Fan rankings, and deciding what makes a good sports fan and what doesn't is dumb. But that didn't stop Emory University, which has a sports marketing analytics department, from culling data and putting together a ranking of best and worst NFL fan bases. And — shocking news here — Miami Dolphins fans ranked dead last.
The study looked at various factors in what Emory calls "fan equity," which measures marketing outcomes such as attendance, prices, and how much fans spent on their team. Interestingly, another key factor in the study came down to how much a fan base sticks by their team during the tough times, and not just when the team is winning.
It would appear that Dolphins fans, loyal and rabid as they've traditionally been over the years, have gotten fed up over the team's perpetual mediocrity. Multiple 7-9 seasons and missed playoff berths can wear thin.
So, according to the data, the Emory study found that the Dallas Cowboys, New England Patriots, New York Giants, Baltimore Ravens, and New York Jets have the top-ranked fans.
The Dolphins are dead last, and are joined at the bottom with the likes of the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, and Jacksonville Jaguars.
Of course, there's something to be said about the flawed way these rankings are made.
For example, the Jets made the top five.
The fan base that cheers when their start player gets seriously injured and boo every single draft pick ever selected by their team are among the best fans in the NFL.
Then there are the Patriots, who only happen to have the best quarterback in the league and are always in the Super Bowl chase. The Giants too have been multiple Super Bowl champs lately, as have the Ravens.
So, there's something to be said about the study's "fans sticking to their teams when times are tough" data. Neither of the teams in the Top 4 have had tough times for decades.
The Cowboys haven't won a title in a while, but consider the fact that the Cowboys have traditionally been the biggest bandwagon pro sports team not named the New York Yankees or L.A. Lakers.
Then there's the fact that the study focused on so-called fan equity. NFL ticket prices, if you haven't noticed, are crazy expensive.
The fan bases at the bottom of the ranking are cities that have a lot of low-income folks who simply cannot afford to fork over 80 bucks per ticket for a Sunday afternoon game. No one wants to spend their life savings to watch a middling football team.
So, yea, Dolphins fans are apparently the worst.
This, while Heat fans are the most loyal.
Like every fan base, the Dolphins have good fans and bad fans.
And like every fan base, they burn hot with anger and passion for their most hated rivals.
And like every fan base, it's easier to spend money on a team when that team is winning.
Winning makes all the difference. And that's the truth in every city and for every fan base (look no further than the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had been at the bottom of attendance for the last four years and magically vaulted to the top when LeBron James returned this year).
But don't let that stop the incoming national narrative that South Florida has the most bandwagon fans of all.
The entire study — nay the entire "best fans" conversation — is the equivalent of the gold dress/blue dress debate.