If you’re one of the three regular readers of this blog, it’s probably readily apparent that I’m a big sports fan. What you probably don’t know, however, is that I’ve also always been a dork about maps (when my family took road trips when I was younger, I used to collect maps from as many states and cities as possible) and census data (for whatever reason, population and socioeconomic demographic statistics have always fascinated me – I could pore over that stuff for hours on end).
So, when I ended up finding the CommonCensus Sports Map Project, which has put together maps of the geographic distribution of sports fans of teams in Major League Baseball, NFL Football, NBA Basketball, NHL Hockey, and college football, I was predictably sucked in. Granted, the data is based upon those who vote in the accompanying poll, so it’s not scientific, but it looks as if though the sample size is getting large enough where there is a pretty accurate view of who cheers for what sports teams across the country. (Note: be sure to also check out the separate “United Countries of Baseball” map discussed on Strange Maps and Deadspin.)
Here are some observations from a look at the different CommonCensus Sports Maps:
(1) The teams that I like are pretty popular in general in terms of total votes. The Bulls are the #1 NBA team, the Bears are the #3 NFL team (after the Patriots and Cowboys), Illinois is #9 out of all NCAA Division 1-A football teams, and the Blackhawks are the #4 NHL team (maybe there is hope for hockey in Chicago when Bill Wirtz finally relinquishes his throne). Not surprisingly, my White Sox are the exception as the #15 MLB team out of 30. If I were a “Cox” fan, I might be enthralled with the Cubs’ #2 MLB ranking (after only the Red Sox), but since I’m not, I just have to shake my head at how the severe the nation’s lemming epidemic is today.
(2) The baseball map is the most fascinating since it really shows the regional rivalry lines. Growing up as a Sox fan on the South Side, I honestly had no clue how seriously people in Downstate Illinois take the Cubs-Cardinals rivalry until I went to college in Champaign. I think that most Cubs fans that grow up in the Chicago area look at the White Sox the way, by comparison, Yankees fans look at the Red Sox (just complete and utter disdain for the other team and their fans) while the Cardinals are more like the Yankees’ view of the Mets (really strong dislike). There are some individual exceptions to this (i.e. the Cubs fans that always love to claim that “they just don’t pay attention to the Sox at all” or the contingent that merely uses Wrigley Field as a happy hour spot before hitting the other bars in Wrigleyville) , but that seems to be the general rule in Chicagoland. That changes when you get towards the center of the State of Illinois, where I could see clearly that the feelings between Cubs and Cardinals fans are a lot more intense, showing that proximity breeds contempt. As you can tell by the baseball map and drilling down into the statistical breakouts, the state pretty much splits between the Cubs and Cardinals just south of the U of I campus, with the Cubs also taking most of Iowa and Indiana. White Sox Nation is relegated to the space bounded by Madison Street, I-80, I-294, and Michigan City (we like to keep our club nice and exclusive).
(3) For college football, the Chicago area is not surprisingly dominated by Illinois, Notre Dame, and Northwestern, followed by other Big Ten teams plus Northern Illinois. Most of the figures pass the smell test with the exception of the SEC schools along with ACC counterpart Florida State, who seem to be severely underrepresented in terms of votes at this point in time. I would make a joke that the Confederacy is just moving on from 8-track players, but Arkansas State and East Carolina actually have significantly more votes than Tennessee, Alabama, LSU, and Florida State. Any sports fan with any semblance of the college football world would know those figures must be inaccurate. The CommonCensus project coordinators ought to take a look at this because those numbers from the South are completely out of whack with all of the other regions of the country.
(4) In terms of the NFL, the Bears take most of Illinois as expected, although I thought that I’d see a bit more Bears dominance in the northern part of Indiana since there’s a lot more entrenched history there compared to the Colts (much like the baseball Cardinals were the favorite team for generations of southerners prior to the Braves moving to Atlanta). Still, the Bears appear to be one of the few teams that has a substantive fan presence in nearly every major market (with the exception of Green Bay, Wisconsin, of course).
Anyway, I find all of the data and corresponding maps extremely fascinating. I recommend for everyone to take the time to vote in the poll so that the quality of the results can continue to be improved.