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DC: America's Fourth Best Sports Town

I had George Michael, the dean of local TV sportscasters, on my Washington Post Radio show this week, and now that he's leaving the anchor desk at Channel 4 in March, I thought he might have some parting thoughts on Washington's place in the sports world. His answer: Washington is the nation's fourth best sports town.

Michael, who has been reporting on sports in Washington for more than a quarter of a century, and who earlier in his career was a Top 40 deejay and occasional sportscaster in at least seven cities, ranks sports fans in U.S. cities like this:

1. Boston
2. Philly
3. Chicago
4. Washington
5. New York

There's a bit of an East Coast bias at work here, and Michael is obviously and reasonably a traditionalist when it comes to judging what makes a great sports city. He excludes Sunbelt cities because they tend to be mainly one-sport towns, and mainly football.

Still, #4 does seem excessively kind to Washington. Michael argues that the loyalty shown here for the Redskins is tops in professional football--true enough. He believes that if the Wizards were to start winning, you'd see massively enthusiastic crowds at the Abe Pollin Center. That may well be, but I don't think that counts toward high standings in the best sports city rankings--it's the fan support that a team gets in the hard years that really shows a city's sports character. Michael grants that Washington supports the Caps poorly, and the jury is still out on the Nats' ability to set roots here.

Other observers are generally not nearly as kind to Washington. David Plotz of Slate teed off on his hometown's sports personality a few years ago, arguing that what was once a great sports town is now...America's worst. Overcome by the horror of having two billionaire team owners--Dan Snyder and Peter Angelos--who ruined great franchises, Plotz concluded that Washington's sports scene has been poisoned by "the corrosive impact of money, the triumph of the individual over the team, [and] the constant, mendacious spinning that everything really is all right."

The Sporting News a couple of times St. Louis to be the best sports city, and the city has now gone about undermining that finding by touting it beyond all reason. But at least St. Louis has passionate fans from a large catchment area, in several major sports. (And it should be noted that the Sporting News publishes a similar ranking every year or two, spreading the title around so liberally that the finding loses any meaning. Hey, this is serious stuff here!)

Other cities that have been cited in various exercises on this topic include Detroit and Chicago. At the other end of the spectrum, declared Atlanta to be the nation's worst sports city, with pretty good reason: Atlanta fans "don't show up with any regularity to Hawks and Falcons games, which is understandable. But leaving tickets unpurchased for Braves' home playoff games is the mother of sport-fan sins. What, 14 straight divisional titles and a World Series banner ain't good enough for you?"

Is George Michael right? Where would you rank Washington?

By Marc Fisher |  November 29, 2006; 7:41 AM ET
Previous: Rebuilding the Grid: DC's Old Convention Center | Next: The Radio Radical


Please email us to report offensive comments.

this entire post is a joke.

DC United is not even mentioned despite the fact that it has a strong fan base and a terrific on field record. Fans create a fantastic atmosphere despite having to play at RFK where a dodgy stadium has been made worse by the Nats coming to town.

Our fan base is more diverse both economically and from a demographics standpoint.

When we get our new stadium - not built with taxpayer money - we will take things to the next level.

Posted by: dc united fan | November 29, 2006 8:37 AM

It is so funny how soccer fans try to ram their sport down everyone else's throats. Soccer will never be as popular here as it is in the rest of the world - deal with it.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 8:47 AM

Agreed, ignoring United's support is a pretty significant oversight for all the reasons listed in the previous comment.

Also, if you want to see a team and league that has not been poisoned by "the corrosive impact of money, and the triumph of the individual over the team," check out a United game, where the top salary comes in at half-a-mil and some starters earn less than $30,000. Why do they play? Love of the game, team glory, and the fans. Isn't that what sports is supposed to be about?

Posted by: Another United Fan | November 29, 2006 8:48 AM

D.C. United? Who? "Our fan base is more diverse"? Therefore ... what? Who the hell goes into the stands and records the race and income of fans? This town just breeds silly people like this who make silly statements. Good god.

Posted by: Oh please ... | November 29, 2006 8:59 AM

I would call Washington a mid-level sports city, not as passionate across the board as what I consider to be the top sports towns (NY, Boston, Chicago, St. Louis, Detroit, Philly) but also not among the worst. DC's neglect of the Wiz and Caps hurts its standing, but it is helped by the DC area's support of college basketball and football.

I would put Washington in a second-tier group that includes cities like Dallas, Cleveland, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis.

The worst sports cities are Atlanta and Miami.

Posted by: dcsportsfan | November 29, 2006 9:00 AM

#4? I love this city but that's nonsense.

