Emory University has put together a "hard data" look in a "very controlled and statistically careful fashion" at the 32 NFL franchises and determined the "best" fans in the league. They did this based on "actual fan behavior" by focusing on "attendance, prices, or revenues." Basically, they took a look at how much a fan base pays for tickets to a game and how much a team makes in a year based on multiplying the attendance for the year by the ticket prices. The conclusion then suggests that, a team that is willing to pay more for tickets is therefore a better fan base.
And, Miami Dolphins fans, we all suck!
If you haven't already seen ridiculous flaws in this study, then let me point out a couple. First, multiplying attendance at a stadium by the average price per ticket tells you how much the team made off ticket prices. There does not appear to be any adjustment for stadium sizes. If a team sells out a 55,000 seat stadium, while a 72,000 seat stadium only sells 60,000 seats, the math will work out that the 60,000 seats means a better fan base (assuming equal ticket prices). Is that accurate? Who knows. Maybe the 55,000 seat stadium's team could sell out a 70,000 seat stadium, but just does not have the ability to expand.
What about fans that live away from the team's city? They apparently do not count in the "best" fans rankings.
Then there is the ticket price portion of the calculation. Both the New York Jets and New York Giants are high up on the list, while the Buffalo Bills are relatively far down the rankings. Does the economic disparity of the average person who lives in New York City versus someone who lives in Buffalo not impact the price of tickets? In 2014, the two New York City teams' average ticket prices were around $50 more than the average ticket price of the Bills. Does that mean the Jets and Giants fans are better fans because they pay more, or could it be that Buffalo residents simply cannot pay that much - and may actually be paying a higher price for tickets based of percentage of average income.
Looking at the top five teams from the Emory study, as compared to the top five teams in 2014 average ticket prices provided by the Associate Press (via the New York Daily News) we find a similarity. Emory's "Fan Equity" rankings - their "best" fans mark - has the Dallas Cowboys in the top spot, followed by the New England Patriots, the Giants, Baltimore Ravens, and Jets. The average ticket prices top five were the Patriots, San Francisco 49ers (10th according to the Emory study), Giants, Cowboys, and Chicago Bears (6th for Emory). The Ravens were eighth in average ticket price.
How does that compare to lowest average priced teams and the lowest ranked fan bases? The cheapest tickets in 2014 were the Cleveland Browns, then the Jacksonville Jaguars, Buffalo Bills, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the Oakland Raiders. The Dolphins were next. The bottom five teams according to Emory's study? The Dolphins were 32nd, the Browns 31st, the Raiders 30th, the Jaguars 29th, and the Bills 28th.
To illustrate just how strange these "rankings" are, the 26th and 27th teams in "best fan base" order are the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs. Are you really trying to tell me that the "12th man" and the ridiculous crowds that pack Arrowhead Stadium are in the bottom 7 teams in the NFL in terms of fans?
Yes, the Miami Dolphins come in 32nd out of 32 teams according to Emory's fan base study, despite having a waiting list for season tickets this year, a fan base that averaged over 70,000 fans at every home game, and an increase in home game attendance each year since 2010 - despite not having a winning record since 2008 and not having won a playoff game since 2000. A team averages over 70,000 fans in a stadium in South Florida's heat without making it to the post season in nearly a decade, but, yeah, they are the worst fans in the NFL.
So, once again, congratulations Miami Dolphins fans, you suck! Keep it up!