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In Markets With Few or No Sports Teams...


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A work teammate and I were having this discussion last week, and I thought it'd make for a good topic on here.

He recently moved from California to here in Utah, and was asking me who people around here cheered for in the NFL, MLB, NHL, etc., knowing that Utah had no franchises in those leagues. I started to think about how people here choose a team, and then how other markets similar to Utah may choose a team.

So, for those of you in smaller markets who have few or no sports teams at all, who do you and others in your market usually cheer for in each of the major five sports leagues?

I'll start with Utah, and name of teams that I've observed being cheered for here.

Utah has the Jazz and RSL, so the NBA and MLS are "not applicable". This leaves the NFL, MLB, and NHL.


Utah is heavily Broncos territory, mostly due to proximity. I'd say after that, you've got the 49ers (probably because of Steve Young, a former BYU Cougar), Raiders (not sure why, but there's a decent number of them), Colts, and Eagles (again, BYU - Austin Collie, Rob Morris, Andy Reid, and Chad Lewis).


This one's cloudy. It's probably the one sport where proximity isn't a factor (although the Rockies and D'Backs do have some following here). Most here are actually Angels fans, due to the Salt Lake Bees and Orem Owls both being affiliates of the Angels. After that, you have a pretty even split between the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers.


I'd say the Avalanche hold Utah, with the Ducks and Coyotes following in that order. There's also a few Kings fans here and there.

Then of course outside of that, the Jazz and RSL rule the sports scene. Utah and BYU football are perhaps the biggest collegiate sports, followed by BYU and USU basketball.

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Originally a St. Louisan and now in Memphis, the Grizzlies fit right in to the St. Louis teams to give me a big 4 to root for. However, for natives it's a mix.

In Memphis, it's Tiger basketball above everything else. The Grizzlies have only matched their popularity with their playoff run last spring. At times it's felt like we've had two major basketball teams, kind of like how big cities like NYC have two teams in the major sports, with the Grizzlies feeling like the B team during some of their leaner years. I sincerely think that will change now, with the caveat that a lockout might hurt their momentum.

In college football, people root for a mix of SEC teams (Tenn, Ark., MS State, Ole Miss, Alabama...People enjoy tailgating for Memphis football, but they rarely draw more than 20-30K unless playing an SEC team.)

MLB: Cardinals (current MiLB affiliate, games are shown on cable here in addition to Braves and Reds), Cubs (former MiLB affiliate), or Braves (the South's team)

NHL: Predators or Blues mostly, if they actually know what hockey is...Some oldtimers still pull for Wings or Hawks due to them being only teams on TV back in the day.

NFL: some Titans fans (not many due to the whole Memphis stopover deal and the Memphis vs. Nashville rivalry), some Saints fans (some Katrina evacuees moved here permanently), lots of Cowboys and Steelers fans (bandwagon I assume)

In St. Louis growing up, there was very little interest in the NBA. Same for when I went to college in Dayton. Cavs games are shown throughout Ohio, and I knew a few fans, but they were mostly from Cleveland. Like Memphis, Dayton college basketball was most important.

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The Scranton / Wilkes-Barre PA area is an interesting case. It is just about equidistant to New York and Philadelphia, but there is also some Pittsburgh influence because some people tend to root for in-state teams.

MLB: A definite division between Yankees and Phillies. The Yankees' AAA team is here, yet for decades it was the Phillies AAA team. Both have radio and television coverage into the area. A small scattering of Mets support, and even less for the Pirates.

NFL: Here is where the Pennsylvania factor comes in. Eagles are probably have the strongest fan base in Northeast Pennsylvania, although the Steelers are a close second. I almost never see a Giants or Jets fan around here, but there are some Bills people in the northern part of the market.

NBA: I don't think people around here care about the NBA at all. High school hoops are big in this area, and that's about it for basketball.

NHL: Penguins all the way. There never has been much Flyers interest. The presence of the Penguins' top minor-league team has encouraged people to root for the big club as well.