1) Name a sports bar in the district. Your first two answers were either ESPNzone or a hotel bar weren't they?

2) Not many people are actually from DC. So a DC team is usually their 2nd favorite behind whatever their hometown team is. My unscientific sense is that in any sport, DC home games have a higher percentage of fans wearing the opposing team's colors than most other cities have.

3) Let's not kid ourselves. The redskins account for the majority of the sports interest in this town. Lots of cities have devotion to their football and passing interest in the other sports like us.

4) DC United people, calm down. I've sat in la norte a few times now and I gotta say, I just can't get into it. Go Arsenal.

DC isn't a bad sports town but it's not one of the best right now.

Posted by: booyah | November 29, 2006 9:07 AM

How can Washington be ranked anywhere near the top 10? The only reason the Redskins have a lot of fans is because there are 8 million people here. More than half the people that live in this city are from another part of the country and are loyal to their hometeam, not the Redskins.
There is no way Washington should be above smaller cities like Cleveland or Pittsburgh who have more and better sports teams and a larger following of loyal fans. The only way Washington is a good city for sports is that they have to show every football game at bars on Sundays becuase no one there likes the same two teams.

Posted by: Chris | November 29, 2006 9:10 AM

Ah, more whiney soccer fans. If DC United's fan base is so strong then why can't you even fill the bottom half of RFK? You may be passionate, but face it, soccer is and always will be a marginal sport here in DC and the US as a whole.

As to the primary question, I think ranking us number 4 and ahead of NYC is being very generous indeed. At the end of the day, we're a football town. Definately in the top 5 of football fans. Overall though, I'm not sure we rate the top ten. The Nats will be a good barometer of whether this town is willing to embrace any team not wearing burgendy and gold.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | November 29, 2006 9:32 AM

Thank god George Michael is leaving and hopefully he will take Sonny with them. We need more Lindsay Czarniak in a short skirt doing sports. When George was out because of injury and Lindsay was interviewing Gibbs, Buggs and others all of showed their visible appreciation for Lindsay! We want to see more of Lindsay more short skirts and get out my behind the desk like Fox News does with their hot news babes. I am surprised Sonny doesnt need a liver transplant.

The DC area only supports winners. Someone needs to do a survey and see how many fans at the Jack are the original ticket holders these days. Redskins need a new owner and some coaches without egos like Williams. Maybe Gibbs needs some Geritol. Never wise to comeback talk to MJ.

Posted by: vaherder | November 29, 2006 9:46 AM

If the DC United folks are going to chime in, how about accounting for other, local, not-top-tier-professional sports: local college athletics.

The area has five top D-1 basketball schools, UMD football (and UVA, I suppose), not to mention all the other incredible sports teams fielded by UMD (lax, soccer, field hockey) and the teams at Catholic, Howard, etc.

Aside from Big 5 basketball in Philly, and the Bean Pot in Boston, I'd put the DC area's college athletics as equal to or superior to the other cities on that list.

Posted by: SteveJeltzFan | November 29, 2006 9:49 AM

DC is a Redskins town and that's pretty much it. Funny the way George Michael puts down the Sunbelt cities for being primarily football towns and ignores that about DC.

Posted by: Andy | November 29, 2006 9:49 AM

Washington is not a major sports town in the same breath as Boston, Philly, Chicago, or New York. Further proof George Michael doesn't know what he's talking about. DC is far too transient a town where the majority of it's citizenry come from other cities across the US and around the world. There are not enough locals who grow up and stay their whole lives in DC as people do in other cities. Redskins fans don't travel anywhere near as well as Steelers fans. Caps games only sell out when the Pittsburgh Penguins come to town and turn The Phone Booth into a sea of black and gold. The Wizards/Bullets have for years sold tickets by touting the stars on visiting teams. The Nats are still too new however they sell well with New Yorkers, Philadelphians, and Chicagoans, when the Mets, Yankees, Phillies, or Cubs come to town. DC is a Redskins town first a foremost. Second to that DC is a basketball town with major college basketball teams in Georgetown, GW, Maryland, and now George Mason. The Caps, Wizards, and DC United have loyal and passionate fans but they'll never overtake football or basketball. And it remains to be seen how well the Nats draw in the coming years.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 9:58 AM

Sigh. Soccer fans and soccer haters.

First I'll go after George Michael. He's wrong about DC being a good sports town. It's a horrible sports town, from the fan perspective.

Two teams draw well and have good fanbases: The Redskins and DC United.

Two teams have bandwaggon fans: the Caps, and the Wiz.

And the jury is still out on the Nats.

