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Are Yankees fans "the best in the world?"

Oct 19, 2009, 9:25 AM EDT

Not my words.  They’re Lupica’s:

There aren’t fans better than this anywhere in the world. This isn’t about whether or not you love the Yankees. This is about Yankee fans.

There are other baseball fans in other cities, of course, Mets fans in this one. There are fans who come out strong for teams who haven’t won the way the Yankees won, who don’t make the playoffs just about every year the way the Yankees have since Joe Torre first came to town 13 years ago and the winning came back to the Yankees and the Bronx.

But no fans have ever supported a baseball team, the most famous team in this world, the way Yankee fans support theirs.

Saying that any team’s fans are “the best” is obviously an exercise in biases, and there’s no better chance that people are going to agree on this question than they’d agree on religion.  Lupica is a New York guy who writes for a New York paper that is purchased by New York fans.  I have no doubt that he sincerely believes that Yankees fans are the best. But even if he didn’t, it’s not like he’d write that, say, the fans in Minnesota or Milwaukee or (shudder) Boston were better.  Assuming he was even proposing a way to measure it.

I’ll throw this out there though: wouldn’t one way to measure how great a teams’ fans are be to see how well they draw when the team isn’t winning?  Whether the fan base is of the fair weather variety?  If so, is it worth considering the following:

  • The Yankees were 1st in the American League in attendance from 1976-1981, when the team was winning a lot.
  • The Yankees fell out of the top spot in 1982 — to third — and didn’t lead the league again until 2003, finishing as low as 11th a couple of times when the team wasn’t playing well.  This despite the fact that they had one of the larger seating capacities in baseball over that time.
  • Contrast this with the Dodgers, who have only been out of the top 5 in NL attendance once in the last 90 years.  Or the Red Sox who have only been as low as 9th once in their history, despite having the smallest seating capacity in the game for almost all of that history. The Cardinals ranking has been more consistent than the Yankees too.

    I’ll grant that Yankees fans are pretty darn good — and it’s hard to find more knowledgeable fans than Yankees fans — but they’re not necessarily diehards.  Like the fans of most teams, they’ll stay home if the team isn’t winning.

    I’m not saying that disqualifies them from being the best fans in the world, but if I were Mike Lupica, I’d find a way to account for that before making the claim.

    1. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:23 PM

      Except the data doesn’t back that up, darin. When they were bad, they were as low as 11th in the 14-team AL in attendance. Even when they started to be good again — winning championships — they were not first in attendance. The consistent sellouts or near-sellouts didn’t really hit until 2003 or so.

    2. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:27 PM

      Did I say anything that contradicted that, s? They won a lot of games in the 80s, sure, but between 1982 and 1995, they “weren’t playing as well” as they did when they were winning the World Series. Please advise if that — which is what I wrote — was innaccurate. But even if you were right, would the fans not supporting the team when they’re actually good help or hurt an argument that the fans are “the best in baseball?” I think it would be worse for them, right? I mean, if they don’t even show when the team was leading the league in wins over a decade . . .
      As for “attacking the readers,” this may shock you, but I don’t have a “turn the other cheek” rule on this blog. If someone calls me or my work stupid you can bet I’ll return the favor. Only when I do it, I’ll provide some evidence to back up my accusation, which is less than Mr. White did.

    3. darin - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:28 PM

      No, Yankee more viewers hands down.
      “New York topped all local markets with an 18.6/33 for Game 2 followed by Hartford (11.5/20) and then Los Angeles (10.8/23). For Game 1 on Friday night, New York posted a 16.7/27, followed by Los Angeles (9.1/19), Hartford (9.1/15) and Boston (7.1/13).”

    4. baseballchick - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:29 PM

      And that explains why when I attended a Dodgers game I got a great shot of the “GO BLUE” sign outside of the stadium with all the empty blue seats in the stadium. I love that picture! No one was at the game.

    5. darin - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:30 PM

      Sorry Craig but the facts don’t back up what you are saying. Yankees have the highest viewership, even when they were bad i.e. last year.

    6. BillyBeaneismyHero - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:31 PM

      Seriously, how is this even an argument? The Cubs have the best fans in the world. Who else would go watch their team fail 101 seasons in a row? Yet they sell out almost every game. Yankee fans are total douchebags. As a die hard Red Sox fan, I must admit that the majority of our fans suck a whole lot too–but at least a large part of our fan base isn’t from New Jersey.

