Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Atlanta is the Worst Sports Town Ever, Heat-Mavs Edition

In an article that is becoming an annual occurrence, Tim Tucker notes that Atlanta had the 11th highest TV ratings for the NBA Finals out of 56 metered markets.  The ten markets that finished ahead of Atlanta, you ask?

Miami-Fort Lauderdale (33.7), Dallas-Fort Worth (30.7), West Palm Beach (17.7), San Antonio (15.9), Cleveland (15.8), New Orleans (15.1), Memphis (14.5), Houston (14.5), Oklahoma City (14.4) and Chicago (13.7).

You have the markets that had finalists, followed by the home of the West’s #1 seed, the market rooting for LeBron to humiliate himself (and who says that Cleveland never wins anything?), the beaten conference finalists, a beaten conference semifinalist, and then Houston and New Orleans.  Interestingly enough, Boston, the greatest sports city in the universe (is the sarcasm coming across here?), and Los Angeles are not on the list, but the other beaten conference semifinalists – Atlanta and Memphis – are. 

This raises a point that is often missed in the discussion about “best sports towns,” which is that the discussions almost always focuses on support for specific teams instead of sports or leagues in general.  Atlanta is not super-supportive of the Hawks.  Maybe we have a right to be lukewarm on the local professional basketball collective because the team has delivered so little over the years, but the team was certainly good enough that they should not have finished 22nd in attendance this year.  That said, this is a very strong NBA market, as Atlanta consistently out-performs other NBA markets when it comes to ratings for the later rounds of the playoffs.  In short, we’re not great at supporting our own team, but we are interested in other teams.  Boston, for example, is the opposite.  Personally, I’d attribute this difference to the fact that Boston is a provincial city and Atlanta is not, but I’m a little biased in saying that.

Atlanta as a college football market is somewhat similar.  The one major program in the city limits – Georgia Tech – gets good, but not overwhelming fan support.  However, there is tremendous interest here for teams all over the Southeast, as well as a number of Big Ten programs with a large number of transplants.  (Cough.)  Thus, this is a great college football market (the TV ratings consistently back this conclusion up) without being hogwild over the Jackets.  If people outside of the market could differentiate between support for home teams and support for sports in general, then this city would have a better reputation as a sports town.


Jeff said...

Your point is an interesting one but what's the impact for Atlanta? Aren't you basically saying that Atlanta is a market that the national TV networks should cater to but not one in which a sports league or sports owner would want to put a franchise? After all, you're saying that the sports fans in Atlanta are fans of teams from other locales or of sports in general but won't go to games in impressive numbers and probably won't watch the local teams on TV, which would boost the local TV revenue of the Atlanta teams or schools.

I think this has an impact outside of the ability of Atlanta team owners to line their coffers. For one thing, it means the teams will have less revenue to pay their players. So, for instance, it means the Hawks are unlikely to go over the cap to keep a team that went to the second round intact. It also means tha going to an Atlanta sporting event is less fun because the crowd is small and not as into it as the crowd in Pittsburgh or Cleveland or Green Bay or San Antonio.

Having a lot of residents who like sports makes it more likely there will be a bar at which you can watch a game your out-of-town team is playing in and more likely you will have colleagues or neighbors you can talk about sports with. But to me the fact that Atlanta sports fans don't like or support Atlanta sports takes away one of the benefits of being a sports fan in a city whe the fans like that city's teams.

Boston (which I don't like but am using as an example) is a good sports town in the sense that it is filled with fans of the Boston teams

Hobnail_Boot said...

To build on what Jeff said, both Boston and Atlanta are great sports towns, but for quite different reasons. Bostonians have had their franchises for longer, do not have the influx of transcontinental sports rooting interests, and have had a lot of recent success to be proud of.

In Atlanta the weather is generally nice at least 8 or 9 months of the year. There are a multitude of things to do and pretty women to them with. If the local sports collectives aren't performing at a high level, then attention is easily diverted.

It is a sports-crazy town, but that gets spread among loyalties due to the high transplant numbers, the lack of high-end success of its professional franchises, and collegiate rooting interests.

chg said...

I loved that the NHL commissioner did not believe voting with pocketbooks was a rational way to express discontent with the Thrashers.

Any rational observer at this point should understand that "Atlanta is a bad sports town" actually means "Atlanta does not support the sports I like in the way I believe is important".

Boston is not a good sports town. It is a good town for Boston professional sports.

Anonymous said...

Agreed...moved here over 12 years ago and was shocked to see how little support Atlanta teams receive. Yes, there are your die hard Brave and Falcon fans, but they are very hard to come across. I'm a Saints fan and have some very good friends who are Falcon fans, we have a great friendly rivalry.
However, I've gone to falcon games where the fans were sleep! Also, people in Atlanta say things like "at least we out lasted you in the playoffs last year", my response is "learn your stats, we've beat you 90% of our last games through the years AND we now have a ring." They don't seem to know about their records, players, chances, etc. They only come out during winning seasons, it's always shocking to find a Falcon fan that can talk "football" and not just shoot out fanatical non facts.
In La. there is a Fleur de Lis on almost every car...and this was PRE-KATRINA! Even during the "Aints" days, we had Saints Fridays at school before the games and wore black and gold. When I first moved here Falcon fans would say "go to the Superbowl and then u can talk....well, I'm talking!"
Also, last week before the game I saw a bird fan walking in Perimeter Mall with a red and black "We Dat" shirt...this a few days after we whipped their butt and she made it a point to show it to me (I had on my saints santa hat. I asked her what made her point that out to me, did they beat us and I somehow forgot about it??? I wish I had her number to call after the second butt spanking! It should of said "We thought we were ALL DAT and WAS WRONG"....WHO DAT!