Why the disparity in teams? Mostly it's due to the transient nature of the area. The Skins are the big beast of local sports. They've been here for generations, so they've got the loyalty of the locals, and there's enough reputation to sway the new folks.

DC United has the same loyalty because, while they're new, their league is as well. Throw in the positive culture of winning that the team has shown over the last decade and it's a good mix for success in the stands and on the field.

While the NBA has been around for decades, remember that it only got mega popular in the late 80's. Thanks in no small part to the over-marketing by the NBA and NBC of individuals over teams....which erodes a team's fanbase, and discourages most casual fans from supporting teams for anything other than a temporary basis. It's a great league for a bandwaggon fan, not a 'true' or dedicated fan.

The NHL probably builds the most loyalty than any of the previous sports. Want evidence? Go to a Caps game when they play one of the older teams (i.e. no Sunbelt or Western teams) there'll be a see of Red Wings, Bruins, Flyers, Blackhawks, Rangers, or Sabres fans....and every canadian will come out of the woodwork when the Maple Leafs or Canadiens come to town. When the Caps are winning they'll draw out the DC bandwaggoners, but the core is what draws the 10-12k everynight.

To address the misinformed view about DC United not filling the lower bowl. The real number that United (or any soccer team) is looking to get is around 18k per game. United pretty much does that every game. That also puts them ahead of the Caps and Wiz for average attendance. And also notice that a lot of fans rattle around RFK for Nats games when they draw around 10k in actual attendence or the ever successful 'green seat night' at Camden Yards for the O's. Soccer is not a big bowl sport like football, RFK is the wrong size. A new stadium will not 'look' empty with the same size crowd, and those limited views that folks like An Dliodoir have will George Michael.

Posted by: Kim | November 29, 2006 10:01 AM

Soccer is not a big bowl sport in the US because not enough people are interested in it. That is a fact. Are you saying that the owners of MLS teams would turn people away to preserve some "ideal" number of fans? Preposterous. In Europe and much of the rest of the world soccer is a big arena sport because of the large number of fans. Again, DCU supporters are passionate but small in number. Thus I reiterate, soccer will always be a marginal sport in the US. That doesn't mean it's a bad sport (I enjoy it and have been to many DCU games as well as many EPL and SPL games in the UK), but it's a third tier sport nationally. Here in DC it may rise to the level of second tier but it will never compete with football and baseball. Let's compare the Nats numbers after two years and a lousy team and DCU after 10 years and glowing success. I rest my case.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | November 29, 2006 10:17 AM

Best spots town is based on slavish loyalty to a billionaire's team? Besides, a good percentage of DC's population is closer to what might be considered Ravens territory (where "loyalty" seems based more on how the team plays). To me the best sports town would be based on what it offers the sports fans-- not vice versa. Variety of sports, accessibility, prices, etc. for the viewing and participating public. DC is pretty good in that regard, but to rank it ahead of New York City is crazy. But, then, Washington DC journalists, including Michael, have long been extremely provincial.

Posted by: Steve | November 29, 2006 10:20 AM

I moved here in 1985 from Oklahoma, having heard for years about how great the Redskins fans were. That was the year LT broke Theismans leg and ended his career. The next day I heard guys say it was a good thing, Joe was losing it anyway. Then came the strike year 1987 and the scab team. The team went 4-1 before the regular players returned. The first game back they beat the Jets 17-16 and were booed as they left the field at RFK because the margin of victory was small and the team looked rusty. Some fans. Give me Bears fans or Steelers fans any day.

Posted by: Transplant | November 29, 2006 10:23 AM

Where's St. Louis on Michael's list? 'Nuff said.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 10:28 AM

This city is a Redskins town, period. Football is the #1 sport in the land, pro football is the #1 venue of the sport (though college is not far behind), and the Redskins are one of the top four or five franchises in pro football. The strength of the club in terms of fan support is actually pretty remarkable, considering the transient nature of the area.

Take away the Redskins, and what do you have left? The Wizards and Caps? Fan support for those clubs is mid-range, at best. College football and basketball support is strong, but that's true in many places. DC United has a solid fan base, but it's small, and will likely remain so given the still-limited national interest in pro soccer.

The success of the Nats will determine whether or not the city moves up to the top level of sports towns.

