The Best and Worst Sports Fans in the U.S.: Where Does Your City Rank?
The best-and-worst sports fans in the U.S. list is subject to several criteria.
For surviving five-plus decades without a title, San Francisco Giants fans are now basking in their championship light. But right down I-280, the 49ers are a mess, which leaves their fans on the opposite end of the sports spectrum.
How are they dealing with the turmoil? Are they staying loyal, like so many Giants fans? Or are they hopping off that preseason Mike Singletary/Alex Smith bandwagon?
Because it's so difficult to characterize the collective mood or attitude of an entire city, this list is sure to rile up professional sports fans across the nation.
Nevertheless, we took a stab at it!
No. 25: Los Angeles, California
Pro Teams: Lakers, Clippers, Dodgers, Angels, Kings
Of course the Lakers sell out every night. And since all the Hollywood stars routinely attend the Staples Center, it's the place to be seen.
But how about the Clippers? They're routinely in the bottom half of the attendance figures.
Last season the Dodgers barely sold out three-quarters of Dodger Stadium. The Angels (Anaheim technically, but we'll include them) only do a little bit better. By percentage, the Kings actually do much better than the two baseball clubs.
The traffic in Southern California is usually the scapegoat for poor attendance and the fans' love for arriving late and leaving early. Or is it because it was trendy to do so?
No. 24: San Diego, California
Pro Teams: Padres, Chargers
It's little wonder why the Clippers left town in 1984: Why would someone ever want to be indoors in San Diego, America's most beautiful, most livable city?
Even though PetCo Park is right in the middle of that beautiful weather, Padres fans aren't much better. They routinely are in the bottom half of the annual MLB attendance lists.
And the Chargers aren't much better. This season, they've only filled up 90 percent of Qualcomm Stadium.
No. 23: Phoenix, Arizona
Pro Teams: Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Suns, Coyotes
Phoenix and the surrounding area probably deserves a pass for not being considered a great fan base: for the most part, the teams haven't been around very long.
Apart from the Suns (established in 1968), none of these teams have been in the state for more than 23 years.
Let's check back in with these clubs after another half-century.
No. 22: Seattle, Washington
Pro Teams: Mariners, Seahawks
The Seahawks and their '12th man' (paying homage to or full-on theft from Texas A & M, depending on who you talk to) have become a pretty loyal and credible fan base across the NFL.
And Mariners fans started to get some notoriety in the mid-1990s, when the club was winning and making a few runs at the World Series. But since then, there has been a sharp drop off. Despite Ichiro and the AL Cy Young winner, only 56 percent of Safeco Field was filled last season.
For that reason, there is a slight bandwagon-jumping feel to the Seattle sports scene.
Another major strike against the town: the SuperSonics departure.
As this list will soon show, that doesn't necessarily make you a bad fan base. And a few top entries are cities that had a franchise pick up and leave.
No. 21: Atlanta, Georgia
Pro Teams: Braves, Falcons, Hawks, Thrashers
The ATL has a bit of Seattle to it, a bit of Los Angeles to it.
Like LA, fans in Atlanta often opt to stay home rather than fight the traffic across a city that has grown too big for it's britches.
And the front-runner element can't be overlooked either. When the club is playing well, more and more fans attend. But you could say that about any town.
What's most surprising is the fact that even when the clubs are winning, they sometimes have trouble filling out the stadium. During the Braves great runs of the 1990s, television broadcasts of NLDS and NLCS games often featured shots of hundreds of empty seats.
For the most part, the Georgia Dome is filled on Sundays in the fall, but the Hawks are pretty middle of the road in terms of attendance. And in case you didn't know, the Thrashers (that's the NHL team in Atlanta) have one of the worst attendance figures in the league during the last two seasons.
And depending on your point of view, the Tomahawk Chop and the Dirty Bird were either really cool or horribly annoying: probably a toss-up either way.
No. 20: Miami, Florida
Pro Teams: Marlins, Dolphins, Heat, (Florida) Panthers
Sure the Heat are going to sell out all their games now. They just added LeBron James.
A year ago, they didn't come close to filling out American Airlines Arena on a regular basis.
The Dolphins have a long-and-storied tradition, so they will always be big down there.
And even the Panthers (who haven't even made the playoffs since 2000) do all right, averaging 15,000-or-so per game, although there's no telling how many of those south Florida attendees just want to be inside, near a huge block of ice.
