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Are Yankees fans "the best in the world?"

Oct 19, 2009, 9:25 AM EST

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. zaglossus - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:09 PM

      “Best?” Ridiculous assertion by a writer who is probably based in NYC. The NY Yankees are baseball’s winningest team in the country’s biggest market. There may be more of them because of that. But “best?” Give me a break!

    2. Doug - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:16 PM

      Greg: Do you believe NYC is the only city with shopping, restaurants and attractions. New Yorkers have a bloated sense of themselves

    3. TommyOC - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:20 PM

      I’m so glad you wrote this, Craig!
      -
      I’m totally on board with you using a performance/attendance comparison to help add some quantity and validation to claims made.
      -
      I won’t enter into the fray of what really qualifies a fanbase as “the best,” but any number you want to throw out there just doesn’t support the Yankees as being it.
      -
      On top of that, many people seem to put a lot of stock into this “passion” thing. They discount that teams like the Dodgers have a reputation for lackadaisical support. All I have to say is this: Support can be best measured by how many people you get to spend money on their team. And as the numbers bear out that teams like the Dodgers elicit the type of wallet support in lean times (both figuratively and literally) that the Yankees could only dream of.
      -
      Let’s also keep in mind that many historians agree that the Brooklyn Dodgers had one of the most devoted fanbases in the game. That, combined with their attendance figures during that period, could also boost the Dodgers as “the best” fanbase.
      -
      Oh… and the Yankees were the only team in town for a bit over a decade (after the Giants and Dodgers moved west; before the Mets were organized). You’d think that their attendance would’ve gone through the roof. Nope.

    4. Joe Mayo - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:29 PM

      I’m surprised Craig didnt blame Jeter for these horrible attendence woes. All of Jeter’s lies and thievery are probably to blame.

    5. Craig Calcaterra - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:31 PM

      You spoiled my next post, Joe!

    6. baseballchick - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:33 PM

      No one has yet mentioned the players. How often do you hear about the players being happy to be a part of the team because of the fans? You hear Cardinals players mention it. You hear it from new players about current players telling them how great it is to be in STL and once they get there, they understand.

    7. baseballchick - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:39 PM

      I’m jealous of anyone who gets paid to watch baseball. My dream job would be as a statistician for a MLB team.

    8. baseballchick - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:41 PM

      I’m jealous of anyone who gets paid to watch baseball. My dream job would be as a statistician for a MLB team.

    9. smsetnor - Oct 19, 2009 at 3:56 PM

      Good God, it’s awesome. Hopefully I’ll be getting a bump up in position and my office will actually be Turner Field next year. I feel spoiled.

    10. baseballchick - Oct 19, 2009 at 4:09 PM

      Do you mind me asking what do you do there? Who do you have to know to get hired?

    11. RedSoxGuy - Oct 19, 2009 at 4:20 PM

      Just so everyone knows, the red sox have sold out EVERY GAME since the end of 2003. They only have ~43000 seats, so they have less attendance. But they hold the record for sellouts, excluding the NBA. PLUS, we supported them for 86 years. Anyone who says that red sox fans are bad fans should think again. Yankees fans are super similar to Red sox fans, its just that they naturally dislike each other since they’re rivals. BTW, red sox fans have the highest away game attendance :)

    12. hop - Oct 19, 2009 at 4:21 PM

      Actually i agree with this somewhat, as a life long Yankee fan i remember when they hit bottom in 1989\90 and they were not selling out. And i think what happens here is when the Yanks are good they get a lot of bandwagon fans just like any other sucessful team. And if they are not doing well those fans jump off and join whoever is the latest hot team and thats not a knock on the Yanks its just a fact of sports. However with that said one thing we learned today about craig here and thats he’s a lawyer and i must say “why am i not surprised?” So very fitting….

    13. RedSoxGuy - Oct 19, 2009 at 4:28 PM

      As a RedSox fan, I CAN say that I respect the Yankees players(in public, maybe not:)but derek jeter and jorge posada and robinson cano are good players, like youk, ellsbury and bay. I think fans stick to teams because they like certain players, or maybe it is the fact that Bos/NYY are winning teams. I guess it depends on the fans^^. Oh, and no matter what, i root for the AL in the WS, so if the yankees get there, good luck :)

    14. Jeff - Oct 19, 2009 at 4:30 PM

      The Cardinals have, if not the best, some of the best baseball fans. We draw 3 million plus every year, win or lose. We’re a much smaller market than New York. I’ve been to Yankees games in New York and they don’t come close. Sorry.

    15. Brian Merges - Oct 19, 2009 at 5:07 PM

      Well, the Mets entered the major leagues in 1962. From 1962 – 1991, or thirty seasons together, the Mets outdrew the Yankees in 20 of those 30 seasons.

    16. smsetnor - Oct 19, 2009 at 5:10 PM

      Right now it’s just grassroots marketing. On and off campus. I got lucky and found a posting online looking for part-time work (I just moved to Atlanta). Every team will post positions online. They liked what they saw on my resume I guess and called me.
      But to get a full time position at the big league level, you need prior experience working for a minor league club or working part-time for a big league club. Hopefully I’m able to turn this into full time as my boss is leaving.
      Also, the baseball winter meetings are a great way to network and interview for some positions. I’ve heard it’s helpful if you can setup some meetings beforehand. The meetings are in Indianapolis this year and I am going whether I have a full-time job or not.

    17. Brian Merges - Oct 19, 2009 at 5:12 PM

      Well, the Mets entered the major leagues in 1962. From 1962 – 1991, or thirty seasons together, the Mets outdrew the Yankees in 20 of those 30 seasons.