Posted by: Claudius | November 29, 2006 10:34 AM

Also, I'd like to address the erroneous statements about DC being a transient town. Go check the census people, the majority of people who live and work in the DC are are from here. I am one of them. Yes there are transients in DC but they're in every large city. I don't think the percentage of transients has ever been greater than natives and based on census data the percentage of transients in this area has increased steadily since WWII. It's a worn out, untrue cliche. I know it's easy, but it's wrong.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | November 29, 2006 10:35 AM

DC should be a great sports town. My husband and I love DC sports (except the Redskins - I hail from the Gulf Coast, so I'm a die-hard Saints fan), but it's just not where it should be. We love the Wizards, the Caps, the Nats, and even the United, though that's more out of loyalty to the area than a great love for soccer. The games are a blast to attend, and it's so sad that more people don't come out to see them. We could be a MUCH better sports town than we are, if only people would invest the time to see our teams.

Posted by: bamagirlinVA | November 29, 2006 10:41 AM

I should note that we have several major college basketball teams (GW, Georgetown, Maryland, Mason, Howard) and success in both the men's and women's versions of the game. One thing that always made Philly seem to be a great town was the basketball Big Five playing each other. We do not do it here, unfortunately, but doing it would make us one of the best.

Posted by: Book Guy | November 29, 2006 10:52 AM

I dunno. Washington's probably an oddball sports city. Generally, we're all passionate sports fans, but our loyalties are confined to one or two teams. So we tend to root hard for a few local teams and bandwagon on the others.

This is in contrast to other cities where passion moves from sport to sport.

Posted by: tallbear | November 29, 2006 11:10 AM

An Dliodoir,

With the exception of the world's largest teams, and the World Cup, soccer is not a big bowl sport anywhere. A vast majority of the world's soccer stadia are 35k or less. And the average attendance for most countries is actually in the 20-25k.

MLS and United don't and shouldn't try to be the NFL or MLB. In numbers and scope, they're realisitc. But while it's a second tier pro-sport (behind the big four leagues, and NASCAR, but ahead of Team Tennis and Lacrosse) I don't think it's out of the question for them to be the fourth or fifth sport nationwide (along with hockey).

Just because the capacity of the stadium is 56k doesn't mean that the realistic goal is a sell out. The Nats don't expect to sell out on a regular basis either. Would either turn away more people than expected, absolutely not. But the scales are different, and you shouldn't mock United for drawing the number of fans that it needs to succeed.

But that all aside, DC is one of the few markets with the five team sports (Chicago, NY, Boston). LA doesn't even have that.

And the DC area IS a transient area. True, there are 'natives' but it's not multi-generational like a Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, or NY. There are a large percentage of people that are from other areas of the country and world that come here, some stay, others leave. If this wasn't a transient area I-66 wouldn't have development past Manassas or I-270 would be a breeze.....or folks here procreate much faster than anywhere else. And that would explain the lack of interest in sports.

Posted by: Kim | November 29, 2006 11:18 AM

Many people bring up the old Philadelphia Big 5 (it's now only a shadow of itself) and how that would really energize the local college basketball scene.

Think, they could have double headers at the Verizon Center. It could also be a good November/December tournament, and a decent way for some of the local teams to help their out of conference schedule.

Posted by: Kim | November 29, 2006 11:27 AM

People justifying soccer and people attacking it. Sigh. I happen to love United and have more fun there than at any other pro sport. Attendance seems fine to me. If you don't like it, don't go, but don't marginalize it either. Then you just sound ignorant. It's not football, no, nor baseball, nor will it ever be. And I for one say thank God. I like games with 20 dollar tickets and players who care.

DC United means a lot to a lot of people who actually live in DC. A lot more than you might think.

Posted by: Will | November 29, 2006 11:30 AM

Just for Giggles...

so far for 06-07 Wizards season, their average attendance is 18,576

DC United attendance for 06, 18,215

CAPS attendance for 06-07, 12,886

NATS attendance for 06, 25,582

Skins Attendance for 06-07, 88,861

So, DC United does have a following and have had over 50K at RFK, I believe in 1997, during their Finals Match.
YES DC United SHOULD be counted as a valid sports team in the region.

Posted by: Krazi Joe | November 29, 2006 11:37 AM

Lets be realistic, people.

DC has a good sports scene, but it is nowhere on the level of Philadelphia, New York, Boston, Chicago, and several others.

Yes, we have DC United and some college sports, but in terms of popularity they do not even come close to the major sports genres. Therefore they will never have a visible presence.

Its the truth and blind zealotry wont change it.

Posted by: Oh come on | November 29, 2006 11:47 AM

Just because you say it doesn't make it so. I suppose the US Census Buearau is wrong too? According to their figures, of the top 50 US metropolitan areas, DC ranks 31st in percentage of transients to locally born. Lower on the list (meaning more transients) are Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Las Vegas, San Diego and 16 other cities.