But the Marlins are the main reason why the city's fan base isn't terribly well-regarded. Since 1994, only three franchises have won multiple World Series: the Red Sox, the Yankees and the Marlins.
And while the Sox and Yanks couldn't be any healthier than they are right now, the Marlins are constantly rumored to be on the move out of Florida because of terrible attendance. For a franchise that hasn't even been around 20 years, that's pathetic.
No. 19: Kansas City, Missouri
Pro Teams: Chiefs, Royals
Certainly Chiefs fans are great and loyal, although their attendance numbers aren't quite as high as you'd expect. Still, it's been 40 seasons since the club reached the Super Bowl, and there have only been five division titles since then.
So Chiefs fans could never be accused of being front-runners.
The same cannot be said when it comes to the Royals, however. After a great run in the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s, Kaufman Stadium is almost always half-empty (or half-full, depending on your psyche).
That's hard to overlook: exactly half of the team's major pro sports teams are not very well supported.
No. 18: Washington D.C.
Pro Teams: Nationals, Redskins, Wizards, Capitols
Like most NFL teams, the Redskins have a tremendously loyal fan base. How many other fans dress up in pigs outfits and wear dresses?
But what about the rest of the town's clubs?
Twice in a 12-year span, baseball franchises left D.C. for greener pastures. Maybe the Nationals will prove the third time's a charm. And the Wizards barely draw middle-of-the-road figures, unless Michael Jordan comes out of retirement.
The Capitols fan base might be the best aside from the Redskins. They draw nearly 20,000 per game and, with Alexander Ovechkin, that doesn't seem to likely to change.
No. 17: Denver, Colorado
Pro Teams: Rockies, Broncos, Nuggets, Avalanche
Broncos fans are still some of the best in all of sports, whether they have John Elway under center or Bubby Brister.
And with the cold and snow up in the Mile High City, they brave a lot to sit in the stands at Invesco Field.
The same goes for the Rockies: In April and October, fans on television look frigid watching their team play. So they deserve credit for that.
The Nuggets and Avalanche do fairly well in terms of attendance, but their fans don't have the same type of iconic identity. Has anyone at the Pepsi Center been seen wearing a barrel and nothing else?
No. 16: Cincinnati, Ohio
Pro Teams: Reds, Bengals, (Columbus) Capitols,
Despite just a handful of good teams since their 1990 World Series upset, Reds fans are very loyal and very knowledgeable: 141 years of professional baseball will help foster those, even if their annual attendance figures aren't very good.
Bengals fans are similarly dedicated to their team, despite a history that has had far more losing seasons than winning seasons.
And the "Who Dey" chants gave Riverfront, and now Paul Brown Stadium, a distinctive echo that bounces off the Ohio River.
No. 15: Baltimore, Maryland
Pro Teams: Orioles, Colts/Ravens
Orioles fans have to be sick over what has happened to the club in recent years, but a rebirth seems to be in the works with Buck Showalter at the helm. And despite a decade of terrible play, Camden Yards draws decent numbers .
But crab cakes and football, that's what Maryland does.
Baltimore's dedication to the Colts, even years after they left, was special. The team was ripped away from them through no fault of their own, so when football returned 13 years later, they were even more dedicated and appreciative.
The only reason Baltimore isn't higher on this list is because, compared to several others, two professional sports teams are not enough to make a premier sports town.
No. 14: Oakland, California
Pro Teams: Raiders, Athletics, (Golden State) Warriors
The Raiders fans and their famous Black Hole are well known in NFL circles as some of the most rabid supporters around.
But because they have failed to sell out most of their games, it's hard to say they are among the best supporters in the NFL. Even this year, during a pretty big rebirth, only 71 percent of the Oakland Coliseum is filled with Silver-and-Black fans.
A's fans are even worse: In 2010, on average, less than 18,000 attended their games. And even when the club was winning AL West titles, they weren't coming close to selling out each night.
Surprisingly, the Warriors, a team that has only had one playoff appearance since 1994, usually brings in close to 20,000 per night.
Since the city hasn't won a title since 1989 (and even that World Series victory wasn't a celebratory moment because of the Earthquake), Oakland gets a pass for less-than-stellar attendance figures.
No. 13: San Francisco, California
Pro Teams: Giants, 49ers, (San Jose) Sharks
After five Super Bowl titles in a 14-year stretch, 49ers fans probably became a little bit spoiled, so it's hard to blame them for seeming to be less-than-interested in the team the last few years.
