Due to Cary Williams' recent observation that "this is a different city" than Baltimore in regards to football culture, I began to think about what kind of city this is. Are we really that different? How are we different? Are other cities like us?
After a couple of thoughtful comments regarding this, I thought I would get a few more opinions on the matter from the rest of the contributors here.
The Question: What do you think are the top ten best football (NFL, specifically) cities in the country?
My credentials are that I am a sports fan who has lived in places including Philly, Madison WI, Connecticut, Richmond VA, Austin and San Antonio TX, New Orleans, Montana, San Francisco, and am currently living in Kansas City. I travel often for my job and have spent time in 47 of the 50 states. That said, I haven't been everywhere which is why this list is subjective and I look forward to hearing other opinions. Here is my list and the reasons:
1. Green Bay: This one to me is obvious. Green Bay has always been a successful franchise and their fans are always very loyal. There are no other professional sports in Green Bay and not a lot of other distractions in the form of entertainment either (mountains, clubs, beaches, etc). Furthermore, the team is actually owned by the town and its fans so, by my definition, this has to be the most football minded city (er, town) in the country.
2. Pittsburgh: Pittsburgh got this position by a hair. Wherever you go in that city there are Steelers jerseys surrounding you. Hell, I see more Steelers jerseys throughout the rest of the country than any other. By far. I've see flags on cars windows, flags outside of houses, and terrible towels numerous times in every place I have lived. It's an industrial town that lives and breathes football. They are the most successful franchise in history and the fan base reflects that. Also, they have a famous rap song about their colors. (Little bit of trivia... Pittsburgh is the only city in the country where all their major sports teams wear the same color: Penguins, Pirates, Steelers all wear black and gold).
3. Philadelphia: I don't think I'm being biased here... but maybe that's because I'm biased. Like I mentioned previously, we are a town that is starving for a championship and we are absolutely ravenous for it. Philly is unique in that every season for us has ended in disappointment since 1960, but the fan base has never disappeared or even seemed to weaken. Philly is also notorious for its bad fan behavior which doesn't dilute their fanaticism, but rather enhances it. I'll take a quote from my boy osmo:
As an out-of-towner, the main thing I’d say about Philly is that its passion for football never ceases to amaze me. Someone above mentioned the Zero Dark Thirty level of coverage that Philly’s coach search received in the media, and I think it’s worth pointing out that this is a reflection of the fan base’s dedication. To me, Philly covers all the bases, from passion to consistency, without any aid from prolonged success. You could say that the Andy Reid era qualifies, but in my opinion, you’d need a title in that stretch in order to credit a base’s passion to prolonged success... I’d say a big part of why I’ve remained such a big fan of the Eagles is connected to that passion, crazy as that sounds coming from someone who lived most of his life in Wisconsin.
Cary Williams saw first hand how, when he didn't show up for voluntary workouts, he was immediately thrown into the stocks to be publicly scrutinized. I think the ability to consistently sell out a stadium and remain this passionate about a team with no Superbowl victories shows how football minded Philadelphia really is.
4. Buffalo: This a town I've spent the least amount of time in of all the cities on my top ten. However, I feel as though it is easy to put them here for a few reasons. I have never experienced bar-takeovers from any fans like the ones by Bills fans. In virtually every place I have lived, I have had to deal with a giant table of crazy, screaming Bills fans. It almost felt like I was being followed. They are a small fan base in terms of numbers, but they certainly make their presence known. The town itself is also very Bills themed. Again, similar to Green Bay, they don't have a lot of competition in regards to professional sports (only the Sabres). They also, like the Eagles, have never won a Suberbowl. They had that miraculous 4 year run from 91-94 where they were owned by the NFC East (Giants, Redskins, Cowboys, Cowboys, respectively). Ouch... for several reasons. But they keep on truckin'.
5. New Orleans: This one might be a little controversial. Yes, I know that the fan base was almost nonexistent 10 years ago. However, I think their new-found passion sits a little deeper for them than most other teams. Right around the time Katrina hit is when the Saints started showing some promise. Very shortly after, they went from a 3-13 season in 05 to a 10-6 season, won their first playoff game in 6 years, and their first-year coach was named Coach of the Year. Let's also not forget it was the debut season for future Superbowl MVP Drew Brees. The Saints gave this city hope. I was heavily involved in the Katrina clean-up and I could just feel how devastated the city was. Fast forward 3 years later and they are the Superbowl Champions. Now when you go to New Orleans, you can't get away from Saints Paraphernalia. I have never seen anything like it. Every other bar is football themed, you hear "who dat"s 17 times a day no matter what time of year, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone in New Orleans who is not a rabid fan of the Saints. Again, they have little competition in terms of professional sports and I feel like the honeymoon is over and these Saints fans are here to stay.