Also, your contention that soccer is not a large arena sport outside the top European teams is ludicrous. Mexico? Brazil? Hell, even the smaller African nations fill stadia of 50k or more.

Again, I like soccer. I venture to guess that I've been to more professional soccer matches than most of the people proclaiming support of DCU above. My point is that there is a subset of soccer fans in this country that refuse to accept that soccer is not "the next big thing." It is what it is, a third-tier sport with a loyal following.

Posted by: An Dliodoir | November 29, 2006 11:48 AM

George Michael apparently has never heard of the Green Bay Packers when he talks about loyal football fans...people in D.C. are dog-loyal to the Redskins, but Packers fans are just as committed, and that's for a venue where temperatures are regularly well below freezing.

May I suggest that the lack of local loyalty to the Wizards (aside from the number of people who have loyalties to teams elsewhere) is due to the totally pansy name they got tagged with? Seriously...what do Wizards have to do with D.C., and does that name strike fear into anyone's heart?

Posted by: Nick | November 29, 2006 11:52 AM

New York, and Detroit are both better sports towns than the nations capital.

George can talk....nobody's going to START listening to him now

Posted by: caphcky | November 29, 2006 11:56 AM

I know Detroit and Detroiters pretty well and can testify that it rocks as a sports town. Ask the Pittsburg fans who went to the Super Bowl there. Comerica Park, Ford Field, and The Palace are top notch. The hockey team plays in a homely but well-loved place that reminds me of old RFK on ice that says Hockeytown. D-town and Washington are not in the same league when it comes to sports passion. D-town paints giant murals of sports heros on the sides of buildings and puts jerseys on statues. The city goes nuts with hope on the rare occasion the Lions win a game.

Posted by: Joe | November 29, 2006 12:30 PM

An Dliodor is right. DC IS a transient town, especially when it comes to sports fans, who have to have enough disposible income to be able to go to games. Look at the crowds! It isn't the locally born population of DC that is in the stands. For a town that is 60%+ African-American, having crowds that are 90% white shows that the stands aren't filling with DC born residents.

I like soccer, but I'm pretty sick of United fans getting all defensive all the time. MLS barely counts as a major sport in this country. Ask a person from Columbus or Chicago what the name of their MLS team is, and chances are, he won't know.

The pathetic crowds at Nats games last year prove that DC is not a sports town. Without the Redskins, you wouldn't know this town even HAD any sports teams.

Posted by: Freddie Adu | November 29, 2006 12:31 PM

An Dliodoir,
I cant find those stats on the census website. Can you give me a URL?

Posted by: looking for data | November 29, 2006 12:34 PM

I have to say that Washington is not a sports town, just a Redskins town. Not necessarily a bad thing... it adds to the culture of our city. But as far as calling us a sports town is crazy - considering most of our sports don't get coverage on tv and radio if Joe Gibbs sneezes that day.

Posted by: Redskins | November 29, 2006 12:35 PM

Let's take a broader point of view of this nd look at the reality.

1. George Michael, for all of the eulogies now being presented was a very poor 2nd to Glen Brenner, in both knowledge and popularity, until Glen died.
2. George Michael is at best a mediocre reporter. He completely missed the story about the move of MLB to DC. Basically, he had to play catch up when the announcement was made, and this was probably the most significant sports story in the DC area this century (OK, the century is only six years old, but still).
3. The Sporting News lists St. Louis at the top. Duhhh, TSP is a St. Louis newspaper.
4. Philly probably does rank up there, but the violence kind of leaves a bad taste that affects opinion.
5. Every city has good years and bad, but the Redskins have sold out every game since the 1960s, when Jurgenson was drawing plays in the dirt at RFK and they couldn't beat a good Ohio State team.
6. The quality of DC as a sports town, beyond blind perception can be seen when you analyze the surprised reaction to the Nats. Even MLB was shaken by the level of acceptance.
7. Oddly enough, you need to go beyond just the "flagship" team to see quality. Take a look around and see the number of people wearing baseball caps with the interlocking DC or curly W. I'll admit my bias in this area, but I've been totally blown away by the numbers and broad based demographics. How many Chicagoans wear Cubs hats and how many Detroit folks wear Tigers caps. New York is sort of an exception, but I don't think anyone has figured that out yet.

Posted by: Catcher50 | November 29, 2006 12:47 PM

Are Michael's comments about a sports scene or about sports fans? I'm pretty sure DC is pretty lively as far as the former goes, but the fans? Give me a break.

I've heard a rumor that in other cities, the local fans (season ticket holders especially) are actually in their seats in time to see the kickoff, tipoff, first pitch, or faceoff....

