No. 4 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: DallasNovember 17, 2014
No. 4 Best City to Be a Sports Fan: Dallas
How much does where you live matter as a sports fan? The short answer is: It depends.
If you're an Alabama football fan, there's no better place to live than Tuscaloosa. If you're a Red Sox fan, there's no worse place to live than New York City.
But what if you were a free agent, so to speak? What if you loved sports, but didn't have a specific affiliation to any team? You're moving to a new city. What city would have the most to offer you as a sports fan? What city would give you the best overall experience?
That is what we're here to find out. We took 25 of the best writers from Bleacher Report and beyond to objectively look at their cities and come up with a ranking. To get a better understanding of the categories and grading criteria, click here.
Dallas comes in at No. 4. Let's find out why.
Number of Teams/Events: 18/20
There’s a full set of big-league pro clubs in Dallas. In order of arrival or establishment, there's the NFL's Cowboys, MLB's Rangers, the NBA's Mavericks, the NHL's Stars and MLS' FC Dallas.
For major college sports, the greatest congregations of local fans arguably root for schools located about three hours away: Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma. The two local major college programs—Southern Methodist (SMU) in Dallas and Texas Christian (TCU) 30 miles to the west in Fort Worth—each recently ascended to higher conferences, TCU into the Big 12 of the "Power Five."
There is a gaggle of minor league options for the thriftier spectator, beginning with the Rangers’ Frisco farm club, which leads Double-A in attendance. There are two annual PGA Tour events (usually back-to-back) and two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.
Jerry Jones’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington is in play for Super Bowls, Final Fours, the new College Football Playoff (the first title game will be here next January in the Cotton Bowl Classic’s slot to host the finale) plus in-season appearances for marquee college football programs like Alabama, Florida State (both here following national-championship seasons) and Notre Dame.
The annual Texas-Oklahoma football game held at the Cotton Bowl stadium during the massive State Fair of Texas is a unique sports/entertainment experience. FC Dallas’ suburban soccer stadium, which seats about 25,000, has become the regular home of the NCAA’s FCS title game.
Success in the Last Five Years: 15/20
A pro market once defined by the Cowboys’ remarkably consistent success has found satisfaction elsewhere in recent years.
The Rangers, who needed more than 20 years just to qualify for the postseason, reached their first World Series in 2010 and returned a year later, falling one strike short (twice!) of beating the Cardinals in 2011.
The Mavericks have missed the playoffs only once in the past 14 years, beating LeBron James’ first Heat team in 2011 to win their only NBA title to date.
Last NHL season, the Stars ended a five-year playoff drought and are trying to recreate the club that won the Stanley Cup in 1999 and returned to the Final the following season.
Oh, and the Cowboys? No losing seasons in the past three years—or winning seasons. Local kids heading off to college this fall don’t know what it’s like to have the Cowboys, they of the five Lombardi Trophies, in the Super Bowl (their most recent appearance was the 1995 season).
AT&T Stadium, Jerry Jones’ $1 billion playground, which opened in 2009, makes many things possible in the Metroplex that previously weren’t: the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the College Football Playoff Championship Game.
The Rangers’ Globe Life Park—still usually referred to by its original name, The Ballpark—has been upgraded regularly in its 20 years. The home of the Mavericks and Stars near downtown Dallas, American Airlines Center, opened in 2001.
SMU and TCU have spent millions either building new football and basketball venues or doing total makeovers of old ones. The venerable Cotton Bowl has beaten the odds to keep the annual Red River Rivalry game between Texas and Oklahoma through 2025.
Fan Passion: 9/10
It’s possible that “passion” doesn’t adequately capture the local attention fixated on the Cowboys, even now when they’ve been mediocre for years.
Dale Hansen, the dean of local TV sports anchors, has long said he couldn’t go wrong by opening his show with a Cowboys story 365 days a year. The other local teams operate in that shadow even in the best of times.
We knew SMU’s basketball resurgence last season was really big when Jason Garrett and Tony Romo dropped in.