6. Seattle: This was a tough one between Seattle and Chicago for me (I just swapped their positions twice since writing this). My time spent in Seattle was... interesting.... as far as football worshiping was concerned. I worked there for about 6 weeks last summer and frequented many of the local watering holes, as I am known to do. I never pass up a chance to talk football with anyone anywhere. However, I found it surprisingly difficult to find many people who were as ready or knowledgeable as I was. Now, I know Seattle has arguably the loudest fans in the NFL. When Beastmode gets those getaway sticks (well, more like "logs") moving, fan erupt. The proof was when Seattle fans literally shook the Earth during that impressive touchdown run by Lynch in '11. That just doesn't happen. So while the town itself doesn't seem to revolve around football as much as the ones mentioned above, the amount of passion in the fans it has makes up for it. I compared them earlier to a poison tipped dart... not huge in size, but potent enough to leave lasting effects. They also have no won a Superbowl, so questioning their loyalty would be tough to do.
7. Chicago: Chicago is and has always been a storied sports city. It's always relevant in some form or another. They have the Bulls, the Cubs, the Blackhawks, and DA Bears... all who have been absolutely dominant in their respective sport. Soldier field is a classic stadium that has been around for over 40 years and has seen a lot of talent. Mike Ditka will always come to mind when I think of the Bears along with Walter Peyton, Dick Butkus (love his name), and Brian Urlacher. I often associate Chicago more with the Bulls and the Cubs, but the Bears have such a long and fantastic history that it would be impossible for me to put them any lower.
8. Dallas: I know, I know... they're all fair weather, band wagon, know-nothing drones with vocal chords. Well, at least the ones we often personally encounter are. The fans who actually reside in Dallas are not so bad. It's the casual "well, I started liking them in the early 90's because they are America's team, baby!" fan that we all despise. Right? Mostly. Dallas has a lot of pride in the Cowboys and it's hard to go anywhere in Dallas without seeing something referencing the Cowboys. They are another very historic franchise that has seen success and their local fan base has hardly subsided with their current misfortunes. The main reason I don't have them higher is because of the spirit of the city isn't as football heavy. They have a lot of competition as well with the more recently successful Mavericks, the Texans, and the Stars. They also have internal competition with the Spurs, Texans, Rockets, and Astros in which many Dallas residents have chosen allegiance to. But one look at Jerry World, and you can tell that the Cowboys are still the "stars" of Dallas.
9. Kansas City: Kansas City has some serious fans. I've lived here for a year and some change and have seen it first hand. I also recall frequenting a bar in Montana where every Sunday, a tribe of Chiefs fans would come in and yell and cheer as loudly as they could. They would last all game, every game, even during their consecutive 4, 2, and 4 win seasons of '07, '08, and '09. They were there and I had to salute them. Their uncanny devotion reminded me of Eagles fans. Living here now, I see it. They did boo their quarterback when he was concussed, but I can only knock them for their tact, not devotion. The main reason these guys aren't higher is the Stadium is rarely very full. Other than that, this is a knowledgeable fan base where it's hard to go anywhere and not be able to talk Chiefs Football.
10. Washington D.C.: Good God, can I be done yet? D.C. is a clear choice here for me. The Redskins are another classic franchise that has endured the test of time. Very rarely do you have fans that openly and aggressively protest the owner like D.C. does. The Redskins are also one of the richest franchises in the NFL at 1.6 billion dollars which places them 3rd behind Dallas and New England. Also who could forget the most epic Redskins rant of all time. I don't think anyone can question a Redskins fan's loyalty after enduring a rough decade and an even rougher owner.
Boston (although more Red Socks heavy)
New York (I think the Yankees run that city)
Bottom of the Barrel:
Los Angeles ("We want a team! We want a team! Well, I mean... unless they are bad. Then screw them! I need to get some Christian Dior sunglasses and some hella dope Salvatore Faragamo kicks, anyways. Freshhh.")
So that is my thought on the teams. I know that got a bit long and possibly somewhat redundant, but I'd love to hear everyone else's opinions.