But this fall we saw that San Francisco belongs just as much to the Giants as it does the 49ers.
For whatever reason, the Giants run to a World Series win and the shots from the parades didn't have a bandwagon feel. Giants fans may have been long-suffering, but they weren't scarce.
And they were creative too: the Brian Wilson beards worn at Candlestick in October were clever and a nice alternative to the obnoxious thunder sticks the fellow-Californian Angels fans bashed a few years back.
No. 12: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Pro Teams: Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves, Wild
There's no question that Minnesota sports fans love their teams.
Twins fans were as raucous and energetic as any when Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek led the team to World Series titles in the late 1980s, early 1990s.
And Vikings fans are probably even more dedicated, considering they are so championship starved. There might not be a louder stadium in the country than the Metrodome when the Vikings are playing.
But it is interesting that, for a long time, whenever an NBA, MLB, or NFL franchise was rumored to be on the move (or worse yet, contracted), a Minnesota team was almost always mentioned.
That's probably not a knock against the fans, but it is a bit curious.
No. 11: Houston, Texas
Pro Teams: Astros, Texans, Rockets
Considering how many sports teams there are in the state of Texas, Houston fans have to be considered among the top 10.
In nearly half-a-century of play, the club has only made one World Series appearance, yet the fans are loyal. Through thick and thin, the Astros have been pretty consistent the past decade, filling up Enron/Minute Maid about three-fourths of the way each night.
But, not surprisingly, football is the main attraction. And although Bud Adams packed up the Oilers and headed to Memphis in 1997, the town's love for pro football brought a team back in just five seasons.
The Rockets do bring the city's fan base down a bit. Not since the time of Hakeem Olajuwon has the city's NBA franchise been one of the top-drawing franchises in the league.
Back in 2001, they were dead last in average attendance.
No. 10: St. Louis, Missouri
Pro Teams: Cardinals, Rams, Blues
St. Louis probably has the best baseball fans of any National League city. No one would ever question the town's dedication to the club: it's been steady for years, whether they are pennant contenders or well-below .500.
And, although the Cardinals football franchise left town in 1987, the passion for professional football was great enough to warrant a new team's arrival 10 years later.
But what is most remarkable is the St. Louis Blues: Both the Rams and the Cardinals have been championship contenders very often during the previous decade. The Blues really have only won one division title since the mid-1980s. Yet the attendance figures are routinely in the top 10.
No. 9: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pro Teams: Phillies, Eagles, 76ers, Flyers
Philly fans are a tricky bunch to characterize.
They can be very brutal on their opponents: Remember when they cheered Michael Irvin's career-ending neck injury? Or how about the time they booed Santa Claus?
But that passion goes both ways. They can be pretty brutal on their own players and coaches as well. Does that make them good fans or bad fans? Either answer is probably right.
No. 8: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Pro Teams: Pirates, Steelers, Penguins
Steelers fans are well known across the country for the Terrible Towel and for traveling well. How often do you turn on a Steelers road game and hear the announcer quip about how so many Steelers fans are in attendance that "it might as well be a home game!"
Steelers fans are very good and they love their team. But they are also quick to burn bridges and boo. After Terry Bradshaw won four Super Bowls for the team, they booed him so hard that he refused to come back to town for years.
There's a case to be made that the town cares more about the Penguins than they do the Steelers: the fight to keep the team in town a few years back was as heated as any NFL-or-NBA-franchise city fight.
But the lack of support for the Pirates is what keeps Pittsburgh from a top-tier spot on this list. Sure the club has been awful for nearly two decades. But with a beautiful ballpark, the attendance should be a little bit better than worst in the National League.
No. 7: Green Bay/Milwaukee
Pro Teams: Brewers, Packers, Bucks
Obviously no team is more closely tied (literally or figuratively) to its city than Green Bay and the Packers, whether it's the Lambeau Leap or the fact that the Packers are essentially publicly owned.
And while they demand excellence like any other fan base, there doesn't seem to be that Philadelphia or New York level of vitriol and animosity towards the club when it doesn't play well.
The Brewers and Bucks cannot compete when it comes to the state of Wisconsin's love for the Packers. But they are still pretty well supported, considering neither team has contended for much since the early 1980s.
