Off The Cuff: Empire State of Madness

Aside

In the middle of my last bit about cities and teams and fan support, I started to look into the numbers behind all the NYC teams – and found quite a statistical shock.

New York City – Yankees & Mets, Giants & Jets, Knicks & Nets, Rangers & Islanders

Wow, that many logos in one deal? That's impressive.

How’d they even do this? So many logos, so little space.

The Big Apple plays host to the largest concentration of professional sports teams in the world, with each of the “Big Four” having at least two franchises in NYC. But, unlike the West Coast teams, which seem to have pretty even support between rivals, New York fanbases are more lopsided than resident income. Every league sports a “big” and a “little” team, some because a difference in performance (Yanks, Giants) and some just…because (Knicks, Rangers)

Average attendance per game (league rank):
Yanks: 40,488(#4)        Mets: 26,695(#21)
Giants: 80,445 (#3)       Jets: 76,957(#6)
Knicks: 19,033(#7)       Nets: 17,187(#16)
Rangers: 17,200(#19)  Islanders: 13,308(#30)
[Data from ESPN.com]

The Yankees, Giants, Knicks, and Rangers all dominate their respective fan bases. 3 have more championships, 2 have slightly larger stadiums, but all 4 big teams are older. Anywhere from 20 to 60 years older. So, what, fans fully support is with one team, but halfheartedly the other? A look at franchise values (also one-sided) proves nothing could be more false:

Yanks: $2,300 M(#1)   Mets: $811 M(#6)
Giants: $1,550 M(#4)   Jets: $1,380 M(#6)
Knicks: $1,100 M(#1) Nets: $530 M(#9)
Rangers: $750 M(#2)  Islanders: $115 M(#27)

Two #1s, four Top 5s, and seven Top 10 most-valuable teams in respective leagues. Now, as the 2nd most-valued franchise nationwide, the Yankees are a bit of an outlier in the value equation. But with a mind-blowing 7 teams ranked in their Top 10s, it’s impossible to not credit the NYC economy on this one.

You could argue the Islanders make one-too-many teams for one city, except even with one team almost last in net worth, the average ranking of the eight teams is a stunning 7th. Who knows, maybe for the Center of the Universe, 8 teams isn’t enough.

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Off The Cuff – Municipal Moneyball

I’ve been meaning to start an article series of some sort, but there’s not really one thing I’m devoted enough about to keep up with. Thus, “Off The Cuff:” a series of miscellaneous topics/issues/questions relating sports and some other field of interest that’s been swirling around in my head recently. This week: Sports and Economics. What do NFL fans in Oklahoma and Roger Goodell have in common? Both of them want football where it will never happen.
"...and I swear that carp was this big!"

“…and I swear that fish was this big!”

Recently, at a European football Press Conference, of all things, good ol’ Roger (NFL Commissioner) recently stated he wants to bring football back to Los Angeles. [1] “Back to” referring to the Los Angeles Rams era (1949-1994) where the Rams were notable for losing often to Landry’s Cowboys in NFC Championships, although they were the first team to have emblems on their helmets. The Rams were joined by the Raiders in 1982, and that’s when things got ugly, but more on that later.

Pretty good idea, eh?

Meanwhile back east, a recent poll by Ranker, along with numerous fan rants from around town, promote the OKC area as a strong candidate for an NFL team. [2] Many football fans in the state of Oklahoma devote themselves to their high school or college alma mater, and those that didn’t graduate from either seem to default to the Sooners.

If you are the man seen in the picture, I'm sorry. Not to you, just for you.

But what else can you expect from a team whose rallying gesture is just someone else’s…upside down

Unfortunately for Goodell, and Joe Pro-Football Okie, that’s never going to happen. At least not without moving earth, heaven, and the professional franchise of at least one other sport. A given city and population size can only support so many teams, in so many leagues. To explain a little more what I mean by “afford”, here’s a look at what brought OKC it’s only professional team in the first place.

Sidebar: Avg. ticket price x avg. attendance x games played gives an idea of how much each league depends on fans for it’s revenue.
NFL: $197.28/seat x 67,358 seats/game x 16 games  = $212,614,197.80
NHL: $61.01/seat x 17,455 seats/game x 82 games = $87,324,223.10
NBA: $50.99/seat x 17,273 seats/game x 82 games = $72,221,522.14
MLB: $27.01/seat x 30,334 seats/game x 162 games = $132,730,057.10
So, as you can see, it’s expensive for a city to keep up just average attendance to all the games, let alone sellouts for multiple franchises.
[7][8][9][10][11]

Seattle – Seahawks, Sonics, and Mariners (Oh my!)

