rockies came to town as an expansion team in 1993 and quickly made the playoffs in 1995 with Dante Bichette, Larry Walker and company. The Rockies have been up and down since then, but they put together a magical run in September and October of 2007, winning 21 of 22 games at one point before being swept by the Red Sox in the World Series.
The Nuggets have one of the best home-field advantages in sports and were title contenders for a few years during Carmelo's time in Denver. Since he left, the Nuggets managed to maintain a strong, entertaining team, but they still don't compare to the city's biggest draw.
I remember hearing Trey Parker, the co-creator of South Park, talk about his days growing up in Colorado. I'm paraphrasing, but he said something to the effect of: "We could always tell whether the Broncos won on Sunday by the way everyone was acting on Monday."
In addition, Keith T. added: "John Elway made sure it will always be a Broncos Town."
With statements like that as evidence, it's hard to say that anyone but the Broncos rule Denver.
Who Owns Denver? The Broncos
No offense to Royals and Sporting Kansas City fans, but this one's not close. The Royals did have their time with the George Brett years, but ultimately they've just been too terrible for too long to gain a grip on the city.
Sporting Kansas City is towards the bottom of the MLS in attendance, and that's saying something.
That leaves the Chiefs, which have a huge following in the city and are generally pretty good. The Chiefs won three AFL championships and won the last AFL-NFL Super Bowl in 1970, but they haven't been back to the big game since.
That doesn't stop the fans in Kansas City from supporting the Chiefs, which clearly run Kansas City.
Who Owns Kansas City? The Chiefs
The Padres have had times when they were the talk of the town, but San Diego clearly belongs to the Chargers.
The recent success of the San Diego State basketball team might have them on the radar, but it's going to take several years of sustained success to make them a real contender.
The laid-back attitude of San Diego goes out the window during football season, when the Bolts are on everyone's mind. They have one AFL championship, but have yet to win a Super Bowl, although they've been amongst the league's top teams for years.
If the Chargers fans could get through the Ryan Leaf era, they can survive anything.
Who Owns San Diego? The Chargers
The SuperSonics were definitely in contention for Seattle's team until, well, you know.
The Seattle Sounders of the MLS have done well for a soccer team, as they drew over 36,000 fans per game in 2010, by far the best in the league.
The Mariners led MLB in attendance in 2001 and 2002, but the numbers have been on a steady decline as the team has continued to struggle.
The consensus is that Seattle's team is the Seahawks, which have yet to win a Super Bowl, but made it to the big game in 2006.
As Sean S. said: "The Sounders might be worth an honorable mention for Seattle since they've kind of supplanted the void left by the Sonics and have MLS' most rabid fanbase. Obviously, they don't even approach the 'Hawks fan base."
Who Owns Seattle? The Seahawks
Houston is one of the biggest markets in Texas, which makes it one of the biggest in the country. As a result, they have three major sports teams, and four if you count the Houston Dynamo.
The Dynamo can't compete with the others, and the other three are actually pretty hard to rank.
The Astros were popular when they had the Killer B's. Except for a World Series appearance in 2005 (swept by the White Sox), the Astros haven't been good enough to gain sustained momentum in the city.
The Rockets dominated in the mid-90s with Hakeem Olajuwon and the back-to-back NBA champions. But that was back when the Oilers were on the verge of moving out of the city.
After six years with no football, the city was rejuvenated when the Texans started to play in 2002. That was about the same time the Rockets started to fall off, so the Texans vaulted to the top of the Houston sports scene. Now that they've actually put together a competitive team, they've cemented their position.
Barring the miraculous return to form by Yao Ming, it looks like it will stay that way for a while.
Who Owns Houston? The Texans
Atlanta is a city that has the luxury of having a team from all four major sports. As usual, we'll discount hockey first. It will be hard to develop lifelong Thrashers fans when the average temperature in Atlanta is about 90 degrees with humidity.
Next up are the Hawks, which had some glory years with Dominique Wilkins and are on the verge of making it to the second round of the playoffs, but ultimately there's just not enough support there.
