A Dive into Fandoms: Inside the US’s Most Sports-Crazed Cities

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US Sports.
US Sports. Source: Shutterstock

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The US is obsessed with sports. While North America as a whole tends to avoid global favorites like soccer, rugby, and cricket, there’s plenty to offer in the way of football, hockey, baseball, and basketball. Throw in a growing MLS league, and soccer fans are even growing in number. 

Thanks to expanding sports betting culture, as well, there are more chances for fans to explore a new sport. In other words, a football fan who doesn’t normally watch the NBA might decide to tune in if they have access to a free bet offer. And with sites like OddsChecker listing out the top deals from the US’s leading sportsbooks, placing a prop bet on how many points LeBron will score has never been easier. 

But not all cities around the US have seen huge expansions in betting interest and sports culture—and that’s because they’ve been hubs of sports fandom for decades. Around the US, many fans are intergenerational, which means they’re following the teams that their ancestors rooted for.

Viewed in this way, fandom isn’t about the sheer number of fans, but how much passion they have for the game and their team. It’s also not about how many professional sports teams a city plays host to, but how interested their fans are in engaging by attending home games and special events.

San Francisco, for example, is home to the Golden State Warriors (NBA), 49ers (NFL), and the Giants (MLB). However, the city is known for leaving its home arenas empty on game days. Despite being a wealthy city and home to around eight million residents, local sports culture is noticeably drab.


Most Searches per Month per Capita: Salt Lake City, Green Bay, & Saint Louis

Let’s cover a few different metrics we can use to gauge popularity. One of the most interesting is the number of average monthly Google searches per capita. This allows you to study interest relative to population—which is important because some of the US’s most diehard cities barely have 500,000 residents.

This is the case for the US’s three most-obsessed sports cities based on monthly searches. First comes Salt Lake City, Utah. Though the city is home to only one pro sports team, the NBA’s Utah Jazz, locals dive deep into the team during the off-season and the active season.

The same goes for Green Bay, Wisconsin, which is home to arguably the US’s most dedicated fan club: the Cheeseheads. They root for the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, which is notorious for having a season ticket waiting list that runs close to half a century for some fans.

Then comes Saint Louis, Missouri. After having its NFL shipped out to Los Angeles by owner Stan Kroenke, the city has turned its full attention to its sole remaining pro franchise: the St. Louis Cardinals. It’s not a bad option to have, as the Cardinals are second in the MLB for holding the most World Series titles.


Columbus, Ohio all about College Ball

We should also cover another important caveat when it comes to US sports culture: college ball. The NCAA is considered an amateur league, as it pits college stars against one another in a variety of sports. However, the NCAA Football league is on par with the pros… or, viewed by some metrics, outperforms its pro-league counterpart. 

Let’s take a look at Columbus, Ohio. The city is home to the NHL’s Blue Jackets franchise and the MLS’s Columbus Crew. More importantly, the city is also home to one of the US’s biggest college football teams: the Ohio State University Buckeyes program. 

Buckeyes fans are some of the most dedicated in the country. Their Facebook members number over 650,000, but it’s estimated that the school has around 11.2 million fans. The city of Columbus’s population, for context, is only 900,000.


Boston Continually Ranks High

Let’s zoom out from some of the most dedicated small cities in the US. After all, when it comes to the sheer size of fandoms, the US’s coastal metropolises stand out. While many publications focus on places like NYC and LA, let’s cover Bean Town.

Boston leads the US in terms of fandom based on metrics like ticket prices, attendance, number of championships, and Hall of Fame inductees. Here, we see fandom intersect with dynastic and prolific franchises. And when it comes to winning, Boston does it well.

The city is home to the NBA’s Celtics, NHL’s Bruins, NFL’s Patriots, and the MLB’s Red Sox. Since 2000, the city’s teams have taken home twelve championships between them… six by the Patriots, four by the Red Sox, and one by the Bruins and Celtics each.


The Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-Pennsylvania Effect

Boston’s success makes it a haven for sports fans. It also makes it a target for the rest of the country—and especially for NFL fans that were sick of the Brady-Belichick run in the mid-2000s. Nearby, Pennsylvania is home to two of the country’s most sports-obsessed cities—and fans aren’t too concerned with whether they’re winning. 

Pittsburgh is home to the NFL’s Steelers, the NHL’s Penguins, and the MLB’s Pirates. The number of sports teams here should stand out since Pittsburgh is home to only 300,000 people—fewer than any city mentioned on this page aside from Salt Lake City and Green Bay.

Despite having a tiny population compared to areas like Boston (which has close to five million residents in its surrounding metropolitan areas), Pittsburgh has one of the most dedicated and active fanbases. The same can be said for Philadelphia. 

Philadelphia hosts teams from all the US’s major leagues, including the NFL’s Eagles, the NBA’s 76ers, the NHL’s Flyers, and the MLB’s Phillies. The Phillie Phanatic is the US’s oldest pro sports mascot that still performs, and he helped catapult interest in mascots around the US. Little elements like that highlight how influential the city has been in steering sports interest. 

However, one of the greatest markets of Philadelphia’s absolute obsession with sports is the city’s reaction to winning the 2018 Super Bowl. The Eagles were the major underdog to defeat the Patriots (from Boston) but won the game 41-33. In celebration, fans did almost $3 million in damages to the city.

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