Posted by: athea | November 29, 2006 12:48 PM

"It isn't the locally born population of DC that is in the stands. For a town that is 60%+ African-American, having crowds that are 90% white shows that the stands aren't filling with DC born residents."

Depends on whether your definition of "locally born" ends at the city limits, or includes the suburbs.

And speaking of definitions, is game attendance the only way to judge dedication? Just because all the workaholics here aren't in the stands, does that mean they're not getting the scores and trade updates off their Blackberries?

Posted by: fs | November 29, 2006 12:56 PM

Reading that St. Louis is a great sports town always makes me laugh. Of course it is, what else is there to do in St. Louis?

Posted by: St. Louis? | November 29, 2006 1:04 PM

Further proof of why the Redskins, their fans and related media supporters are so delusional. Most of us who've moved here in the last 10 years from other NFL markets find no appeal.. I'm trying, but nothing's there. Had I moved to Chicago, NY or Boston, I sense I'd become a local fan NFL fan.

As well, we have the biggest star in the NHL, but 1 out of a 100 folks in DC would recognize him...but that's more a criticism of the NHL post-strike.

Posted by: myself | November 29, 2006 1:07 PM

The comparison of attendance -- that's really interesting.

I had no idea United snags as many people as the Wizards.

United should get more press, it's true, so why not leave it at that.

My view is that DC is all Redskins all the time -- which makes us a leading sports town. Why? No other NFL city is as loopy about their team as we are.

Meanwhile, NYC is absolutely the WORST sports town. All you can see is Giants/Jets, Yankees/Mets, Islanders/Rangers and nothing else. Unless you follow one of those teams, you're out of luck.

Posted by: Georgetowner | November 29, 2006 1:10 PM

Washington -- now with Chicago and New York/New Jersey the only U.S. markets with teams in all six premier leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA, WNBA and MLS), and with far better college sports than either of the others -- isn't a great sports town yet, but it's evolving into one. Give it time. Remember, unlike Detroit, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia or Boston, D.C. doesn't have multiple franchises with histories that extend before the '70s.

Jeff Halpern, Potomac native and Princeton hockey star who played several years with the Capitals before signing with the Dallas Stars, was on John Thompson's radio show on WTEM recently and blasted the Washington media for ignoring the Caps wnile football season was on -- something he said Dallas-Fort Worth media didn't do to the Stars despite that area's overwhelming interest in the Cowboys (similar to Redskins passion here). Is area media at fault? Perhaps a little; I sense some people, especially in local sports talk radio, don't want this town to become athletically diversified.

However, these things have to evolve, and youthful stars like Alexander Ovechkin with the Capitals and Ryan Zimmerman with the Nationals can become the nucleus for winning teams. Then things will change, just as it took a national title for most Maryland fans to show interest in women's basketball.

Posted by: Vincent | November 29, 2006 1:12 PM

Biggest Disappointment
-FedEx Field, Washington
Andrew: "As you approach the building, the whole tailgating experience -- there were guys in their pressed Dockers, sipping wine and tapping on their PDA. You wanted the smell of sausage and people tossing footballs. There was none of that. It seemed to be very sterile, very corporate."

No mention of LA? I know, no pro-football team, but LA is the Lakers and the Dodgers and having USC and UCLA playing in town along with the Rose Bowl each year, its out of the radar for most east coast people. Probably not #1, but would make a top 10 in my list.

Posted by: Vic | November 29, 2006 1:57 PM

DC is no way in the top 5 sports city. Maybe if you add Baltimore and Washington together you have something, but DC alone is the worst. Half the fans at any DC professional sporting event are rooting for the other team playing that nite. DC sports like everything else is driven by buzz around the team at any given time, not dedicated fans.

Posted by: bobby | November 29, 2006 1:58 PM


This sentence is missing something:

"The Sporting News a couple of times St. Louis to be the best sports city,"

Perhaps the word "rated" between "times" and "St."?

Come on, Marc. You're better than that.

Posted by: Geoff | November 29, 2006 2:03 PM

When the Caps made the Stanley Cup against the Red Wings, I and 2 other Detroiters were the first in line for tickets at 6am at the MCI Center--a local DC news channel showed up look for Caps fans and but more people were wearing Wings jerseys. In detroit, people camped out over night for tickets--need I say more? This is a one horse town (the skins)

Posted by: john | November 29, 2006 2:11 PM

To Georgetowner: My view is that DC is all Redskins all the time -- which makes us a leading sports town. Why? No other NFL city is as loopy about their team as we are.

