Before I begin, if you're a sports fan in one of these cities, I'm not knocking your dedication to your team. I'm simply using statistical evidence and past events to draw conclusions about your fan base. If you're from one of these places, I hope this motivates you to get out there and pull for your teams as hard as ever. There are some cities in the United States that are simply hotbeds of sports fanatics. New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Chicago fall into this category, just to name a few. However, there are some places that just simply cannot seem to get it together as far as the fan bases go. Controversy can be a good thing, and I feel like this list may cause some. Without any further delay, here is my Top Five Worst Sports Towns in America.
5) Phoenix, Arizona- Is it the heat? Possibly. I believe that there are a combination of factors that make the Phoenix metro area a poor sports market. To credit the city, I will admit they have first class facilities that allow their citizens to take in sporting events in a cool environment (Chase Field and University of Phoenix Stadium both have retractable roofs to fight the Arizona sun). However, the support is just seemingly not there. The Suns, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks all have less than stellar attendance and mediocre products on the field. The Coyotes are a story in and of themselves. The team moved from Winnipeg, a hockey hotbed, to the middle of the desert. They are now bankrupt and show some of the lowest attendance figures in hockey, in addition to the team being a constant subject of relocation rumors. Why doesn't this formula work?
Maybe because there is NO ICE IN ARIZONA? It's 110 degrees all the time during May and June, when hockey's playoffs take place. Hockey isn't fit for the desert. Teams such as the Dallas Stars have made warm weather ice hockey work, but the lack of support in Phoenix has let the team down. Phoenix is a nice city that can be a good escape from North American winters, but stick to golf resorts Arizona. Despite your teams' successes, there is hardly ever a rumble of national focus on the Valley of the Sun's fan bases.
4) Los Angeles, California- This one comes with a bit of a surprise on the surface, even to me. Los Angeles is a great sports city when it comes to success. I can't debate that all, the Lakers are a constant contender and the Dodgers are a popular mainstay in Southern California. The most dedicated fans in the LA area are among of some of the best in sports. However, therein lies a problem. There just aren't that many of them for such a large city.
Before our readers start citing my East Coast bias, hear me out. I believe the fans in the San Francisco Bay Area are some of the best around. Let's contrast these fans with those in Los Angeles, some four to five hours south down the Pacific Coast. The Warriors (Oakland, CA) may not hold a candle to the Lakers, but their fans are at least legitimate fans of the game of basketball. Who makes up the face of the Lakers fan base? Celebrities! Most of which either A) Aren't from Los Angeles. or B) Watch the Lakers because it's the "cool" thing to do. There is nothing more I despise than fans who watch a team because it's successful or popular (as a Phillies fan, there are many of these people within my own fan base).
Second, let's take attendance figures into account. For the current MLB season, the Dodgers are tenth in attendance, while their rivals to the north, the Giants, are third. Now before you go citing financial troubles, let's also look at past seasons. The Dodgers are consistently in the top five of attendance...however there is a striking stat that stands out. On average, 30% of their stadium is empty! Dodger Stadium is a large and storied facility, but with the largest metro area on the West Coast, you should at least be able to get people out to a game every night, especially with a team that made consecutive National League Championship Series' in 2008 and 2009.
Hockey is another sharp contrast. The Sharks in San Jose enjoy significant support, filling HP Pavillion nightly. The Kings enjoy some as well, but again, this is at best slight win for the Sharks. Unless you're watching a "Mighty Ducks" movie, hockey doesn't really catch the same way in SoCal as it does in colder areas.
The other factor is a bit confusing. There are simply too many teams in the Los Angeles metro area to root for! The area is huge, and there should be multiple teams to fit the amount of people, but who has ever heard of a hardcore Clippers fan? Or a rabid group of Angels fans? (No Thunderstix references here) If the NFL does eventually return to Los Angeles, I will remove them from this list. For now, as a metro area that has to divide and choose its allegiances among multiple franchises in three of the four major sports, it seems there is just more to do in Southern California than watch sports. (Not that that's a bad thing in any way, it's a beautiful place.)
3) Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida- The Tampa Bay area is next on my hit list. This is the first city on the list to host less than the four major sports in the United States. The NBA allegiances lie mostly with the Orlando Magic, but I will be leaving them alone as they are a few hours away and enjoy some good fan support. Florida suffers a unique problem in all of their sports towns...no one is actually from Florida! The Rays and Buccaneers average near the bottom of the barrell in attendance yearly. It is not even possible to cite poor teams as evidence; while the Rays and Buccaneers have struggled in the past, two of the three teams have brought home titles within the past ten years (The Buccaneers in 2002, the Lightning in 2004) and the Rays captured an American League Pennant in 2008.
However the most telling factors are how empty some Tampa facilities can be at times. For example, in 2008, the Rays could not sell out two games in late October...did I mention that these were games 1 and 2 of the WORLD SERIES?!!? I'm sorry, if you can't sell out during the Fall Classic, there is a serious problem. Tampa suffers from the issue of Northeast relocation; there are simply more New York/Boston/Philadelphia retirees who migrate south and maintain their allegiances, which stunts the growth of the sports market. The Tampa Bay area is a great place to visit, but not the best place to take in a game.
2) Miami, Florida- To start, the reasons that Miami isn't such a great sports town are largely similar to that of Tampa/St. Petersburg; there are lots of transplants who maintain their sporting ties. However, there are several factors that make Miami a great place to visit that also make it not such a great sports city.
The heat and humidity. While seeing a Dolphins game in late December may be a good way to spend a trip to Miami, who wants to go see a Marlins game in June? Apparently no one, since they have the worst attendance rates in MLB. I am hopeful that with a new stadium, the Marlins can finally live up to the talent on their roster and attract some fans.
Miami has the potential to be a good sports town with all four sports leagues in tow, but what is preventing them from achieving this? Again, hockey doesn't work in the south for the most part. The Panthers are a in a curious location in South Florida, where the only ice is usually in mixed drinks. The Dolphins are one of the most storied teams in the history of the NFL, so I'll by and large leave them alone.
Now the part you're all waiting for. The Miami Heat.
I don't dislike the Heat, or LeBron, or any of that nonsense. I however, do notice a pattern here. Where were all the Heat fans before LeBron signed? Or during the 2006 title run? To quote Charles Barkley in a recent interview about Miami, "That's one of the worst sports towns in America...it's not even loud in there." Miami has good teams. But it seems as though the beach and warm weather attract more people than sporting events do. Sports are an escape for people in order to break the pattern of every day life. When you have bikini clad women and bars everywhere, who needs sports? Miami is awesome. Their sports? Not quite as awesome (the U is still pretty cool, though), but by no means am I saying people shouldn't visit Miami. It's at the top of my to-do list.
1) Atlanta, Georgia- They've lost two hockey teams, made the playoffs 14 years in a row once and only came away with one title, and that lonely World Series crown in 1995 has been the only title in the last 129 combined sports years for Atlanta's franchises.
Yet that is not why I'm picking on the largest city in the Peach State.
There is just a lack of passion for professional sports in Atlanta that I can't get my head around. The Falcons made a Super Bowl in the late 90s and had Michael Vick before his jail stint. The Hawks have had some talented teams and are on an upswing right now. The Braves were a National League powerhouse through the 90s and made the playoffs for 14 consecutive years. Why don't people show up?
I can't even begin to know. Is there really that much to do in Atlanta? The Braves didn't sell out when they were in the middle of a playoff race! Granted, their stadium is large but their team is extremely talented, and yet no one seems to care. Hockey has failed not once, but twice in Atlanta (The Flames moved the Calgary, Alberta; The Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba), and the only evidence of hockey in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is limited to FOUR items (a stick, a puck, and a
Isn't football supposed to be king in the South? On the collegiate level it is, as the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech both garner big crowds, but the Georgia Dome always seems dark and empty for Falcons games.
Even some Atlanta fans recognize the problem. People show up to Braves games in the fourth inning and leave in the seventh. Fans only support the Hawks when stars like Dwight Howard and LeBron James come to town. Atlanta is the definition of a fair-weather fan base.
I find this to truly be a shame, as Atlanta has some teams with a great deal of talent. However, if you don't fill the seats, you just don't have the support. For these reasons and several I cannot even begin to fathom, Atlanta, Georgia, tops my list as the Worst Sports Town in America.