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Old 08-29-2008, 12:11 PM   #1
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Default NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/previe...ory?id=3530077


NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The only problem with ranking the NFL's 32 fan bases -- other than the sheer insanity of the exercise -- is that someone must finish last. But let's not focus on the Cardinals right now.


The idea to rank the 32 fan bases was hatched by our Committee on Rankings in Bristol, Conn. With the steadfast belief that everything in sports should be quantified on at least a twice-weekly basis, we were off and running.



A team of eight esteemed bloggers was asked to rank fans over the past five seasons using scientific criteria such as "Tailgate factor" and "How well do they travel?"



When all was said and done, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers ended up tied for first. But much like the International Gymnastics Federation, we came up with an elaborate tiebreaking process in which Hall of Fame writer John Clayton of ESPN was called upon to keep things above board. Clayton, who grew up in the East Braddock section of Pittsburgh, picked the Steelers, which seems totally fair.



HOW WE RANKED YOU
Yes, there was a method to our madness in ranking NFL teams' fan bases. Five Bristol muckety-mucks sat in a room and hatched the genius idea of having our NFL division bloggers rate fan bases in their divisions over the past five seasons. Mike Sando (NFC West), Matt Mosley (NFC East), Pat Yasinskas (NFC South), Kevin Seifert (NFC North), Bill Williamson (AFC West), Tim Graham (AFC East), Paul Kuharsky (AFC South) and James Walker (AFC North) evaluated their teams in these categories:

• Stadium factor (St.): Loud? Great atmosphere?


• Live and die factor (LDF): Fans take loss hard? (That's a good thing.)

• Traveling road show factor (Travel): Big presence in other guys' stadium?

• Loyalty when team sucks (Loyal): You score points with us if you stick with a loser.

• Hate factor (Hate): Other teams' fans dislike your fans? (Hate is good in our book.)

• Tailgate factor (TG): Home tailgates sizzling or stale?

• Home fans' creativity (CF): Wacky ideas … or not?


A rating of 1 is great, 5 the worst.



After the bloggers' ratings were digested by our Bristol computer, we had several ties. Enter The Professor, John Clayton of ESPN.com. Clayton -- who has covered more NFL games over the past 10 years than almost anyone -- broke all ties.



Think our ranking stinks? Debate it here.





But even without John's gentle nudge, Steelers fans are deserving of the top honor. The decline of the steel industry in the 1970s coincided with the rise of the Steelers dynasty. At a time when the city's collective psyche was taking a major blow, the local football team offered a weekly respite.



A generation of young people left the city to find work elsewhere, but they remained passionate about their hometown team. And that's why your local stadiums are often invaded by a black-and-gold army.



"People save up all year and then plan their vacations around traveling to Steelers games," said native Pittsburgher Bill Hillgrove, a retired local TV icon and the team's radio play-by-play voice the past 15 seasons. "When you arrive at the team hotel, the fans are all waiting in the lobby."



The Steelers of the 1970s pretty much took over the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- a subject you might consider avoiding the next time you bump into Roger Staubach. But a great deal of credit for the Steelers' first-place finish should go to the late Myron Cope, who from his local radio pulpit gave fans a distinctive voice.



In 1995, a group of Steelers fans were roasting a pig in the Three Rivers Stadium parking lot before a game against Jacksonville and thought it would be funny to send the pig's head to Cope in the radio booth. According to Hillgrove, Cope spent much of the game referring to the pig on-air as Jaguars middle linebacker Keith Goganious.



Steelers and Eagles fans are no-brainers as top-five selections, but they seem to come at things from a much different perspective. The Steelers have had so much success over the years that fans can live through a 6-10 season without doing anything to harm themselves or others. In that respect, they take their cue from the Rooney family. I've heard Pittsburgh referred to as a "big little town," which is not something you'd say about Philadelphia. Eagles fans are just as loyal as Steelers fans, but they have a different way of showing it.



"You could drop a Martian into Philly the day after a game, and within three minutes, he'd know if the Eagles had won or lost," said Glen Macnow, a sports radio talk show host for the wildly popular WIP and co-author of "The Great Philadelphia Fan Book." "When they win, you'll meet the friendliest cab drivers, CPAs and newspaper sellers. Whey they lose, it's like a five-day hangover."



Unlike places such as Dallas and Miami, Philadelphia isn't home to a lot of transplants. People aren't trying to leave, and potential newcomers aren't arriving any time soon. It sort of creates this bunker mentality that seems to fuel passion for local teams -- but mainly the Eagles.



When Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins recently called local fans "front-runners," he made a fatal error. You can say a lot of things about Philly fans, but this has never been a community of bandwagon jumpers.



"Sports here are handed down through generations," Macnow said. "Grandpa Joe watched games at Franklin Field, the son watched them at the Vet and the grandson's now in the seats at the Linc."