That leaves it to the Falcons and the Braves, which is another tough decision. Atlanta loves football, but the storied history of the Braves in the 1990s made them a fan favorite, with the omnipresent Tomahawk Chop at home games.
At the end of the day, though, it's hard to say that the Falcons aren't the bigger draw.
As DeMarco W. writes: "Atlanta is owned by the Falcons... right now. But there was a time not too long ago that Bobby Cox's lawn man could have run for mayor and won. Sadly, the Braves have to earn back the city's full attention."
Maybe the Braves can put together a couple of great years to win back the city, but until then, we're doing the Dirty Bird all night long.
Who Owns Atlanta? The Falcons
The state of Indiana is steeped in sports tradition. The Hoosier State is known for its commitment to basketball, but they also have one of the best football crowds in the country.
While the Pacers were at the height of their popularity during the Reggie Miller days, they were always a close second to the most important basketball team in town, the Indiana Hoosiers.
Indiana University has always been the top team of the area, largely because they get most of the state's best high-school players. Unfortunately, since Bobby Knight's departure, the Hoosiers have been unable to find consistent success, so they have slipped below the other team in town.
The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the top teams in the NFL since Tony Dungy joined Peyton Manning in 2002. They won the Super Bowl in 2006 and got there again in 2009. Besides being one of the most recognizable teams in the country, they also have one of the most media-friendly players in Manning.
He's been in commercials for everything from Gatorade to MasterCard and even famously hosted Saturday Night Live. Largely due to Peyton, the Colts win in Indianapolis.
Who Owns Indianapolis? The Colts
Pittsburgh has three major sports teams and all of them have won championships at one point or another.
The Pirates are steeped in tradition with the likes of Honus Wagner and Roberto Clemente, but they haven't won since the "We Are Family" team of 1979, and last season they had the fifth-worst attendance in the league.
The Penguins have won much more recently, twice in the early 90s and in 2008-09, thanks to the help of great players like Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. If Sid the Kid can stay healthy and deliver a few more Stanley Cups, Pittsburgh could come down with a case of Penguin fever.
Until then, however, the city belongs to the Steelers. They dominated the 70s, winning four of the 10 Super Bowls. Terrible Towels waved as the Steelers won two more Super Bowls in 2005 and 2008, and they just lost one this past season.
At this point it's pretty clear that Pittsburgh is a Steelers city.
Who Owns Pittsburgh? The Steelers
Our nation's capital is more than just the White House and other historic government buildings. It's also home to a few sports franchises to which the locals show eternal devotion.
After losing two teams to other cities, MLB decided to give D.C. a third try in 2005, when the Montreal Expos moved in and became the Nationals. Since then, the Nats have managed to build up a nice core of young talent and a brand new stadium, but it's not enough to win the city's affections.
The Wizards (formerly the Bullets) were popular in the 70s, especially after they won Washington's only major sports championship in 1978, and had a resurgence in 2001 when some old guy came out of retirement to play for them.
Still, the city's top franchises at this point have to be the Capitals and the Redskins. The Caps have yet to win the Cup, but they've won their division for the past four seasons and lay claim to one of the best offensive players in the game, Alex Ovechkin.
The Redskins have been in town since 1937 and have three Super Bowl titles ('82, '87, '91), but have been going through some down years recently. Still, they will have to be pretty terrible for a lot of years in order to lose their position as the city's top team.
As Travis H. said: "Redskins in Wash DC, I believe they are still among the most valuable franchises despite Snyder's reign of terror."
Who Owns D.C.? The Redskins
This one isn't really worth an entry, but I suppose we should contine with the formality. The Stars are overshadowed by the other two teams in town.
The Mavericks put up a decent fight as they are quite popular in the city thanks in large part to Mark Cuban being able to put together a solid team. While Dirk's mane surely brings in a lot of the the female fans, they're no match for the town's main attraction.
The Dallas Cowboys are probably the most popular football team in the country, so how could they not rule Dallas itself?
Even after the glory days of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, Jerry Jones has continued to put a solid product out on the field. Constantly entwined in some sort of controversy, the Cowboys are never out of the spotlight in any city, especially Dallas.
