We Southerners are used to finishing near the bottom of national studies. We’re fat, stupid and lazy. All of us.
But when we’re told we aren’t passionate about our football, that’s where we draw the line.
A pair of Emory professors recently released their findings about all 32 fanbases in the National Football League and concluded the Atlanta Falcons’ fanatics rank No. 31 out of 32 teams. That’s bad enough to rank below the Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions and the entire NFC South. Using an extremely complicated formula, the two smart guys found when the numbers were spit out that only the Oakland Raiders have a worse fanbase than the Falcons.
According to one of the professors, a reason why the Falcons ranked so low might have been because they don’t charge their fans enough for tickets, reported Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. If that’s the case, then those $4,000 Personal Seat Licenses in the new Georgia Dome will help us shoot up future lists, I suppose.
Now, allow me to editorialize for a second. I don’t believe, under any criteria, that the Falcons have the best fanbase in the league. I doubt they’re even top-10. But you have to be kidding or crazy if you think Atlanta’s fanbase has been weaker over the last 11 years — which was the time frame they used for this study — than the Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers or Miami Dolphins.
That’s simply ridiculous.
The New Orleans Saints ranked No. 4 in this study. Fourth. For the last eight years, they’ve been one of the most dedicated fanbases in the NFL. But before that? They were a Southern fanbase too hungover from Saturday college football to watch mediocre pro football, much like Falcons fans.
Since 2002, Falcons fans have been consistent. They pack the Georgia Dome when the team shows promise, which has been nearly every season. The atmosphere is fun, and I’d put the noise level up against any other venue during big games. Our fanbase might not be on the level of the Green Bay Packers (ranked No. 14 in the study) or the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 9), but we’ve certainly been more supportive than the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 19) or the St. Louis Rams (No. 22) since a competent product has been put on the field.
I think we’re used to being called a “Bad Sports Town,” so it’s just another unfavorable poll we can brush off easily. On the other hand, the Seattle Seahawks, known for being one of the rowdiest fanbases in the NFL, checked in at No. 23. They, too, should be questioning these findings.
Maybe these geniuses need to re-check their math, because the formula seems a little off.