GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – It’s Super Bowl Week – No. LVII (or 57) if you are counting will be played Sunday in Phoenix – and this is one football game that resonates in every corner of the country, no matter that a small percentage of the public has a vested/rooting interest in either the Kansas City Chiefs or Philadelphia Eagles.
After all, the Chiefs, however successful, come from only the 37th most populous city in the U.S. and only the No. 34 largest media market, even if they do claim Kansas along with western Missouri as their bailiwick.
Philadelphia is the nation’s sixth-largest city, and it’s the No. 4 media market. But it is part of the slog of the Northeastern corridor’s mixed loyalties and even in a state that has been dominated in the NFL by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Drawing the geography of Eagles’ fans – though very avid and vocal – is a pale demarcation.
You might think that neither Super City likely would rank among the best football cities in the country, but that would be your hunch. Now we have some data to evaluate that.
WalletHub, the financial advice site that crunches data to help make sense of how we feel and act, has evaluated the Best and Worst Cities for Football Fans, ranking 249 cities that are home to at least one professional or college football team. And the results are, to be sure, an incomplete pass.
Kansas City can count the University of Kansas (a basketball school) in its suburb of Lawrence, but that city was ranked separately because it has its own team. Still, KC, surprisingly perhaps, came in at No. 10 on that list of best cities for fans. More on why later.
Philadelphia – which has several colleges along with the Eagles – came in at No. 15 in WalletHub’s data computation. Worse, No. 1 on the list was, yes, Pittsburgh.
The home of the Steelers and their tied-for-all-time-best six Super Bowl victories (the Eagles have won once in three tries; the Chiefs are 2-for-4) was followed in the top 10 by a predictable list: Green Bay, Dallas, Boston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, Cincinnati and New Orleans.
But, of course, we care more about our cities in North Carolina, and we are sad to report that Davidson – home of Davidson College’s little football team – came in near the very bottom, No. 242 to be specific.
Who ranked worse? Some surprises (Nos. 243-249): Columbia, South Carolina, (home of South Carolina); Waco, Texas, (home of Baylor); aforementioned Lawrence; Louisville, Kentucky, (home of UofL); Fort Collins, Colorado (Colorado State); Easton Massachusetts; and Valparaiso, Indiana. The bottom two would appear less ironic.
So how about the rest of NC cities? Well, the Triad was mediocre: Winston-Salem (with two football-playing colleges) was at No. 123. Elon registered at No. 139, and Greensboro (with two football-playing schools in the city limits) was No. 145.
Charlotte (Panthers and UNCC) ranked No. 25, and Boone – take a bow, Appalachian State – was No. 40. But then No. 47 was – get this – Buies Creek, the home of Campbell University, a rising Division I football program. That was it for the top 50.
After that, it was Cullowhee (Western Carolina) at No. 82, Boiling Springs (Gardner-Webb) at No. 84. Durham (Duke) hit at No. 114, Greenville (East Carolina) at No. 166 and Chapel Hill (UNC) at No. 173.
The Tar Heels can at least brag that their home was way ahead of Raleigh (NC State), which was No. 227.
If you want to look at things differently, WalletHub broke down the cities by demographic size:
- Among Large Cities (300,000 or more residents), Charlotte was No. 22, and Raleigh was No. 44.
- Among Mid-Sized Cities (100,000-300,000), Durham was No. 21, Winston-Salem was No. 23, and Greensboro was No. 29. That feels better.
- Among Small Cities (fewer than 100,000), Boone was No. 7 (Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was No. 1, followed by Clemson, South Carolina), and Buies Creek was No. 11 (lofty by comparison, it would seem).
How they did this
So how in the world would WalletHub validate that Buies Creek is a better town for football fans than our state capital (not to mention Morgantown, West Virginia, and Oxford, Mississippi)? Well, the numbers crunch tells the story.
There were 21 metrics that were weighted for impact and graded on a 100-point scale, with 100 being the “most favorable conditions for fans.” WalletHub also grouped cities by divisions for pro and college football teams and weighted those by popularity among fans. NFL cities were given greater weight and included such factors as team performance, stadium/attendance and fan engagement.
College cities were given weight for items such as the success of the program, the presence of Hall-of-fame coaches, ticket prices and stadium capacity/attendance and fan engagement. The points were awarded and totaled and averaged.
The three city breakdown leaders shouldn’t be surprising (Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Tuscaloosa), but note that Charlotte ranked No. 26 for pro football and No. 229 for college.
Boone ranked No. 12 among college cities, and Buies Creek was No. 19, which elevated them over ties for No. 31 for pro football. There are a lot of numbers to crunch.
What does this mean?
Well, it’s good for arguments and social media posts and comparative conversations that have gone in since Harvard and Yale played the first college football game on Nov. 13, 1875. (To be fair, the first NFL game was on Oct. 3, 1920, when the Dayton Triangles beat the Columbus Panhandles, 14-0.)
Mark Moore, a kinesiology professor at East Carolina, was one of the experts WalletHub asked about its poll. Oddly, none of the questions had to do with college football.
Moore, whose science studies muscles and their interactions, said that the biggest challenges facing pro football today included “increasing diversity, equality, and inclusion, especially in the coaching and front-office ranks as well as keeping game attendance from decreasing.”
More along his line of Moore’s expertise, he did say football could be safer.
“The game needs to employ state-of-the-art medical advances and practices to maintain the safety of players,” Moore told WalletHub. “Moreover, there needs to be an increased focus on the mental health of players.”
To that point, James Weiner, a sports management professor at the University of Tampa (which shut down its football program in 1975), offered this:
“I think in order to gain public trust they are going to have to give up even more control than they already do to independent medical professionals. The league already does this, but it probably has to be even more hands-off, and they need transparency to prove that the medical professionals in charge of player health decisions are not influenced by the league whatsoever. This is going to be hard to balance because whenever a star player is forced to sit out multiple games against their will, and it cost the team wins, there will be a negative response from disappointed fans.”