The Rangers have drawn more than 3 million in each of the past two seasons after the consecutive Series appearances, though that figure will drop significantly with this season’s disaster on the field.
The Mavericks cite a sellout streak dating to December 2001, not long after Mark Cuban bought the team.
Hockey was tres chic when the Stars played for the Stanley Cup in 1999 and 2000, but the team is only now beginning to fill thousands of seats that have been empty for years.
General Fan Experience: 12/15
Attending a home Cowboys home game is expensive (a season ticket for standing room in an end zone goes for $199), but shouldn’t every stadium include a Victoria’s Secret store? The monstrous replay board can be distracting. Maybe that’s why the Cowboys have yet to establish a real home-field advantage there (averaging 4.4 home regular-season wins).
Globe Life Park in Arlington next door—most Rangers fans still just call it The Ballpark—is a retro-styled park that opened in 1994. Even the most intrepid Rangers fans struggle with the unforgiving summer heat and wonder why the team didn’t build a park with at least a roof. The ambience at both Arlington venues suffers from what made the properties financially attractive – plenty of elbow room with no downtown-style businesses or urban residences nearby.
That type of commercial development is just now sprouting up near American Airlines Center for the Mavericks and Stars in downtown Dallas, where the nightlife doesn’t resemble that found in most big-league metro areas. The most imaginative in-game entertainment is done by the Mavericks.
For the college football and basketball programs, SMU basketball became a hot ticket last season with a renovated gym and head coach Larry Brown’s rebuilding of the roster.
Local fans are fortunate that each of the four big-league clubs is blessed with quality announcers; longtime Rangers voice Eric Nadel was inducted into Cooperstown in July.
The competition among two daily newspapers (The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) and an ESPN.com “colony” outlet provides above-average coverage. Dale Hansen and WFAA-TV broke the SMU football recruiting scandal in 1986, leading to the “death penalty.”
News from the Cowboys and Mavericks is often broken by DMN grads who are now ESPN national gumshoes and still live here, such as the NFL’s Ed Werder and the NBA’s Marc Stein.
The biggest problem involving TV is that so many road games for the Rangers have late West Coast starts. That also dogged the Stars for years until last season’s NHL realignment which moved the team to the Central Division.
Star Power: 8/10
Star power. It’s what makes Dallas tick.
Has another NFL quarterback been as publicized or dissected without so much as winning a playoff game as Tony Romo? Cowboys Super Bowl heroes like Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, Randy White and Emmitt Smith are virtual royalty.
The current alpha in town is the Mavericks’ Dirk Nowitzki. Leading the club to the 2011 NBA title, he's only grown in popularity since and has proved his devotion to Dallas by accepting a massive pay cut in the name of helping the team pursue another title.
Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish invites the kind of no-hitter anticipation going into every start once experienced here with Nolan Ryan.
The Stars appear to have excellent candidates to succeed recently retired Mike Modano as face of the franchise in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, but they could probably walk through downtown Dallas without being recognized.
Love it or loathe it, the “America’s Team” brand is recognized around the world.
Its improbable foundation was the Cowboys’ 1964 gamble to re-sign then-beleaguered head coach Tom Landry (13-38-3 at the time) through 1975. The winning begat Tex Schramm’s marketing mushroom cloud: the star-laden helmet, provocatively clad cheerleaders (inspired by local “entertainer” Bubbles Cash) and the country’s first stadium flush with luxury suites.
The two Super Bowls won by Tom and Tex were surpassed by Jerry Jones soon after he occupied Valley Ranch with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer.
The Rangers’ popularity was muted for decades by a product and venue that only simultaneously became big league in the mid-‘90s.
The Mavericks’ founding front office followed the Cowboys’ blueprint for patience and reached respectability quickly, though it took 30 years to win it all.
Dallas inherited a mediocre NHL franchise from Minnesota in 1993, but one with an immediate drawing card in superstar Mike Modano. The Stars soon became a league power, becoming Presidents’ Trophy winners in 1998, Stanley Cup champs in 1999 (yes, Brett Hull was in the crease) and finalists again in 2000.
Final Tally: 83/100
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.