21 May 2004

RUN DOWN: Which team has the best fans?


It’s too bad this question isn’t which club has the worst fans in baseball. That one’s easy: the Phillies.

Say what you want about the judgmental New York fans or the unforgiving Boston media, but the City of Brotherly Love has easily got the worst fans in sports. What other city would throw snowballs at the opposing team, loaded with rocks or batteries? Where else might the crowd cheer as an opposing player is carried off the field on a stretcher? Who else would boo their own pitcher for not throwing 100 mph? In what other city would they boo Santa Claus? And then tell you how proud they are of the occurrence?

That’s right: Nowhere but Philly.

But that’s not the question. The question is who has the best fans, and frankly, I don’t know. It’s tempting to say that the Yankees have the best fans, since I am one, but hey, how hard is it really to be loyal to the best sports franchise in history? Like rooting for U.S. Steel, as they used to say.

Boston is another option, I hate to admit, because by all reports the Red Sox fans are as knowledgeable as any in the game, probably more so, and that counts for something. However, the recent emergence of all these Boston fans from the proverbial woodwork leaves me a bit skeptical as to their genuineness.

After Tuesday night, I might have even offered up the Braves’ fans as the best, for who else would cheer the opposing pitcher as he hurled a perfect game against their own team? But Atlanta’s attendance has been dropping, despite the team’s continued success, and they can’t even sell-out first round playoff games anymore. Guess all that success has gone to their heads. Somebody ought to explain to the good people of Georgia that you can’t finish the season any higher than first place.

Perhaps the best measure of a team’s fans’ character is their attendance, not just overall, but in light of the team’s performance. With this in mind, it seems to me that the Seattle Mariners and St. Louis Cardinals have had the most consistency in their attendance numbers for the last half-decade or so. These teams have also been fairly successful on the field, so it makes sense that their attendance has been good.

Furthermore, for St. Louis, even when the team wasn’t that good, they had Mark McGuire and his nightly home-run record chase as an incentive to watch. Not that this should discredit the good people of St. Louis, who by all accounts are great fans, but fair is fair. I’d go to the ballpark every night too if I thought I might see history.

We’d like to find, if possible, a group of fans that embodies the very spirit of support for the franchise. Fans that aren’t concerned with silly things like “winning” and arcane notions like, well, “winning”. Fans who go to the ballgame for one reason and one reason only: to get drunk, and get a tan. OK, so it’s two reasons. And with these criteria, one team stands cork-filled head and steroid-enhanced shoulders above the rest…

…the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs' fans sure have nostalgia, and a nice ballpark, if not much recent success.  Posted by Hello

That’s right, they made the playoffs last year, winning 88 regular season games and drawing almost three million fans to a ballpark that’s nearly 90 years old and seats fewer than 39,000!

The year before that? They lost 95 games, but still drew 2.7 million fans to that ballpark. In 1998, a 20 year old phenomenon named Kerry Wood took the NL by surprise, took 20 Houston Astros down on strikes in one game, took 13 of 19 decisions and took home Rookie of the Year honors. The Cubbies took in 2.6 million at Wrigley Field. In 1999, Wood missed the entire season with Tommy John surgery, but the Cubs drew even more fans, 2.8 million! For a team that lost 95 games! Same thing in 2000: 97 losses, 2.8 million fans. 2001? An 88-74 record, good for third place in the NL Central, but still 2.8 million fans.

OK, so maybe they were a little tough on Steve Bartman last year. And maybe they’re a little bitter and jaded. After all, it’s been almost 100 years since their last World Series title. Actually, it’s been that long since they won any series in the playoffs. But consistency is consistency, and the Cubs are nothing if not consistent. Consistently underachieving, perhaps, but their fans are right there with them.

All 2.8 million of them.

See what my colleagues at BaseballOutsider.com have to say about this issue...

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