Plenty of other cities are equally loopy. As an Army brat, I've lived all over the country and world, and seen plenty of them. Some examples:

Green Bay - old stadium; publicly owned team; sells out every game in snow/ice/etc. People only get tickets to games when somebody in town dies - and ticket holders don't scalp their tickets. They're also in their seats at kickoff. And the population of the Green Bay metro area is 226,778 - with 72,922 at Lambeau, that's one third of the metro area. It would take about 2.7 million fans at FedEx to be equivalent.

New Orleans - I was a "bag head", going to the games with a paper bag over my head when the 'Aints were 1-15 (and a true New Orleanian still believes that 1, against the Jets, was fixed - the losing team ran out the clock in the 4th quarter rather than trying to score). Try this: have a team that goes 20 years without making the playoffs, and 30 years without winning a playoff game. Not a bad year or two; a bad decade or two. Then see what attendance is.

Denver - Mile High (spare me the "Invesco" garbage) is unique, although the South Stands in the original Mile High were irreplaceable. The entire 7-state region goes nuts for the Broncos.

And, as previously mentioned by others, Pittsburgh and Dallas fans tend to be nuts.

DC is a football town; it supports the Redskins well but not above everybody else as some would assert. Other than that, it's just not a sports town.

Posted by: Army Brat | November 29, 2006 2:24 PM

Part of being a great sports town is having a passionate AND KNOWLEDGEABLE fan base. Redskins fans, while passionale, are some of the most deluded in all of sports. Their assessments of the players and their expectations for the team have no basis in reality. Just showing up and caring doesn't make a great sports fan (or town) - you need to know what you're talking about, too.

Posted by: Realist | November 29, 2006 2:30 PM

Fans that have been to sporting events in other cities... how does DC rate in terms of transportation to and from these events on weeknights? I don't have any facts supporting this, but I am under the impression that the Wiz, Caps, and Nats get a good turnout inspite of the traffic, and the relative lack of success by these teams. There is something to be said for an area in which many people live and work outside the city, and several times a year they will ride the metro for an hour to watch teams that have little success compared to other teams. I would go to more games on weeknights if it didnt so long to get there from Fairfax County.

Posted by: DC fan | November 29, 2006 2:50 PM

How in the world could you possibly put Washington over Cleveland?

Look what happened when Washington lost its baseball team -- decades went by and they had to beg to get one back [and then still almost lost it again with political squabbles].

Look what happened when Cleveland lost its football team - other owners forced the NFL to guarentee that a team would return to Cleveland quickly with the same name and the same colors and the same record [and some NFL financial help].

Few cities can cite sports heartbreaks that compare to Cleveland's [The Interception, The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot] -- and yet few cities have consistently supported there teams in good times and bad like Cleveland has.

Washington, a sports city? Get Real.

Posted by: Get Real | November 29, 2006 2:54 PM

If Washington is such a fanatastic sports town, isn't it a shame that we cannot even buy winning teams! They're all losers.

Posted by: mjb | November 29, 2006 3:20 PM

If Washington is such a fanatastic sports town, isn't it a shame that we cannot even buy winning teams! They're all losers.

Posted by: mjb | November 29, 2006 3:20 PM


Why are you taking material away from Steinberg?

This is more up his alley.

Posted by: Kim | November 29, 2006 4:16 PM

Wow, this gets people a little fired up, eh?

The only thing I haven't seen mentioned is that yes, the United my draw 18,000 fans, but that is about 35 percent capacity of their arena while the Wizards drawing 18,000 is about 95 to 100 percent capacity.

Posted by: Anonymous | November 29, 2006 4:30 PM

I do think that this is primarily a Redskins town and the rest have their core groups. In contrast, a town like Boston, with its fanaticism for the Red Socks, the Pats, the Celtics and the Bruins is what a real sports town looks and feels like.

As to soccer, I don't really care whether people like it or not, whether it's a second, third or fourth tier sport. As long as there are enough of us that love it and United to make it a business success, then I could care less whether RFK is filled to the brim. I have a great time there, and, quite selfishly, that's what counts.

Unfortunately, the mention of soccer brings out of the woodwork the people who need to build themselves up by tearing others down. It just gets a bit tiresome.

Posted by: seahawkdad | November 29, 2006 4:52 PM

Attendance comparisons are apples and oranges in a couple of ways -- not only are the stadium capacities different, but so are the number of home games each team plays: 8 for the Redskins, 15 for United, 41 for the Wizards and Caps, and 81 for the Nationals. So it's not difficult to spin the numbers to support your own preferences.

I agree with the person who says having a great time is what really counts. And though the Redskins, and to a lesser extent the Wizards, seem to have the deepest fan bases and most sellouts, I actually don't enjoy GOING to those games very much (though I do watch on TV). The Nationals, Caps, and yes, even United, are much more enjoyable game experiences to me.