NCAA football: We are! Penn State!

NCAA basketball: See NBA above.

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South Carolina, I know the Panthers technically represent both Carolinas, but the Panthers only seem to have a foothold on the upstate/northern areas. The Panthers hold training camp in Spartanburg, but there tends to be a mix between Panthers/Falcons as you get closer to the Georgia line, and in the Charleston area. A mix of teams that people were fans of before the Panthers came around, as well...tends to be more nationwide popular teams or teams that were historically good - Packers, Steelers, Cowboys, Redskins, 49ers (case in point - yours truly).

MLB: Braves country. If there's anyone else, it's divided between historically good teams as well, a lot like NFL.

NBA: the Bobcats don't have a big fan base in South Carolina at all. (yes, you could make the point that the Bobcats don't have a big fan base anywhere, but...) Lots of fair-weather NBA fans here.

NHL: in the event you do encounter a home-grown, SC native hockey fan, it's usually the Hurricanes. Most hockey fans are transplants and bring their home team fandom with them.

NCAA: Even split between Carolina and Clemson. Everyone else (Charleston, Furman, Coastal, Wofford, Winthrop) is at least 10 steps behind.

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As far as Indy goes, the city definitely leans towards the Cubs and Blackhawks (specifically up here on the north side). Although as you get east and southeast, you see the Reds emerge as a team, and the west and southwest areas lean Cardinals. A handful of Indians, Tigers, White Sox fans and then your bandwagon Yankee and Red Sox fans everywhere.

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It's fair to say that Iowa fits into this topic very well. There are no major teams in the state... So, how does that breakdown?

MLB: Baseball is probably where the biggest split is in the state because of it's location. To the south are Kansas City and St. Louis; To the north is Minnesota; To the east are the Chicago teams and Milwaukee is to the northeast. Most fans in the state are probably Chicago Cub fans since the Cubs' Triple A affiliate is in Des Moines. It is not unusual to see fans of the Cards, White Sox and Twins here as well.

NFL: Another split fanbase, but not as many team involved. Again, teams from Kansas City, St. Louis, Minnesota and Chicago are involved. But, you add Green Bay as well, but they are too far to the northeast to really make an impact in state. I guess it depends where you are.

NBA: The Bulls and the Timberwolves are the nearest teams to Iowa, but I think the Bulls have the advantage because, like the Cubs, their affliate is in Des Moines.

NHL: Since the Iowa Chops left town and became the Texas Stars, hockey has gone back to being more about the junior level teams in state. Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque all have teams in the USHL and that is a very big deal.

Soccer: Des Moines Menace. That is all.

College: Iowa and Iowa State are 1 and 1A, although Drake and Northern Iowa aren't that far behind. The 'Big Four' as they are known here, are by far the best known in the state despite the influx of Nebraska fans in the western half of the state.

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in Cincinnati we consider ourselves a major league town. The problem with that is we only have two major league teams. whenever we have a minor league team it is rarely supported.


NFL- BENGALS (although with all the losing seasons, id hardly call them a major league team at this point)

NBA- When LeBron was in Cleveland, the Cavs emerged as a team for Cincinnati but most people just cheer for college or high school games.

NHL- I think we have a mixture of Blue Jackets and Penguins fans.

MLS- I dont think many people around here have even heard of soccer with the exception of their kids soccer game.

NCAA- For football its a mixture of Cincinnati, Miami of Ohio, Ohio State, and Kentucky. For basketball its a mixture of Cincinnati, Xavier, Miami of Ohio, Ohio State, and Kentucky

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Southern Ontario is a total mixed bag for NFL fanhood. Around here in Niagara the most popular are probably Bills fans, myself included, due to the proximity to Buffalo (only about 50 miles) and we get all their games on local TV.

Otherwise it's your typical bandwagon Patriots, Cowboys, Packers and Eagles fans.

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Edmonton has the Oilers, so NHL is out. The rest of the leagues are just a crapshoot; you could 30 different people who cheer for 30 different NFL, MLB or NBA teams just walking down the street. I'll take a wild stab at a few, though ...

