With Super Bowl XLVIII just hours away, football fans across the country will be cheering for either the Denver Broncos or the Seattle Seahawks, and both sides will claim to be the biggest football fans in the world. But are they? Which NFL team really does have the "best fans in the world?"
Using statistics such as team box office revenues relative to team on-field success, market population, stadium capacity and median income, a team from Emory's Goizeuta Business School determined the NFL teams with the most die hard fans, and the results might surprise you. According to the research, the top 10 are:
1. Dallas Cowboys
2. New England Patriots
3. New York Jets
4. New Orleans Saints
5. New York Giants
6. Indianapolis Colts
7. Chicago Bears
8. Baltimore Ravens
9. Pittsburgh Steelers
10. Tennessee Titans
Among other factors, the study relied heavily on the comparison between predicted potential box office revenues and actual revenues. The teams that came through in the box office were the ones that ranked the highest.
This might seem like a reasonable method, but can science really give us a good answer to this question? While the Dallas Cowboys have often been called "America's team," fan bases can easily fluctuate from season to season.
Moreover, the study puts this year's Super Bowl contenders both outside the top 10: Denver fans ranked in at 12, while Seattle fans ranked in at 23. So if the big game was determined by fans bases alone, Denver would have this in the bag (luckily they'll play an actual game). However, during the 2013-2014 season, both teams had substantial fan bases. In fact, this year, Seahawks fans — commonly and affectionately known as the 12th man — in CenturyLink Field set a Guinness World Record for loudest crowd roar at 137.6 decibels.
But of course, numbers change from year to year. This past season, the teams with the highest average attendance were, in order: Dallas, New York Giants, Green Bay, Washington, D.C., New York Jets, Denver, Kansas City, Carolina, New Orleans and Houston. Five years ago, the top 10 were: Washington, New York Giants, New York Jets, Denver, Kansas City, Carolina, Cleveland, Buffalo, Baltimore and Green Bay.
And what about a team like the Oakland Raiders, which was ranked last on the Emory study (The rest of the bottom five teams were the Detroit Lions, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Arizona Cardinals and Atlanta Falcons)? Even though the team hasn't posted the best record in a few years, Raiders Nation is notorious for its passion, and the fans are well-known for their unwavering commitment to their team — and for their costumes.
Data scientists may try to predict who the NFL's biggest and best fans are, but all real fans know their commitment can't be measured.