Who Owns Dallas? The Cowboys
Detroit is a hard-nosed city known for producing automobiles, rock stars and Eminem. They also have some pretty darn good sports teams.
Usually you can throw hockey out immediately, but that's not the case in Detroit. The Red Wings have won 11 Stanley Cups, more than any other American team in NHL history, and their fanbase is rabid.
The "Bad Boy" Pistons of the late 80s and early 90s took on the persona of their city, bruising their way to back-to-back titles in 1989 and 1990. The underdog Pistons of 2004 shocked a Lakers team that featured four future Hall of Famers.
The Tigers are one of the original franchises in Major League Baseball and have made it to the World Series as recently as 2006.
The Lions, while they've fallen on some hard times recently, are a storied NFL franchise that won three championships in the 50s.
Since I've never been to Detroit, let alone lived there, I'll leave this decision up to Josh A. who said: "After spending a good amount of time in Detroit I would be confident in saying my opinion is that Detroit is owned by the Red Wings"
Maybe it's the proximity to Canada.
Who Owns Detroit? The Red Wings
This one's kind of a no-brainer. The Blues can't compete with baseball and football fans in St. Louis, so it's down to the Rams and the Cardinals.
Football has pretty much eclipsed baseball as the national pastime across the country, but for some reason St. Louis is standing by its Cardinals.
One of the most storied franchises in baseball, the Cardinals have one of the strongest and most devoted fanbases in all of sports.
It's easy right now because the Rams have struggled, but even when the Rams were winning Super Bowls with Kurt Warner, it was still a Cardinals town.
As King K. put it: "The Cardinals have owned this town forever, it's not even close."
Who Owns St. Louis? The Cardinals
Philadelphia is known for having some of the toughest, meanest fans in the country, so one way to look at which team owns Philly is so see which team's games have produced the most trips to the hospital.
The Flyers have a strong fanbase, but, again, you usually can't compare hockey to the other major sports. The Sixers had a good run with Dr. J in the 80s, but they're really not in the discussion either.
Basically it comes down to the Phillies and the Eagles. The Phils have had a resurgence as of late by winning four-straight AL East titles and one World Series.
But for this decision I had to abide by the words of native Philadelphian, Josh A.: "Anyone in Philly would be willing to have the Phillies move out of town for good in exchange for one Eagles Super Bowl win."
Since I've never lived there, I'll have to take his word for it.
Who Owns Philadelphia? The Eagles
People might find it hard to believe that Oakland has three major sports teams. One of them, the Oakland A's, seems to be invisible to the folks in Oakland as well.
The A's have been in the bottom five in MLB attendance for the past five seasons, so there's no chance they run the city.
The Warriors aren't named for Oakland, but do play their home games there. While they're an exciting team to watch and were the darlings of the league in 2007 when they upset the No. 1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round, they still haven't eclipsed the biggest team in town.
Of course that's the Oakland Raiders, whose fans are certifiably insane and perfectly OK with it. The Raiders moved south to Los Angeles for a few years, but that didn't deter the Oakland fans from bleeding silver and black.
From looking at Raiders fans, I find it hard to believe that JaMarcus Russell hasn't been sent to the hospital with numerous fractured limbs by now.
Who Owns Oakland? The Raiders
The Giants are getting a lot of publicity because of Brian Wilson's beard. Oh yeah, and they also won the 2010 World Series.
The Giants have been quite a draw since AT&T Park was built for Barry Bonds and he took the league by storm with a barrage of longballs.
But there are two other teams in town that are on the same level in terms of attention. First let's talk Cal football (now that they will be playing at AT&T Park temporarily, we'll lump them in with San Francisco).
After winning five national championships in the 20s and 30s, Cal was silent for a while, with the exception of "The Play," until recently when players like Aaron Rodgers, Marshawn Lynch and Jahvid Best helped bring them back into national title contention.