No. 6: Dallas, Texas
Pro Teams: (Texas) Rangers, Cowboys, Mavericks, Stars
The Cowboys may be America's Team, but they belong to Dallas and their fans are as passionate and expansive as any in the NFL. Maybe Jerry Jones would have built his billion-dollar stadium anyway, but it was probably a lot easier because it was for the Cowboys to play in.
This fall we also saw how much the Dallas/Ft. Worth/Arlington area cares about baseball. During the Rangers' World Series run, the Ballpark at Arlington was as amped up and loud as Fenway or Yankee Stadium.
And, although they have only been in town for less than two decades, the Stars draw over 15,000 fans per night.
But the newest and most rapidly expanding fan base belongs to the Mavericks. Mark Cuban's great job promoting the team (and himself) along with several deep postseason runs have helped make the team one of the top-drawing franchises in the NBA.
No. 5: New York, New York
Pro Teams: Yankees, Mets, Giants, Jets, Knicks, Rangers, Islanders
In terms of passion, New York sports fans are probably the best from top to bottom. Most of the clubs routinely sell out. And regardless of what sport, a visiting team that goes to New York for a game is always going to feel a bit more pressure and scrutiny.
The only reason they don't have a top spot is that, like Philly, they can be exceptionally hard on their players and coaches.
That may display an unwavering desire to see their team win, but it can also make it seem like the town doesn't appreciate their team.
No. 4: Detroit, Michigan
Pro Teams: Tigers, Lions, Pistons, Red Wings
The Red Wings will always have a special place in Detroit. That's why it's called Hockeytown.
But because the Pistons have a pretty rich history over the past two-and-a-half decades, their fan base is one of the strongest in the NBA. Why else would the locals have been so quick to fight Ron Artest and the rest of the Indiana Pacers back in 2004?
The Tigers turn around from arguably the worst team in baseball history in 2003 to a pennant winner in 2006 helped endear the club once again to residents of the Motor City.
And, although the Lions have been horrific for more than an entire decade, the anger and frustration their fans showed during that stretch (especially the "Fire Matt Millen" sentiment) showed that they truly care about seeing the team win.
No. 3: Cleveland, Ohio
Pro Teams: Indians, Browns, Cavs
Decades of perseverance earns C-town the bronze-medal spot on this list.
From the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s, Indians fans had virtually nothing to cheer about. Yet people like John Adams (the guy with the big drum) routinely stayed loyal and waited it out until the fans were rewarded with a pennant in 1995.
Browns fans had it worse. After coming so close to a Super Bowl four times in the 1980s, their team was soon ripped away without warning. The passion for the team, the type that still fills the Dawg Pound on Sundays, ultimately brought a team back just three years later. And what other fan base would throw batteries, beer bottles, and dog bones onto the field to protest bad calls or harrass the opponent?
And then there are the Cavs. We'll have a very up-close view of their love for the team (or maybe just how much they hate traitors) when LeBron James and the Miami Heat come to Quicken Loans Arena on December 2.
No. 2: Boston, Massachusetts
Pro Teams: Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Bruins
Although their hatred for the Yankees might be comparable, Red Sox fans are probably as passionate as any in all of sports. They are extremely knowledgeable and loyal. That's one of the reasons why the 2004 World Series team was such a national story.
Not to be outdone, the Patriots and Celtics have also won titles in recent years. So the love and excitement for those two clubs is also as high as ever. Bruins fans, who saw their team win a division title just two years ago, are waiting for their turn, which only makes them even more jacked up.
The sports renaissance (six world titles in the previous decade) in Boston will have to come to an end sometime. But when it does, the bandwagon won't get much lighter.
No. 1: Chicago, Illinois
Pro Teams: Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks
The so-called Second City is second to none, at least on this list.
The Cubs are one of the most beloved franchises in all of sports. And the fact that Cubs fans cherish their team despite six-and-a-half decades without a trip to the Fall Classic, makes their love unconditional, which is something rare in sports.
White Sox fans are often overlooked in terms of unconditional love, but they too went decades without a pennant and were still as popular as ever.
It's probably easy for Bulls fans to be passionate and rabid when Michael Jordan is on the team. But more than a decade after His Airness left the team, the Bulls are the top draw in the NBA this year, last year and several years prior.
Blackhawks fans also gained notoriety for their passion last season during the Stanley Cup finals.
And although Bears fans probably still hold an unhealthy longing for the 1985 Super Bowl edition, there isn't a city with more zeal for its NFL team.