MLB - Either the Toronto Blue Jays, due to them being the only team in Canada and the only one who are on the national sports TV networks on a regular basis, or the Seattle Mariners, who are the closest in proximity.

NBA - Probably the Toronto Raptors, again due to them being the only team in Canada.

MLS - Would have said the same thing about Toronto FC as I did the Jays and Raptors until this year, when the Whitecaps opened up shop, as they're closer but also Canadian. Then again, not many people give two hoots about professional soccer here.

NFL - Yeah, this is the biggest crapshoot of them all. I've known people who are Pats fans, Steelers fans -- it's all over the map. It basically boils down to who you saw on TV as a kid and liked their player/style of play/logo/uniform/stadium/fans/city the most.

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MLB: Mariners based on proximity but there's a sizable Red Sox/ Yankees fanbase too.

NFL: Seahawks because of proximity and the fact thier games are broadcast seemingly every week. I do see Raider, Cowboy, and Packer decals around though.

NHL: Not too much. Avs, Canucks (closest teams), Stars (Steelheads NHL affiliate), Flames, Oilers (I assume so due to north Idaho being pretty close to Alberta).

NBA: I would think Trail Blazers but then, the Champ Sports in the mall only has Bryant and James jerseys so take what you will.

MLS: None that I've seen, which is a shame considering the Cascadia rivalry .

College: Undisputed Boise State territory (with small pockets of Oregon and Oregon State support). Up north it would be Idaho or even Washington State since Pullman is around 30 miles away from Moscow. And I guess there could be a chunk of support for Idaho State out east near Pocatello.

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San Diego - I'm a unique case in that I'm not a native so I have my own rooting interests. But for the natives in my years living here I've observed the following outside of MLB and the NFL which of course San Diego does have with the Padres and Chargers respectively.

NBA - San Diego by and large appears to be Lakers country. While SD is generally anti-LA, the Lakers have made a big push to include San Diego in their territory. They play at least one annual preseason game at the San Diego Sports Arena and a large number of their games are broadcast on San Diego radio and it has paid off as the game is fairly well attended. Surprisingly there doesn't seem to be much, if any, Clippers fandom in San Diego despite them having been SD's team. Obviously a combo of hurt feelings over them leaving 25 years ago, a lack of any promotion in the market, and generally just sucking have made the Clippers irrelevant.

NHL - There isn't a huge amount of puck following in SD but the largest two are obviously the LA Kings and Anaheim Ducks due to proximity. The Kings get a bit more coverage in the press, but what little hockey following I've seen does seem to be pretty evenly split. Also there's a smaller but quite vibrant following for both the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks in San Diego due in no small part to a fair number of NorCal and Canadian ex-pats in the city. Both of which were very apparent during this past post season.

MLS/Soccer - Both Chivas USA and the LA Galaxy make periodic forays down to SD to play friendlies. And both draw fairly well when they do. But as far as soccer goes I'd say recently both are playing second fiddle popularity wise to the almost local Club Tijuana Xolos of the Mexican Primera Division. The Xolos went on a phenomenal run last year earning promotion to the top level of Mexican futbol and as a result you see a fair number of fans in the region with car stickers, flags, etc...

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North Dakota is often considered one big suburb of Minnesota. We've got the same type of people (lots of Norwegian and German Lutherans), we often have relatives in Minnesota and the Minnesota teams are the closest to us, except in far southwest North Dakota where Denver is a little closer.

So, for MLB, we're huge Twins fans. You see a handful of Yankee fans, as well.

NFL, we're huge Vikings fans. But here is where you see more fans of other teams, such as the Packers and Broncos. A smattering of Bears and Cowboys fans, too.