    7. red sox girl - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:35 PM

      Boston Red Sox Fans all the way! C’mon look how many years it took us to win the World Series and we still supported our “Bean Town Boys”….nothing like being in Fenway supporting the Red Sox…nothing like it in the WORLD!

    8. Shaun P. - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:35 PM

      Craig, I remember Steinbrenner, at some point in the 80s or maybe even the 90s, making a lot of noise about wanting to move the Yanks because the Bronx wasn’t safe, was a bad place to come to, fans were staying away from games because it was too dangerous, etc. I don’t know if those things were true or not – I’ve never lived in the Bronx – but I imagine that if a team’s owner is bashing the team’s home, it probably impacts attendance in a negative way, apart from what’s going on on the field.
      Bravo at trying to come up with a way to quantify “best fans”. I got more out of your bit than I did out of Lupica’s.

    9. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:37 PM

      Why are we limited to the last year? I’ll grant you that they’ve led the league in attendance and viewership in recent years, but they certainly did not — and fell much farther than other teams — when they were not good. And no, I will not count 2008 as “bad.” They missed the playoffs, but they won 89 games and had every expectation of winning going into the season. They lost between 86 and 95 games in the late 80s/early 90s and their attendance fell off to 11th, 11th, 9th and 9th over a four year period. If they did that again today, would attendance stay high, or dip again? I don’t know the answer to that question, but historically, people lose interest when the Yankees play poorly.

    10. ladyfan - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:38 PM

      Well my gracious . . . .the “best” fans? Thank goodness that most of the real Yankee fans are not as elitist and egotistical as the ones who have commented in this blog. Who is to say what makes up a “best” fan? People love the game of baseball all over this country . . . and many many teams have very loyal and dedicated fans, my own Red Sox included. But I would not ever make the claim that Red Sox fans are the “best” . . . . perhaps because we Red Sox fans don’t need to declare to the world whether or not we are the “best” . . . . our team knows how we feel about them, and that is what matters. Shame on all of you for making genuine love and respect for a sport into some kind of “we’re better than you are” taunt. Baseball is AMERICA’s game – always has been and always will be. I expect that in kindergarten, but certainly not on an adult blog.

    11. Art - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:39 PM

      Just the weekly I Hate the Yankees article by this Craig guy.

    12. Simon DelMonte - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM

      Anyone can come out for a good team. The best fans could just as easily be quantified as the ones who comes out for the worst no matter what. There will just be fewer of them.
      So let’s hear it for everyone who renewed their season tickets for the Royals, and Nationals, and even Pirates.

    13. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM

      Good point, Shaun. I’m not a New Yorker either — and I know little about the Bronx — but I at least Manhattan started to see improvement in crime and general urban decay in the early 90s. I’m sure that to the extent the Bronx have improved, it lagged Manhattan considerably. I also guess that, all things being equal, the Bronx were worse in the late 70s (The Bronx is burning!) than in the late 80s/early 90s.
      But, all things weren’t equal, as you correctly note. Steinbrenner was really being a jackass for a good while there, and I’m sure he drove people away from his product as a result. People have written how his suspension from running the team laid the groundwork for the rise Jeter/Rivera/Pettitte teams. I bet it helped from a marketing perspective too.
      Basically, when Stein put his money into the team, it prospered. When he put his mouth into it, it didn’t. He learned that lesson eventually.

    14. Ron Hayes - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:42 PM

      Rich – first let me say that I LOVE Wrigley Field and the fans in Chicago (northside, anyway). I’ve probably been to two dozen games at Wrigley, and have never seen one fight (you certainly can’t say that about the Bronx). That said, to say the Cubs fans are the most knowledgeable baseball fans seems to me inaccurate. In my experience, folks went to Wrigley more as a social event than as a sporting event. The people I saw at Wrigley were there to party with their friends, and if they happened to see a good game that was a bonus. Can you imagine Yankee fans (or any other fans)paying big bucks to sit on rooftops across the street during a game . Really, most Cub fans are there for the party, and to enjoy a day in the sun !

