Mass appeal: Bills' faithful know how to tailgate
ESPN.com tapped into its blog network to help rank the NFL fan bases from 1 to 32. The result: Very good news for Steelers fans. And for Cardinals fans? Ahh, not so much.
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Yes, there was a method to our madness in ranking NFL teams' fan bases. Five Bristol muckety-mucks sat in a room and hatched the genius idea of having our NFL division bloggers rate fan bases in their divisions over the past five seasons. Mike Sando (NFC West), Matt Mosley (NFC East), Pat Yasinskas (NFC South), Kevin Seifert (NFC North), Bill Williamson (AFC West), Tim Graham (AFC East), Paul Kuharsky (AFC South) and James Walker (AFC North) evaluated their teams in these categories:
• Stadium factor (St.): Loud? Great atmosphere?• Live and die factor (LDF): Fans take loss hard? (That's a good thing.) • Traveling road show factor (Travel): Big presence in other guys' stadiums? • Loyalty when team sucks (Loyal): You score points with us if you stick with a loser. • Hate factor (Hate): Other teams' fans dislike your fans? (Hate is good in our book.) • Tailgate factor (TG): Home tailgates sizzling or stale? • Home fans' creativity (CF): Wacky ideas or not?
A rating of 1 is great, 5 the worst.
After the bloggers' ratings were digested by our Bristol computer, we had several ties. Enter The Professor, John Clayton of ESPN.com. Clayton -- who's covered more NFL games over the past 10 years than almost anyone -- broke all ties. Scientific? Nah. Fodder for debate? Certainly. Let the arguments begin (but keep 'em clean).
Consecutive sellouts: 8 | Season-ticket waiting list: none
Don't blame Bills fans for the team's financial angst. The front office hasn't fielded a playoff team since 1999, but fans have purchased the third-highest number of season tickets in franchise history and the most since Buffalo's fourth straight Super Bowl season. In the Ralph Wilson Stadium parking lot, you'll find some of the best tailgating anywhere. A convoy of RVs pulls in days before the game and the masses party all weekend. Some locals will show up just for the pregame festivities even if they're not going to the game.
-- Tim Graham
Consecutive sellouts: 145 | Season-ticket waiting list: Not applicable due to new stadium
Cowboys fans aren't nearly as rabid as Eagles and Steelers fans, but the Cowboys have more of a worldwide audience. If you stay in the team hotel, you'll see something pretty remarkable. No matter where the Cowboys show up (even Appleton, Wis.), there are at least 30 fans waiting for them in the lobby. Texas Stadium is iconic because of the hole in the roof, but now it's simply a dump. This isn't a fan base that feels a great deal of hatred for certain teams or players. In fact, I think Texas Stadium is one of the safest places in the league to wear an opposing jersey. The most hated player from an opposing team is now lining up at wide receiver for the Cowboys.
-- Matt Mosley
Consecutive sellouts: 202 | Season-ticket waiting list: 4,000
The Bears inspire high emotion among Chicagoans, who like to think of themselves as part of a blue-collar city. Life is thrilling when the Bears are winning, but things can get nasty when they're not. Best of luck to Kyle Orton this season. But win or lose, you can expect Bears fans to fill Soldiers Field's parking decks before the game and the stands during it -- regardless of wind, rain, sleet or snow. The stadium's location on Lake Michigan can make for some interesting weather conditions, but Bears fans don't let that affect them.
-- Kevin Seifert
Consecutive sellouts: 249 | Season-ticket waiting list: 9,000
The Jets' sellout streak and season-ticket waiting list are impressive considering their fans have endured three years with six or fewer victories since 2003. Jets fans are rabid and quite ribald. The NFL this month issued a fan code of conduct partly in response to the goings-on at Gate D at the Meadowlands, where unruly fans harassed women during games.
-- Tim Graham
Consecutive sellouts: 16 | Season-ticket waiting list: Five figures, according to Saints
Bourbon Street is close by and that means the tailgate parties start Saturday afternoon. The party atmosphere fuels the Superdome. When the Saints are playing well, this can be one of the league's loudest venues. Before Hurricane Katrina, there were rumblings the Saints could be a candidate for a move. But the team became a rallying point for the entire Gulf Coast in the aftermath of the storm and the fan base is now stronger than ever.
-- Pat Yasinskas
Consecutive sellouts: 56 | Season-ticket waiting list: 17,000
The Colts had a tremendous advantage in the way the RCA Dome held sound. We'll need some time to see if the extra square footage of Lucas Oil Stadium dissipates some of the noise, which is likely. The fan base has been great while the Colts have been an elite team in the AFC and won a Super Bowl. But insiders in Indianapolis wonder how things will be when the team ultimately hits a dip.
-- Paul Kuharsky
Consecutive sellouts: 96 | Season-ticket waiting list: 3,000
Ravens fans are a mixture. There are some traditional, longtime football fans who rooted for the old Baltimore Colts and really understand the history of the game, and there are the new-age fans who just adopted football full time when the Ravens came to town. The loyalty factor is pretty good. But with the Redskins to the south and Eagles to the north, the Ravens geographically have a much smaller, boxed-in fan base than most NFL teams. A Super Bowl win in 2000 helped, but the organization still hasn't built up as much loyalty as its AFC North brethren.
-- James Walker
Consecutive sellouts: 72 | Season-ticket waiting list: 28,000
Titans fans have lived off reputation for some time. When their building opened in 1999 as Adelphia Coliseum, it was incredibly loud and could throw an unfamiliar visitor off. It's been quite some time, however, since the volume was a real factor. Fans were also spoiled by early success -- the team went to the Super Bowl in its first season as the Titans and had the best record in the following regular season. In SEC country, the tailgating is hard-core. But there are empty seats at LP Field when things aren't going well and ticket holders in the club sections generally spend too much time inside.
-- Paul Kuharsky
Consecutive sellouts: 104 | Season-ticket waiting list: None
The Metrodome has spoiled a generation of Minnesota football fans who don't realize how good they have it. Try sitting outside for three hours in -10 wind chill when you're not used to it. There is also an undeniable fair-weather factor among Vikings fans, and the team needed corporate help to sell out its games last season for the first time in a decade.
-- Kevin Seifert
Consecutive sellouts: 44 | Season-ticket waiting list: 14,000
No team in the league has a louder stadium, inside or out. It's always been that way. Seattle fans rocked the Kingdome so hard that opposing quarterbacks routinely backed out from under center to ask the referee to intervene. The place only got louder. They rocked Qwest Field hard enough to induce the Giants into 11 false-start penalties -- in one game. Management has succeeded in selling the 12th Man concept. The waiting list for season tickets goes thousands deep. On the downside, a city ordinance prevents fans from tailgating at the stadium, a major deduction that kept the Seahawks from moving up the list.
-- Mike Sando
Consecutive sellouts: 80 | Season-ticket waiting list: Undisclosed
This fan base survived some lean early years and Raymond James Stadium has brought a big-time atmosphere to town. The parking lots are one huge tailgate party. Teams from the North sometimes catch a break because of transplanted fans.
-- Pat Yasinskas
Consecutive sellouts: 30 | Season-ticket waiting list: Undisclosed
Chargers fans haven't quite caught up to the team they follow, but they are trying. Chargers fans have become very vocal, and sellouts have become a trend just north of the border. Perhaps these fans suffer from the reputation of being laid-back SoCal fans. After all, there are plenty of other things to do besides going to a football game no matter how good that team may be.
-- Bill Williamson
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