In the NBA and NHL, the Timberwolves and Wild are still new kids on the block. You see a lot of Laker fans, partly because of the old Minneapolis Lakers and partly because Phil Jackson, a North Dakotan, coached them. That reason also applies to the Bulls. As for the Wild, yeah, we like them, and we will probably root for the new Winnipeg Jets (at least in some areas). But a lot of North Dakotans, like a lot of Minnesotans, miss the North Stars.

We root for the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State in college sports. But at the higher divisions, we like the Gophers and we're generally Big Ten country. But we also liked Nebraska, so the Huskers in the Big Ten is perfect.

Oh, and there's no question about college hockey. We love the Sioux, and in this case, we hate the Gophers.

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Yeah, not being a native of a place can muck things up. So I bring my teams with me and even then, those teams aren't always native to where I grew up. (Specifically in baseball) I adopted the Colorado Rockies as my NL team because I never truly had one and I figured it was between them and the Cardinals since I'd spent the most time at their two stadiums based on my living situations over the years...but I never felt comfortable as a Cardinals fan since 1) they have so many and 2) they're good and it made me feel like a bandwagon jumper. Even though I did go to college there and worked in the area for a while. Rockies being newer made that easier, plus I went to a lot of their games during that run in '07 to the pennant, including my first-ever playoff game.

I figured that made me enough of a fan to sorta claim them, but it still feels strange.

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Born and raised in Alaska. My favorite teams are the Chargers, S.F. Giants, and Penguins for various reasons.

When the Seahawks were good, we got all their games. When they do poorly, we got their early season games, but later in the season, it would be the more prominent national games. The Seahawks do have a very active fan club in Alaska though.

MLB when I was growing up was Braves or Cubs depending on which superstation you watched. Mostly Cubs fans though. Mariners started picking up steam in the mid-90's.

Couldn't tell you about the NBA, I don't like it and don't care.

NHL was surprisingly a non-entity when I was growing up. Later on, it was Devils territory for Scott Gomez, don't know if that's translated over to the Canadiens or not. The Blues seemed to be kinda popular and that was before the Aces affiliation with them.

However, this is all from the 70's, 80's, and early 90's. May have changed some today, I'll have to ask my dad what he thinks.

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Here's what I would consider the most popular major sports teams in Vancouver.

Hockey: Vancouver Canucks, original six teams, & other Canadian teams

Soccer: Vancouver Whitecaps

Canadian Football: BC Lions

American Football: Seattle Seahawks

Baseball: Toronto Blue Jays & Seattle Mariners

Basketball: Toronto Raptors & Memphis Grizzlies

Most Vancouver sports fans will cheer for a Canadian based team if we don't have our own, often Toronto, while others will opt for a close team, usually one based out of Seattle.

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Like Knhrvy16, I'm from Utah as well, but I grew up in southern Utah. There is a slight difference in southern Utah (i.e., St. George) than northern Utah. Since it's all Utah anyways, I'll eliminate the NBA's Jazz and MLS's Real Salt Lake, as they still get coverage down there.

MLB: It's been my experience that there are more Dodger fans down there, as much of southern Utah's (at least St. George and Cedar City) population tends to identify more with southern California teams (except the Lakers) :D than it does with Arizona teams. It also helps that the main road through those cities, both currently and historically, practically connects the region with the greater Los Angeles area.

NFL: While the 49ers and Broncos remain the top teams down there, it seems as though it's almost a 33.333/33.333/33.333 split between the Broncos, 49ers, and Raiders. Perhaps part of it is that St. George native Doug Jolley (BYU alum) once played and Nick Miller (Southern Utah University alum) does play for Oakland. It could also be the same reason as the Dodgers (at least from the Raiders' LA years), or a combination of both.

NHL: I'd say that this one is another three-way split, this time between the Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, and LA Kings.

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In BC all we have is the Canucks, Whitecaps, and Lions, who I all am a fan of. Always been a Jays fan since they were always on TV for me growing up. For NFL, two of the first games I remember watching were the Music City Miracle and Super Bowl 34 and became a Titans fan because of those games. As for the NBA, generally I cheer for the Raptors but I really have no favourite team.

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