Most fans support the home team, and allegiances are tough to break. Of course there are always contrarians, and 27% of Americans were born outside their state of residence. [1] But just how many fans root for the home-team?

On SeatGeek, users can track teams:
tracking

I’ll use this as a proxy for fandom. We’re able to record the latitude and longitude of most of our users, so we can use this to calculate the distance from the fan to their team’s home stadium / arena. I’ve calculated this distance (using the Haversine approximation) for all fans of the four major sports. To avoid any outlier effects I’ve excluded any fans outside of the Americas (which represent about 1% of the total).

distribution
On first glance, the distribution is not surprising. The majority of fans live quite close to their teams, with over 50% living within 36 miles. However the tail is quite long (or fat). 25% of fans are over 178 miles away, and 10% are over 830 miles away.

But what happens when we break it down by team? We could cut this in any number of ways: average distance, median distance, etc. I’ve decided to use the percentage of fans that live over 100 miles away as a measure of their out-of-market support.

MLB

Team Out of Market Fans
St. Louis Cardinals 48.7%
Atlanta Braves 47.3%
Boston Red Sox 43.2%
Chicago Cubs 39.5%
Seattle Mariners 38.7%
Kansas City Royals 36.7%
Cincinnati Reds 35.1%
Arizona Diamondbacks 33.8%
San Diego Padres 33.5%
Minnesota Twins 33.2%
Toronto Blue Jays 31.3%
Milwaukee Brewers 31.0%
Houston Astros 30.4%
New York Yankees 29.7%
Detroit Tigers 29.6%
Pittsburgh Pirates 29.1%
Texas Rangers 29.0%
Tampa Bay Rays 28.5%
San Francisco Giants 24.4%
Cleveland Indians 24.2%
Colorado Rockies 23.2%
Baltimore Orioles 22.4%
Miami Marlins 21.1%
Chicago White Sox 20.6%
Oakland Athletics 20.0%
Philadelphia Phillies 18.2%
Los Angeles Dodgers 15.9%
New York Mets 13.8%
Los Angeles Angels 13.6%
Washington Nationals 13.4%
MLB Total 28.6%

The Cardinals top the list. This is presumably the result of a bandwagon effect, as they have appeared in two of the last three World Series. Washington, city of transplants, has the least out-of-market support.

NBA

Team Out of Market Fans
Miami Heat 61.4%
Oklahoma City Thunder 54.9%
San Antonio Spurs 46.4%
New Orleans Pelicans 44.4%
Boston Celtics 43.5%
Memphis Grizzlies 40.5%
Orlando Magic 38.8%
Cleveland Cavaliers 37.7%
Detroit Pistons 37.2%
Chicago Bulls 36.9%
Los Angeles Lakers 36.1%
Utah Jazz 35.6%
Phoenix Suns 35.2%
Charlotte Hornets 34.2%
Indiana Pacers 32.8%
Portland Trail Blazers 32.8%
Atlanta Hawks 31.0%
Houston Rockets 30.6%
Minnesota Timberwolves 30.4%
Milwaukee Bucks 29.7%
Los Angeles Clippers 24.5%
Toronto Raptors 23.3%
Sacramento Kings 23.2%
Dallas Mavericks 23.1%
Denver Nuggets 20.6%
Golden State Warriors 19.3%
Philadelphia 76ers 19.0%
New York Knicks 18.6%
Washington Wizards 14.3%
Brooklyn Nets 12.7%
NBA Total 30.8%

The NBA falls a bit more in line with expectations. The top three teams are the teams that have made the NBA Finals over the last three seasons. In last place is Brooklyn, a borough team that is newly established in that location.

NFL

Team Out of Market Fans
Green Bay Packers 86.2%
New Orleans Saints 75.6%
Pittsburgh Steelers 73.7%
Dallas Cowboys 67.3%
Denver Broncos 60.1%
Buffalo Bills 57.2%
Jacksonville Jaguars 56.9%
Oakland Raiders 55.1%
Tennessee Titans 53.8%
Miami Dolphins 51.9%
Indianapolis Colts 51.9%
Kansas City Chiefs 50.7%
Minnesota Vikings 50.6%
Seattle Seahawks 48.3%
San Francisco 49ers 47.9%
New England Patriots 47.9%
Carolina Panthers 47.9%
St. Louis Rams 47.0%
San Diego Chargers 45.3%
Chicago Bears 42.0%
Arizona Cardinals 42.0%
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 40.2%
Detroit Lions 40.1%
Cincinnati Bengals 38.7%
Cleveland Browns 38.4%
Philadelphia Eagles 34.5%
Atlanta Falcons 33.9%
Washington Redskins 32.7%
Houston Texans 32.7%
Baltimore Ravens 29.4%
New York Giants 26.6%
New York Jets 22.5%
NFL Total 47.3%

The Green Bay Packers head the list, as the team’s fan base is all over Wisconsin. In particular, Milwaukee happens to be just over 100 miles away, slightly skewing the results:

greenbay

The Jets and Giants round out the bottom, despite the Giants’ recent Super Bowl victory.

NHL

Team Out of Market Fans
Montreal Canadiens 66.3%
Arizona Coyotes 58.8%
Vancouver Canucks 56.9%
Ottawa Senators 52.2%
Edmonton Oilers 48.0%
Pittsburgh Penguins 46.5%
Calgary Flames 45.8%
Detroit Red Wings 41.7%
Buffalo Sabres 39.0%
Nashville Predators 37.8%
Carolina Hurricanes 34.4%
Winnipeg Jets 32.3%
Toronto Maple Leafs 30.1%
St. Louis Blues 29.1%
Chicago Blackhawks 27.9%
Dallas Stars 27.1%
Minnesota Wild 26.2%
Boston Bruins 25.9%
Colorado Avalanche 25.2%
Florida Panthers 24.4%
Columbus Blue Jackets 24.0%
Tampa Bay Lightning 23.0%
Philadelphia Flyers 20.5%
San Jose Sharks 17.0%
Washington Capitals 15.3%
Los Angeles Kings 13.1%
New York Rangers 12.6%
New Jersey Devils 12.1%
Anaheim Ducks 11.7%
New York Islanders 8.8%
NFL Total 24.8%

Canadian teams dominate the top half of the list – this is more likely a result of SeatGeek’s predominantly American userbase rather than any underlying geographic distribution. Otherwise there is not much variation. And no list of team metrics would be complete without the poor Islanders at the bottom…

Summary

Large East coast cities like Philadelphia, Washington, and New York, who have all had limited success in recent years (with the exception of this year’s Rangers), are near the bottom of most of the lists.

Poring over these histograms reveals some interesting patterns, including the curious case of the Cincinnati Reds:

cincinnati

100 miles is the point at which most of the distributions drop off. So what explains the peak there for Cincinnati? If we take a look at the geography of Southwestern Ohio, it’s not surprising at all! It turns out there are four major metropolitan areas nearby without baseball teams, and they all happen to be about 100 miles away:

cincinnati map

In a future post, we’ll dig deeper and consider the inverse question – analyzing the team preferences of fans based on the fan’s location. We’ll see if any interesting patterns on a smaller scale, within major metropolitan areas.

The above graphs were created using Hadley Wickham‘s ggplot2 package for R, as well as the ggmap package for integration with Google Maps.

[1] From the 2010 American Community Survey