    18. Mike B - Oct 19, 2009 at 5:42 PM

      Though it was a good attempt to come up with something, attendance at a stadium is not a measure of the best fans. I’m not sure anything is.You certainly have generated a lot of interesting comments, especially from yankee bashers. I particularly like the one that said road attendance is as much a sign that peple want to see the players, not the team. Or the one that argues the fan base for boston and st.louis is only from 559K and 365K as though no one outside the city boundaries counts. Equally desperate is the attempt to calculate the percentage of total population that attends a game or focusing on knowing why there is an inside fly rule. That said, I love the yankees but would never attend a game in person. I like watching them and all other sports on t.v. with replays and with better commentary on t.v. and the radio then you get at a game. You can’t just count attendance at ballparks because for any given game I am sure there are millions more people at home or in a bar or wherever watching than any ballpark attendance reflects, especially for the yankees. Yeah, the yankees get the best prime time slots but that’s because stations get viewers when they play and they can sell more advertising. That’s the whole point of their business model;not favoritism, and the reason why networks hate it when the yankees don’t make it or go far in the post season. Given, the price of attending yankee games I’m sure more is being spent by yankee fans even when thy don’t have the attendance record than almost any other team. When you take into account road draw, tv, competing activities and attendance I would say the yankees probably have the broadest fan base. But that doesn’t mean yankee fans are the best fans anymore than not setting the attendance record every year means they are not good, die hard fans. So as for the point in the article, we need another way to measure or we should leave it at great fans of different teams will have to agree to disagree.

    19. bamboozled - Oct 19, 2009 at 5:57 PM

      If St. Louis baseball fans are so great and “die-hard” why aren’t the Browns still in St. Louis?

    20. geek - Oct 19, 2009 at 7:53 PM

      Great way to attract interest in an article
      The only hook missing to stimulate response and interest was the failure to mention Sarah Palin

    21. steve - Oct 19, 2009 at 7:57 PM

      Almost any major league team “must” say “you’re the BEST fans”. I’ve seen it in Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago (Cubs). There’s really no #1 when it comes to who’s the best. That’s like saying “If you’re a Yankee”, no one else matters!
      As far as the Yankees are concerned, many fans do agree on this (excluding New Yorkers who root for those “Damn Yankees”):
      The Yankee owner, the Steinbrenner’s and now his son just has a lot of cash! Plenty to “buy” supposed players that they think will get them another championship. This has been ongoing for as long as I know. Is this fair? In other words, just how many owners today can do this? Not many, dear fans!
      Also, with so much cash, the Yankees can buy almost anyone! And yes, even there are years where their purchases didn’t pan out, but again, they DO and have more cash than anyone realizes.
      They even pay the MLB fines for going over the supposed “ceiling”. Is this fair? Hardly. Until YOU, the fans complain and I mean complain to the rulers of the MLB, don’t complain why YOUR team fails to get players that could win them a division, pennant and perhaps a World Series ring, and all the hoopla that goes along with it!
      Until then, just go on hopes, over and over again. Case in point: The Chicago Cubs! NOTE: This place gets sold out for most games each year, and where has it got them? No place! Simply: This team doesn’t have a Steinbrenner!

    22. Spice - Oct 19, 2009 at 8:18 PM

      Best is at best a nebulous term. At worst it is useless.
      The best behaved fans I have ever seen: St Louis
      The worst behaved fans I have ever seen: TIE Philly and Detroit
      The most knowledgeable: St Louis followed by the Yankee fans.
      Least knowledgeable: Pirate and Marlins fans
      The most dedicated: CUBS fans, followed by the Red Sox fans
      Least dedicated: Expos and now the Nationals
      The Red Sox fans booed Ted Williams for YEARS, Yankee Fans Booed Mantle.
      Phillies Fans booed Mike Schmidt
      Best is not an easily quantified or definable term and doing it based on
      attendance is well frankly, stupid. Why? Because of the MANY factors
      that play in to attendance: Quality of the team, quality of the stadium,
      ticket prices, weather, marketing, quality of the teams they play, other
      options (a competing team, competing sports, etc.) and so on and so on.
      Attendance is a measure of popularity in a particular time frame, not
      the quality of the fan base. Red Sox and Cubs sell out their little
      ball parks and get in the top few in attendance, Yankee’s and Dodger do
      not sell out their LARGE parks and get in the top few in attendance.
      I am a NY’er and The Bronx was dangerous in the 70′s, 80′s, and early
      90′s. It is MUCH better now

    23. hop - Oct 19, 2009 at 8:39 PM

      Thats probably because fenway holds what? 32K? Its a little bandbox for crying out loud!

    24. Ted - Oct 19, 2009 at 9:00 PM

      Yes the Browns left St. Louis
      But, didn’t New York lose both the Giants AND the Dodgers?
      Must be great fans then.

    25. Tom - Oct 19, 2009 at 9:02 PM

      Being a Yankee fan, one that went to those poorly attended games in the 80′s, I would not agree with the statement that Yankee fans are the “best” fans. We boo our own team when it does bad, and even when they are doing good sometimes. In terms of knowledge though, we do tend to know a lot of baseball stuff, considering that our team or its players are a large part of baseball history.
      But saying that it’s easy to fill up a NYC stadium when there are 9 professional sports teams in the area (including the NJ teams, which are half an hour away or less), several minor league baseball teams, tons of college teams, not to mention a GAZILLION things going on in NYC, the surrounding boroughs, and outlying counties, is asinine at best, and shows a complete lack of knowledge of the area. Its not hard to support a team when there is NOTHING ELSE to support or even do in that particular town/city.
      And the fact that a good part of this population that people are bringing up can’t even afford to get in the Stadium, except in the bleachers or nosebleed grandstands (which is where I sat for 25 games this year) it’s actually pretty amazing that Yankee Stadium was as filled as it was this year.

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