Still, the Golden Bears are no match for the other football team in town, the Niners. They haven't been good since Steve Young and Jerry Rice, but the glory years of Joe Montana will always be in the hearts and memories of San Franciscans.
As Sean S. put it: "As far as San Francisco goes, the Giants have probably overtaken the actual city because of the proximity to the park and, of course, recent success. As for the entire region, it cares exponentially more about the 49ers."
Who Owns San Francisco? The 49ers
I guess when Arte Moreno renamed the Angels the "Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim," it was so that his team could be included in conversations just like this.
Unfortunately, the Angels have no chance in the L.A. market and they're probably the third most popular team in Orange County.
The Clippers probably highlight more punchlines than any team in L.A., and with Blake Griffin they have gotten much more exciting, but still...no chance.
The Ducks and Kings have had success but it will take quite a bit to turn Los Angeles into a hockey town.
That leaves the Lakers and Dodgers. While the Dodgers always do well in attendance and have a strong following, including a huge Latin American fanbase, they just don't compare to the Lakers.
The Lakers personify everything about Los Angeles: high-priced talent, a laid-back attitude and inconsistency. Oh yeah...and winning!
Who Owns Los Angeles? The Lakers
There are plenty of teams to choose from in Chicago, but they all might come in second to a slice of deep-dish pizza and an Italian beef sandwich.
The Blackhawks and Fire have relatively strong followings, but they're out of their league trying to compete with the Bulls, White Sox, Cubs and Bears.
First we should eliminate one of the baseball teams. While the White Sox have a loyal following on the south side, the Cubs seem to have majority control of the city when it comes to baseball.
The Bulls dominated during the Jordan years, but as Keith T. wrote: "Even Jordan and Co. had a hard time overcoming 1985."
Dave F. added: "It was never a Bulls town, it was Jordan's town, temporarily. But it will always be a Bears town. Those '85 Bears still come up every day."
Speaking of 1985, ladies and gentlemen, the Chicago Bears Shufflin' Crew!
With that, it's between the Cubs and the Bears and it's definitely a close one. In the end you have to go with the fact that baseball fans are divided between the Cubs and Sox, while every football fan in Chicago loves the Bears.
It's like when Ralph Nader took away votes from Al Gore in the 2000 election. We have to work together people!
Who Owns Chicago? Da Bears
Boston is a maniacal sports town with plenty of teams to choose from. Boston and New York fans are known as the most intense (aka "most annoying" for anyone outside of the Northeast) in the country, and Boston has seen the ups and downs of success and failure with the best of them.
The Bruins have a strong following, but they just can't compete with the other teams in the area.
The Patriots play their games in Foxboro, Mass. and are named after New England, but Boston fans call them their own. They love Tom Brady and Bill Belichick more than anything in the world. Well, almost anything...
When you think of Boston sports, you have to think of the Celtics and the Red Sox. The question becomes, which team reigns supreme?
They both have arguably the best rivalries in their sports (Celtics-Lakers and Red Sox-Yankees). The Celtics have many more titles (17) than the Red Sox (7), but they both have been about equal in terms of success in the past few years.
This has to come down to the native Bostonians. Rollin H. says: "Boston is owned, if all team sports are good at once, by the Red Sox."
I wonder if the answer would have been the same before 2004?
Who Owns Boston? The Red Sox
If there's one thing that you can say about New Yorkers, it's that they're passionate fans. That made this decision extremely tough.
The Islanders and Red Bulls have no chance. While the Rangers have a strong fanbase, the fact that hockey just isn't as popular as the other sports rules them out.
The Mets, while they certainly have their fanbase, just can't compare to the other baseball team in town.
While the NFL dominates most cities, it's hard to put the Jets and the Giants in the same league as the Yankees and the Knicks. Maybe it's because they both play in New Jersey.
That leaves us with the Knicks and the Yankees. For that, we have to go to our "all things equal" rule, because as native New Yorker Joe Y. states: "Knicks playoffs is an event. Yankees are a lifestyle allegiance."
You have to think that if both the Knicks and Yankees were winning, there would be more Yankees fans than Knicks fans.
Who Owns New York? The Yankees