[+] EnlargeJeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images

Packers fans never dog it. They have sold out every home game since 1960.
Some of the stories over the years have been embellished, but I still think Philadelphia and perhaps Oakland are the last places you should wear an opposing team's jersey. Wearing a Cowboys jersey in certain sections of the Linc will almost guarantee you a fistfight. But for whatever reason (Halloween costumes perhaps), the infamous Black Hole in Oakland seems to have a more dangerous element.


I recall standing near the infamous section inside McAfee Coliseum during the closing seconds of a Cowboys-Raiders game a few years ago, praying that no one could tell I was from Dallas. Honestly, there's just something unsettling about a group of fans who make KISS seem like a folk band.



The Packers and Browns finished second and third in our rankings. Every NFL fan should make the pilgrimage to Lambeau Field at least once. I've done it in 55-degree weather in October and minus-6 degree weather in January -- and would recommend the latter for the true experience. The stadium is the league's most famous shrine and Packers fans are among the most loyal in all of sports. Sure, they love Brett Favre, but they love the franchise more. It's one of the few places in the league that feels like a college game day -- and that's a good thing in my book.



HIGHEST PROFILE
Which team has the most mentions in fan profiles on ESPN.com? Hint: Team has big star on its helmet. Check it out.



Packers fans also travel well. In parking lots across the league, Cheeseheads gather to drink beer with a man who wears a green-and-yellow robe and calls himself St. Vincent. I don't think it's any coincidence that most of our top fans come from cold-weather areas. Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Cleveland and Philadelphia fans will sit through anything. And I think there's something about the elements that make fans more rabid.



Browns fans lost a team, but they never lost their passion for football. The fan base has suffered through a lot of losing, but that almost seems to reinforce their loyalty. At first glance, I thought No. 3 was a bit high for Browns fans. I certainly wouldn't have put them in front of the Eagles, Chiefs and Broncos, but they deserve top-10 billing. The new Cleveland Browns Stadium (1999) doesn't seem as loud -- and as wild -- as old Municipal Stadium. But the Browns were smart enough to create another Dawg Pound in the east end zone bleachers. Last time I checked, a ticket in the Pound cost about $40.



My sincerest apologies go out to Seahawks fans. I don't know whom you should blame for the No. 20 ranking, although I can provide a couple of options. Other than the Chiefs, I think you have the loudest stadium in football and your ability to induce false starts is the stuff of legend.



Now, I encourage you to spend the next day or so arguing about this topic. Just remember: Don't shoot the messenger. They made me do it!



Matt Mosley covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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Old 08-29-2008, 01:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

I just realized we got a score of 2 in the TF (Travel Factor). This story was a waste of a read, Steelers fans are everywhere. We always fill up other stadiums, definately deserved a 1.
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Old 08-29-2008, 01:44 PM   #3
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

Agree. The Steeler Nation deserves the highest score in the Travel index. No one else would have filled the Broncos stadium in the Super Bowl year.
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Old 08-29-2008, 01:56 PM   #4
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

I must admit, I just read this because I was bored but I'm glad I did. That was a fun read, thanks HAVOX.
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Old 08-29-2008, 02:00 PM   #5
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

season ticket waiting list more than 6 years? try 20-25 years. i like how the browns are undisclosed.. that is because you can still purchase season tickets. tickets to single games were available weeks after the on sale too, and may still be available. 3 years ago they were giving tickets away to games.
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Old 08-29-2008, 02:02 PM   #6
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

Seriously, a 2? What other team can say their fans fill at least 30% of an opposing team's stadium EVERY away game?
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Old 08-29-2008, 02:06 PM   #7
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

Quote:
Originally Posted by jjpro11 View Post
season ticket waiting list more than 6 years? try 20-25 years. i like how the browns are undisclosed.. that is because you can still purchase season tickets. tickets to single games were available weeks after the on sale too, and may still be available. 3 years ago they were giving tickets away to games.
I remember a few years ago one of the news channels here put two tickets in the Dawg Pound on a pole in the busiest section of Downtown Cleveland a week before the game. They went back 20 minutes before kickoff and the tickets were still there.

If this were Pittsburgh, even suffereing through a four-win season those tickets would have been snatched up in a heartbeat.
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Old 08-29-2008, 02:17 PM   #8
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

Quote:
...someone must finish last. But let's not focus on the Cardinals right now.

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Old 08-29-2008, 02:21 PM   #9
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

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Originally Posted by RoethlisBURGHer View Post
I remember a few years ago one of the news channels here put two tickets in the Dawg Pound on a pole in the busiest section of Downtown Cleveland a week before the game. They went back 20 minutes before kickoff and the tickets were still there.

If this were Pittsburgh, even suffereing through a four-win season those tickets would have been snatched up in a heartbeat.
That cracked me up! Thanks for the laugh, Roeth!
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Old 08-29-2008, 02:55 PM   #10
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Default Re: NFL's best fans? We gotta hand it to Steelers (barely)

Too bad "fan knowledge" wasn't a factor. The Pats would have been #33. They have no business in the top 10.
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