Sports fandom is often scoffed at by those not involved, but it’s in the same vein as one who doesn’t care about art glancing at a Monet and wondering what the big deal is. A game-winning touchdown for your team gives you a sense of happiness because something you can’t control went right. Better yet, if your team is local, it’s giving the people around you that very same feeling. There’s nothing else that brings you and your neighbor together like that and people are proud of their sports communities.
There’s a lot of back and forth on what is and isn’t a “good sports town.” It’s been debated ad nauseam. Even athletes are getting into the act, with former Texas slugger Josh Hamilton giving his own thoughts on the subject after a move to the division-rival Angels — “Texas, especially Dallas, has always been a football town,” he said, and added “it’s not a true baseball town.” It feels like a personal jab at every one of the Rangers fans in the Metroplex, and you can bet Rangers fans will never let him forget it.
So, with apologies to Josh, that’s an easy thing say, but can he prove it? We tried. We’ve taken various data points that come out of our industry (the secondary ticket market) and some attendance/capacity figures to try to determine what city really does get behind its sports teams. Since it’s an overall city ranking, we picked the 15 cities/metro areas that have each of an NFL, MLB and NBA team (we wanted to add NHL as well, but it would have cut the list down to 11) and went from there.
After indexing all the ticketing and attendance numbers from the last regular season in each league (2012 MLB, 2012 NFL, 2012-13 NBA) we got a clear winner, and one you might have expected: New York City. Ranking 4th in football, 1st in basketball and 3rd in baseball, the Big Apple was one of only two cities that ranked in the top 5 in every sport.
Here are the Top 5 and their scores:
100 – New York City
97.9 – Boston
97.7 – Dallas
90.2 – Chicago
82.0 – Philadelphia
We can go a bit deeper and look at the top 5 in each league that we looked at as well:
100 – New York City
91.6 – Miami
83.6 – Chicago
80.9 – Boston
75.5 – Oakland
100 – Dallas
87.9 – Chicago
81.8 – Boston
81.6 – New York City
77.6 – Washington D.C.
100 – Boston
86.9 – Dallas
86.7 – New York City
86.6 – Philadelphia
81.5 – Detroit
What to take from this
- While Dallas would still be #1 with all NFL cities involved, many teams that would be ranked high on this list (see Lakers, SF Giants) aren’t included because the cities don’t have all three of the major sports we used.
- The #1 indicator of support will always be success. Cities that were closer to the bottom of this list (Phoenix, Cleveland) haven’t seen too much success recently and the support will therefore wane over the years.
- Big markets dominate. It’s hard to say any city that has 3-4 major professional sports teams isn’t a big market, but NYC and Chicago are definitely bigger than Denver and Cleveland and it shows.
NFL: The Bears had the highest ticket price in the NFL last season and were one of seven teams in this group to have attendance over its official capacity. The Dolphins were last in attendance of these 15 teams by a longshot.
NBA: The biggest difference between 1st place and 2nd was the Knicks over the rest of the NBA. Attendance was quite low in Detroit but fans are packed into the arena in Chicago and Dallas. Tickets were really, really cheap in Philadelphia and Minnesota last season.
MLB: The Yankees have a TON of tickets sold on the secondary market, but only had about 87% capacity last season (it’s much lower this season as well). The Red Sox had over 100% capacity last season but have since seen their sell-out streak come to an end. Dallas was 3rd in baseball, so Josh Hamilton doesn’t know what he’s talking about.