Posted by: Cosmo | November 29, 2006 5:17 PM

The article considers how DC sports fans rank compared with those of other cities -- not how DC teams rank vis-a-vis each other. Thus, comparing the Redskins' attendance against the Wizards', Caps', and United's completely misses the point. Rather, the relevant comparison is how Redskins fans compare against those of *other NFL teams*, how United fans compare against those of *other MLS teams*, etc.

As for as the NFL, the Redskins unquestionnably get great support. But so do many other teams. I'd probably give the overall nod to Pittsburgh, with the top five rounded out by New England, Philly, Green Bay, and the Giants. The 'Skins would make my top ten, however.

I don't follow the NBA or NHL closely enough to make such a comparison for the Wizards or Caps. But I admit I'd be quite surprised were we in the top five NHL cities.

In MLS, however, no one -- no one --seriously disputes that DC United has the best fan support in the league. Yes, a few teams are starting to slowly close the gap (e.g., Houston), but DC United support still stands head and shoulders above the rest. I'm open to contrary opinions, but I seriously doubt that this is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree.

Thus, the omission of DC United from the original post is regretable not because of how DC United might compare with the Wizards or Capitals or whatever. It's regrettable because in an article purporting to compare of how DC fans compare with fans OF OTHER CITIES (which was the original question), DC United supporters present the only evidence I'm aware of that justifies DC being ranked the fourth-best sports town.

Posted by: Foolicus | November 29, 2006 6:01 PM

Can someone please explain what "DC United" is? A new airline? A sexual position? A way of locking subway cars?

Thanks for any clarification.

Posted by: KK | November 29, 2006 8:05 PM

First remember what Hemmingway said to paraphrase there are only two sports
Bull Fighting and Auto Racing(F1 and sportscars). If you cant death sint involved it isnt a sport.

Soccer is a ninth rate sport in the US behind Football(NFL), Football(college),
NASCAR, baseball, College basketball, pro basketball, hockey, dog sport(Hunting trials, agility, flyball,rally, obedience and herding trials) then you have soccer.
Soccer is only slightly above tractor pulls and monster trucks outside of major urban areas. Rugby is more interesting than soccer. And the parties better.

Who cares about what city is great sport city? DC has Danny Boy Snyder who only cares about winning the profit wars not winning games!

Now let all call NBC4 and request Lindsay wear shorter skirts and do her Brittany imitation!

Posted by: Va herder | November 30, 2006 7:40 AM

Coming from Boston myself, I have to agree with George's #1 ranking. But New York is definitely #2.

After that, who cares?

Posted by: Rocco | November 30, 2006 10:10 AM

DC is a pretty good sports town. It just doesn't seem that way beacuase the pool is really diverse. Skins, G-town B-ball, Terps, Wiz, Caps, United, Nats, Mystics. There is just so much going on that it's impossible to keep up.

The problem is that people think that everyone has to be CRAZY about every team. All the above teams have good followings, and folks tend to show up.

Also, DC is a town that has A LOT going on other than sports. It is similar to NY or Chicago in that respect. Factor some of those things in and DC probably SHOULD'NT be as good a sports town as it is.

Whoever said LA is a good sports town is crazy. THEY COULD NOT SUPPORT AN NFL TEAM!? There's only like 15 million people in SO Cal.

Atlanta is the worst sports town for a town with so many major sports teams.

Posted by: frankjomama | November 30, 2006 5:50 PM

Washington is a mediocre sports town. Detroit stills draws 60K fans to Lions games, despite that team being horrid for the last half-century. With the Tigers and Pistons recent successes, and the moniker Hockey Town--not to mention the city's loyalty toward the state's college teams--how can you even compare DC to Detroit? The list is incredibly east coast biased. And as fair-weathered as Philly fans are (how many times have they booed the Eagles), they don't belong either. Boston, NY, Detroit, Chicago, and St. Louis would be my picks.

Posted by: Ex-Detroiter | December 1, 2006 5:27 PM

"Wow, this gets people a little fired up, eh?

The only thing I haven't seen mentioned is that yes, the United my draw 18,000 fans, but that is about 35 percent capacity of their arena while the Wizards drawing 18,000 is about 95 to 100 percent capacity."

so how much were the Wizards/Bullets drawing 5 years ago when they were the worst franchise in the league, pre-MJ? yeah, when a team is horrible and the fans still show up - that is an indication of a good sports town. DC is not.

Posted by: Vic | December 5, 2006 12:15 PM

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