Forbes.com compiled a list of best NFL fanbases based on the following five criteria:
“stadium attendance (a combination of consecutive sell-outs and average season stadium capacity), television ratings (as provided by Nielsen), merchandise sales (per NFLShop.com), social media reach (a combination of Facebook likes and Twitter followers based on the team’s metro area population), and fan club presence (based on the active number found online).”
Now, this article won’t rewrite or re-rank these teams. Instead, it will take a deeper look at each fanbase in the article in a way that would make Forbes editors clutch their pearls. Rest assured no math formulas, stats, social media follower counts, or TV rating helped guide these observations. While the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” is a generally reasonable approach to a productive life – today, we will be absolutely judging the fan representation of these Forbes top ten fanbases.
By no means do the Cowboys have the “best” fans in the league. However, they are by far No. 1 for the most fans who have never stepped foot in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
I get it, at least to an extent. In 2020 things are different. Every team can be followed on a weekly basis, from anywhere in the country. Merchandise can be ordered with a few clicks on a computer or taps on a phone. Social media opens the door to connecting with the team, players, and other fans. And yet, none of that matters in this case.
The only reason most of these dipshits root for the Cowboys is that they were great in the 1990’s and rebellious kids wanted to piss off their daddy by following the team ending others’ championship aspirations year-after-year. Cowboys fans also lead the league in two other auspicious categories – bad haircuts and shin-length jorts.
2 . Packers (tied)
Honestly, it is remarkable how long the Packers have stuck around with such a small home-market.
The population of Green Bay, Wisconsin is around ~105 thousand, which is smaller than the capacity of both Michigan Stadium and Beaver Stadium, both coming in at ~107 thousand. And that is not a knock on the fans – excuse me, OWNERS – of the Packers.
Week after NFL Week, these polite, dairy-loving, Carhartt overall wearing cheese zombies show up and try to keep their ass from freezing to the metal Lambeau bleachers with a smile.
They’ve been blessed for 28 consecutive years with two of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game in Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers – so it makes sense they are cheesing (pun intended) about their team.
As is the case with several teams on this list, there are plenty of posers who have not only never been to Green Bay, but couldn’t even point to within 250 miles of it on a map.
2. Steelers (tied)
I have too much personal experience with the cesspool that is the Pittsburgh Steelers fanbase. There is a distinct overlap in the Venn diagram of personality traits of Cowboys and Steelers fans, which must have occurred via osmosis during the heated rivalry between the two teams in the 1970’s.
Modern-day Steelers fans love to live in the past. Did you know they have 6 championships? Fact Check – only two of those rings came after the 1970’s.
There is usually one asshole at any sports bar rocking a ‘Jerome Bettis’ jersey that has yet to even think about visiting the city of Pittsburgh. Steelers fans are also notorious for diminishing the significance of divisional rivalries, instead pointing to historical rivalries that have long since lost their teeth.
Like clockwork, every August, Steelers fans convince themselves how great the team looks. Without fail, the team drops a winnable game in September and fans declare Mike Tomlin is on the hot seat, insisting he only ever won because of what was inherited from Bill Cowher. October arrives and the Super Bowl run is back on, except for the divisional losses that are always, somehow, the referee’s fault. November brings the annual Ben Roethlisberger “injury” which leads to a glimpse into the horrifying future of the QB position in Pittsburgh. In December, if the team fails to make the playoffs, locals quickly migrate to hockey season and the bandwagoners across the country seamlessly shift to cheering for their “second team.”
Did I just write “bandwagoners?”, Patriots fans ears must be burning.
This franchise redefined what a dynasty is in the NFL and I, for one, have hated every second of it. An absolute dumpster fire throughout most of the franchise’s existence prior to the turn of century, the Patriots underwent a paradigm shift in the early 2000’s. Remember, this team had barely any fans in Massachusetts – let alone anywhere else. Many New Englanders were rooting for the New York Giants to avoid the embarrassment of the pre-Bill Belichick/Tom Brady Patriots.
Now, for the first time, we get to see how Brady’s legacy endures in a new system and new coach in Tampa Bay. This begs the question. Will the Patriots be able to live up to expectations – of the coach, owner, and insufferable fans.
To be fair, plenty of fans departed with Brady so that should help. Other lost sheep might have decided it was time to start supporting their local teams rather than earn some imagined credibility watching the out-of-town, perennial 11+ win team to which they stake claim.
