Map It: Sports fans


On Sunday night I watched with chagrin as my beloved New
England Patriots football team forfeited all hope of a perfect,
Cinderella season with a loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. Perhaps
the pain of envisioning Eli Manning celebrating on his way to Disney World
would have been slightly less abrasive had there been a few fellow Bostonians
to commiserate. Unfortunately, I was surrounded by a room full of native New
Yorkers, Long Islanders, and New Jerseyites.

This fateful scenario got me thinking about the geography of
sports teams fan affiliations
. While the love of sport may be universal, team
loyalties are decidedly regional–in most cases, that is. Of course, you have
the émigrés, those of us who have relocated, whether temporarily or
permanently, to a new region of the country but maintain our hometown spirit. For
instance, it’s no surprise that in a Washington, D.C. apartment of recent college
graduates there’d be a healthy smattering of Northeast sports fans.

Then, there are those magical teams whose appeal somehow
transcends traditional regional boundaries and manages to captivate a broader
audience. My friend from Trinidad and Tobago is a diehard supporter of the
Manchester United soccer club in England, arguably the most popular
team in the world. It’s amazing to me how strong sports loyalties are. You’ll
often hear terms like “nation” (as in “Red Sox Nation”) used to describe fans
as a very real parallel to citizens of a unified state. And just like a state,
loyalties are defined by a combination of geographic, political, and cultural
boundaries. Now that is worth
scrutinizing through a geographic lens.

Here’s a website to get you started thinking geographically
about sports: is a project to effectively conduct a census of
sports fans across the U.S. They don’t, however, endeavor to provide explanations for the patterns. That
task, I suppose, will be left up to us as geographers!
Tell Us: Where is
your hometown, and who are your favorite sports teams?

Sarah for My Wonderful World


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5 thoughts on “Map It: Sports fans

  1. You make an interesting observation on the impact of media on sports team affiliations, Jack. In addition to “mapping” sports team loyalties at discrete points of time, it would be instructive to track changes over time. Beyond television, I imagine the internet has had, and will continue to have, its own unique influence.

  2. I think with the development of more TV channels, people are rooting less for the home team. I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan here in PA thanks to TBS

  3. Thanks, Jake. These are some great sites. Naturally, I find the the third especially intriguing. I’d really like to look into more of the human geographic factors that influence team loyalties in a given region or town, particularly in areas where they stray from state borders, and in divided states like Connecticut. It would be great to see full transcripts of John Branch’s interviews and/or conduct new ones asking individuals why they cheer for one team or another.

  4. Sports and Maps, great combination! This post reminds me of 3 things that I think are worth sharing:
    1. An artistic portrayal of the baseball fan map on the CommonCensus site which stirred up some debate regarding its accuracy:
    2. A website that maps out where NFL games are broadcast. If you look through some of those, you find some games broadcast in areas that don’t seem to make sense, in terms of what teams you would expect would have a greater following in an area. I guess the TV networks and marketing people know what they are doing, though. I also wonder if they use any type of polling to decide what games to put on TV in areas that don’t have clearly defined fanbases:
    3. Finally, a great NY Times article from 2006 where John Branch tried to map out exactly where the border was between “Red Sox Nation” and “Yankee Country”:

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