Say what you will about Clay Bennet’s reasoning for relocating the franchise, but it’s no coincidence that the Sonics’ last winning season was followed up by the Seahawks’ first division title in five years, despite being in the worst divisions in the NFL.

Eventually this turned into...

Eventually this turned into…

This!

This!

The Seahawks continued to have consecutive years of home games before sellout crowds, who helped them go undefeated there in ’03 & ’05 and new season ticket holders even became wait listed, a first for the team since the 90s. [3] What does one team’s success have to do with another, you ask? (Well besides the Seahawks’ clearly demonstrated ability to play better at home with their stadium filled,) teams need money to sign talented athletes, and the NFL’s TV revenue-sharing system helps, but selling tickets helps more. A city of sports fans will only buy so many tickets, and when your choice is a good team vs a bad team, it’s not a hard decision. Filling the stadium filled wallets, and filled wallets sign talented athletes, talented athletes fill stadiums…etc.

Key_Arena

It says Sonics everywhere, but the Sonics aren’t there anymore ’cause they left…See, now that’s just awkward.

This eventually led to the 2008 relocation of the Sonics, and an even greater uptick in ticket sales for the Seahawks. [4] [5] Meanwhile, the Seattle Mariners first made their post-season in 1996, and most recently in 2001. Attendance peaked during the 2002 season, between ALCS appearances, but carried on well through the 2007 season, and even though roster and management changes quickly put the team into decline, attendance has stayed above pre-1996 levels since. [6]

Verdict: Seattle, 10 years ago, could only fully support 1.5 franchises, so all three franchises experienced below-average attendance in line with below-average performance. Two teams excelled at the right time, which quickly put the other into financial decline. Population growth has pushed this to 2 franchises, and as a result, the Seahawks sellout more than ever.

California – A Complete & Utter Mess (in Sports, too)

Now, back to California. Los Angeles already has two NBA – Lakers & Clippers, two MLB – Angels & Dodgers, and two NHL – Kings & Ducks, teams. Normally, such conditions would be ripe for a NFL team or two, as demonstrated in New York. But, a look at the rest of California quickly explains why this is so crazy.

See? All that? It's just too much - just...no.

Not even all of them, and it’s already crowded.

To the north, the San Fran-San Jose-Oakland Metropolitan Area (including Sacramento,) is just behind Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington in terms of population, and has two NFL – 49ers & Raiders, two MLB – A’s & Giants, two NBA – Warriors & Kings, and one NHL(Sharks) team. Compared to Dallas, additional NFL team in one area is huge financial expense, and then another NBA team and MLB team to boot seems unwieldy. Keeping in mind the two are on opposite sides of the most populated state, this isn’t terrible.

Exceeept, south of LA, there’s more: one NFL(Chargers) and one MLB(Padres) team, the two that require the most monetary support from fans. So, within a few hours drive of LA, that brings a grand total of 5 MLB, 3 NFL, 4 NBA, and 3 NHL teams. And that’s not counting the LA Galaxy, MLS’ most popular team. There is absolutely no way the city can keep up an NFL team within LA limits. In popularity, and financial successes, there are already “winners” and “losers” in the market: Giants over A’s, Lakers over Clippers, Kings over Ducks (and Sharks), and 49ers over Raiders. The Warriors and Kings break even, as do the Angels and Dodgers. But the Chargers and Padres, have each already had their fair share of financial troubles amid little on-field success.

Oklahoma – Thunder Is Enough, For Now

I say all this to make the point that any city can only support so many professional sports teams. The relocation of the Thunder proved wonderful for Oklahoma residents, with most games attended by people who weren’t necessarily huge basketball fans, but just people eager to take part in the state’s first pro team. The addition of any professional franchise, let alone an NFL team, would completely obliterate any fan base the Thunder once had. OU & OSU have already noticed decreased attendance in non-football sports, especially at tourneys held in the OKC area.

Sure, maybe in the future, when Jacksonville finally accepts their inability to support an NFL franchise, or maybe after the Raiders try to move to LA anyway, and Oakland won’t take them back into the horribly-designed O.co Coliseum. Oklahoma Raiders isn’t too far off their current name anyway. Who knows what a decade or so of growth will do to the OKC Metro, but right now, Pro Football will bring only bad news.

Plus, you guys already went to the Finals, so be happy!

Plus, you guys already went to the Finals, so be happy!

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