What I can say for certain is that we’re all eagerly waiting to see hearts break, tears shed, and frustration boil over for an all-too-coddled fanbase. Every self-respecting non-Patriots fan will probably feel the same way. End of an era.
The Colts at No. 5 surprised me. I have not had any negative personal experiences and Colts fans don’t jump to mind when I think of rabid and overrated fanbases. Understandably, their following grew during the Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck years, but this fanbase usually flies under the radar in terms of having a polarizing identity.
I would, however, be remiss if I didn’t tell them to screw themselves for stealing the Baltimore Colts. But I can’t be too harsh on them since Baltimore turned around and relocated the Browns infrastructure (you kept your measly records, colors and name).
There was that time Colts fans booed Luck when he retired – but who am I kidding – I’m not starting anything over Luck. Perhaps, this season we can get some bad blood pumping with Phillip Rivers and his profanity-free trash talk taking over the offense, but it will be hard to care. Indiana is just an uninspiring fly-over and drive-through state.
At one point, the Saints were an absolute abomination to the game. However, the team has been good for quite a while, and even won a Super Bowl in 2008. They have not succeeded to the point of accumulating bandwagon jumpers.
This has allowed them to retain their authenticity – for the most part. Sean Payton is one of those coaches who “gets it.” He engages with fans and plays to their identity. Imagine how fun it must be to be a Saints fan in New Orleans.
The Broncos are another team that has been able to avoid infiltrating bandwagoners, despite having sustained success.
Since John Elway retired, and outside of the short Manning era, the team has been wholly irrelevant to the casual fan.
Broncos fans have been rewarded for their loyalty with eight super bowl appearances and three championships. Exactly how it should be.
Beyond that, getting lightheaded drunk at Mile High is probably fun too, so despite best efforts, I cannot find many reasons to dump on the Broncos or their fanbase. Just keep sacrificing things to keep Elway as the GM, to enjoy more years of capable but underwhelming teams. Elway has had five 9-win seasons since he took over as President/GM in 2011.
Bears fans are in an abusive relationship. The players stink, the coaching stinks, the management stinks. Yet, year-after-year Bears fans convince themselves that things will be different this year only to be disappointed. They only have THREE consecutive 9-win seasons since 1990, seriously, look it up.
These poor slobs endure the brutality of the Chicago climate just to watch the team break their hearts over, and over, again.
Remember when the Bears hired Marc Trestman to be their head coach? The dude had a ponytail that would make a creep with a bag of free candy in a windowless van shiver.
These good, wholesome, Midwesterners deserve better. They remain committed to the team, though, which is just in their DNA considering they waited 108 years between Cubs championships.
Fans of the Ravens are easily identifiable on Game Day, and often throughout the week. Frequently adorned in purple camo, you will often hear the off-putting regional dialect coming before you see them.
During a normal year, M&T Bank Stadium is filled with the aroma of Old Bay. Not from the delicious local food but, rather, from the sea of unwashed “lucky” jerseys being worn by the “Ravens Flock.” One will hear reference to Ray Lewis’ 1997 acquittal – not from a lawyer but from a guy in camo cargo shorts, pockets brimming with smuggled-in Natty Boh tallboys.
The Ravens are in a perplexing position. They are likely to pick up new fans because of the sensational Lamar Jackson. That is the cost of being a well-run, well-positioned and forward-thinking organization.
Inevitably, too, the Ravens will pick up defecting Washington Football Team fans who are upset about their racial slur of a team name being changed.
Ravens fans, more than almost any other fanbase in the league, have a perennial chip on their collective shoulders. Everything is personal to them, and that is okay, but it does not endear them to opposing fanbases.
This is a fanbase nobody would dare join as a bandwagoner strictly out of fear. Becoming an Eagles fan is like getting jumped into a street gang: committing despicable acts and getting beat up are just a few initiation prerequisites.
And yet, against all odds, these people were rewarded for their unyielding loyalty with one of the most exciting Super Bowl victories of all time. That 2018 triumph over Tom Brady and the Patriots is remembered fondly with gratitude around the league. A city spending money on Crisco for street poles before the 2018 NFC championship game, and those drunk bastards climbing them anyway, will never not be funny.