    15. Michael Fihare - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:45 PM

      When The Yankees hit the road other teams ballparks break records for attendance when The Yankees are in town
      Yankee Fans—maybe—curious onlookers wanting to catch a glance at the star studed team—maybe—either way The Yankees platy infront of more fans year in and year out then any other team
      dont only think home attendance

    16. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:46 PM

      What in here is about me hating the Yankees? I link an article that calls Yankee fans the best in the world. I ask whether it’s possible to figure that out for sure. I make a stab at it, citing nothing but undisputable facts about attendance and won-loss records. I note that such an approach may not be satisfactory and ask if anyone has any better ideas. I even add some comments in which I — quite truthfully — say that Yankees fans are damn good, and that they’re among the most knowledgable out there. Please tell me where the hate is.
      Or are you one of those people who can’t bear to read anything that even suggests that your team and its fans are the bestest things in the whole wide world?

    17. Robert throws aspirins - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:48 PM

      Yankee fans are just dumbstruck with being part of a “herd” they all cheer when things are going great and want everyone to know that they’ve always supported the club through thick or thin. They don’t put a lot of weight on the truth. They think everything in New York is better than anything anywhere else. But Florida is full of all the Fiction fans who left. Still moaning about how “their” ballclub is best. “Their” hot dogs, doorknobs,water,paperclips, etc…are best. They are caged and deprived…working their whole lives to eventually ‘escape’ and root from afar. Cody Ransom and “Joba the Hut” are examples of how not to bring a minor leaguer up to the Majors.

    18. Sim - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:50 PM

      “Best fans” is such a stupid argument because it requires comparing apples to oranges. The Yankees offer their fans an opportunity to watch a perennial contender and celebrate the greatest legacy of accomplishment in all of sports, not just MLB. Lots of New Yorkers respond accordingly. A team like the Washington Nationals offers its fans an opportunity to watch a hopeless group of sad sacks with no legacy at all. Not as many Washington fans respond enthusiastically to that deal.
      If the role were reversed, and the Nationals had played 100+ seasons in DC with 26 World Championships while the Yankees were a recent relo from Canada that lost 100+ games per year, would the fan response in each city be the same or different?
      Who knows? You can’t measure the quality of fans with any of this crap, because each fan base is being offered a very different product.

    19. Texas Chic - Oct 19, 2009 at 12:58 PM

      Callin Bullsh*t here….
      So you only count the fans that show up to the seats? I LOVE the yankess, have since the late 80’s (I’m a youngin)!! Never once been to a game. My entire family cheers for the Yanks. Not one of us has sat in a seat yet.
      So we don’t count?? You can’t get an accurate head count on Yankees fans, sorry! We are EVERYWHERE!!!
      Nice article, but why not try some online poll or something more accurate?
      And by the way, Does it really matter who the better fans are? Just go out and support your team!!!
      GO YANKEES!!
      ~TEXAS GAL

    20. darin - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:01 PM

      I guess that’s why Yankee fans are the best. I consider not making the playoffs as bad. They were bad last year and they broke the attendance record last year. I wonder who had that attendance record that they broke. ?

    21. Darin - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:03 PM

      Dodgers play the Marlins there are more Marlin fans at the game, Yankees play the Marlins there are more Yankee fans at the game.

    22. Darin - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:06 PM

      Here is your Pirates.
      http://cache.gawker.com/assets/images/11/2009/09/500x_pirates1.jpg

    23. Bob Timmermann - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:18 PM

      I doubt have ever seen more than a handful of Marlins fans at Dodger Stadium for any game. The visiting fans who show up in the largest number for road games tend to Giants and Cubs fans. And even they don’t predominate.
      The Angels used to have more of an issue of Red Sox and Yankees fans predominating in the crowd, but the Angels have started winning that battle.

    24. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:20 PM

      So let’s hear it for everyone who renewed their season tickets for the Royals, and Nationals, and even Pirates.

      Oh come on, what makes you think the 5 total people who go to those games reads CTB? :)

    25. darin - Oct 19, 2009 at 1:20 PM

      Decades Attendance
      Yankees own 5 decades of attendance high
      Dodgers own 3 decades of attendance high
      The first one-million fan season was in 1920, when 1,289,422 fans attended Yankee games at the Polo Grounds. The first two-million fan season was in 1946, when 2,265,512 fans attended games at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees have beaten the league average for home attendance 83 out of the last 87 years (only during 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994 did they not accomplish this). In the past seven years, the Yankees have drawn over three million fans each year, with an American League record-setting 4,090,696 in 2005, becoming only the third franchise in sports history to draw over four million in regular season attendance in their own ballpark.[37] The Yankees were the league leaders in “road attendance” in each year from 2001 through 2006.[38]

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