The Atlanta Falcons are playing in the Super Bowl. This raised the inevitable conversation about Atlanta being a bad sports town. That reputation is a bit undeserved. In fact, it’s hard to find a metropolitan area that cares more about its sports franchises, if you measure by willingness to contribute massive public subsidies to replace perfectly adequate stadiums built in the 1990s.
To highlight how undeserved Atlanta’s reputation is, you can really make an argument for any city being America’s worst sports city. Here are some equally deserving candidates.
Boston puts on the airs of a New York a Washington D.C. The difference is nothing of import happens there. Boston has a toxic combination of the calluses built up from decades of aggrieved fandom and the arrogance and entitlement accrued from a decade of nearly unprecedented success. Don’t want to hear about Boston sports? Too bad. New England also produces an inordinate number of writers.
Chicago is smaller than New York but don’t you dare bring that up because it’s just as important and better in every way. Just ask them. Also, Cubs fans.
The “Poor Cleveland” narrative was a load of crap. College sports exist. Most Cleveland sports fans are either Ohio State or Michigan fans, who are in no way downtrodden. Never has a city depended so much on one man, LeBron, being born in its relative vicinity. Without him Cleveland’s reputation is still killing off a great lake, setting a river on fire, insane insect swarms, and Drew Carey.
Detroit sells itself as a loyal, hardscrabble blue-collar town. The professional sports fan base from the suburbs is white-collar and far more fickle. Detroit teams top the league in attendance when they are winning and slump near the bottom when teams are losing.
For a small market town, the fans really support their team. Wait, you mean Houston is one of the five largest markets in the country? Never mind then. The two local college teams get occasional support when they have great seasons (hope you enjoyed that Tom Herman era) but the city has a lot of Texas and Texas A&M fans that don’t root for the local teams.
If a city can’t support an NFL team that it demanded it’s a terrible sports town. I hear the lame “well the Coliseum is huge, so of course it looks empty when 50,000 people are there” excuses and laugh. LA hadn’t had an NFL team in more than 20 years and there are 10.02 million people in Los Angeles county, yet the Rams couldn’t get 80,000 people to show up consistently. How bad is it? The Chargers had so little confidence they could fill the stadium themselves that they’ll play in a 30,000-seat soccer stadium in Carson (a town with a population of 91,000) for the next two seasons.
Miami has a lot of things to do that are not watching sports. But, Miami fans do enjoy a good bandwagon. They are also the first to jump off said bandwagon when things go moderately sour. Miami fans don’t subsidize the sad sports franchises they aren’t bothered about. They force that burden on you when you visit there.
New York City
New York is where “the media” is. National sports discussion inevitably revolves around all things New York. This forces the rest of us into a distorted reality where the New York Knicks, New York Jets, and New York Mets are relevant sports franchises doing important things people everywhere should care about.
Philly is Boston south, without the success. It’s where all the worst tendencies of East Coast sports fandom coalesce and fester. The sports franchises are irrelevant. The fans are obnoxious to the point that’s the defining feature of Philadelphia sports. These people think cheese whiz is haute cuisine and get offended if you don’t.
San Francisco/Bay Area
Professional sports in the Bay Area is like living in the Bay Area. Something organic and cool developed? Great. Here’s a venture capitalist swooping in to take all the credit. Let’s jack up the ticket prices to make sure normal people get priced out as well. Do you root for the NFL franchise that moved an hour south to let its fans bake in the sun or the one shamelessly trying to move anywhere else? How about that Oakland A’s plumbing?
“Best Fans in Baseball,” with all the self-importance that goes along with it, launching the internet backlash and a great Twitter account. Other sports? Not so much, as two different NFL franchises and the NBA have left town.
Washington D.C. is a humorless city of transplants. Washington teams have fewer Facebook followers than Atlanta teams, despite Atlanta no longer having a hockey team. The one franchise with substantial history is named after a racial slur and run by Dan Snyder.