By the numbers
It isn't hard to ascertain Deadspin's objective in digging up the numbers on NFL fan loyalty. The sports journalism muckrakers clearly set out to the dethrone the Dallas Cowboys as America's Team. Better luck next time.
The Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective crunched the numbers for Deadspin, and the results were staggering: Despite a litany of reasons not to, America still loves the Dallas Cowboys. Reporter Ben Blatt was upfront about his misgivings heading into the research:
For an NFL franchise to truly be "America's Team," as the Cowboys have claimed to be for 35 years, they would need to be beloved across the nation, by more people in more places than any other team. But the Cowboys haven't won a Super Bowl in 17 years. They've struggled through mediocrity for a decade. Is the nickname accurate, out of date, or is it just an ingenious marketing ploy that has convinced pundits to repeat ad nauseam?
Turns out, it's an earnest epithet.
Using Facebook fan data, Blatt found that 3,754,280 people like the Dallas Cowboys. That's about 100,000 more than the next most popular team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won the Super Bowl twice in the past decade. The article notes that the only teams to have at least 1.5 million fans and no recent Super Bowl victory are the Cowboys and the Chicago Bears.
With sheer popularity safely tucked away in the Cowboy's corner, Deadspin now turns to geography to dethrone the Boys. Surely the team's vast popularity can be attributed to the fact that the Cowboys are from Texas, a large and populous land.
"The Cowboys are based in the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States and, before the Texans, were blessed to have the entire Lone Star state to themselves," Blatt writes.
Actually, before the Texans, the Cowboys competed with the Houston Oilers for fans. But Warren Moon enthusiasts aside, the Cowboys still laid claim to most of the Lone Star State.
The Cowboys are not the most popular NBA or MLB team. But considering they play football, we already knew that on some level, didn't we?
Anyway, back to today's NFL landscape. Even when controlling for city size, Dallas enjoys 69 percent of all football fans who live within a 50-mile radius. That's a higher percentage of local fans than 22 NFL teams. Score another point for the Cowboys.
But wait, Blatt isn't giving up yet. What about comparing the Cowboys fan base to that of other sports teams entirely? Can the Cowboys beat the Los Angeles Lakers?
Sorry, Boys, but sunny California has you on this one. The Lakers boast around 5 million Facebook fans, more than any other team in any sport. The New York Yankees also edged out the Cowboys, by a margin of about 30,000 fans.
What have we learned? The Cowboys are not the most popular NBA or MLB team. But considering they play football, we already knew that on some level, didn't we?
In the end, the Dallas Cowboys are still America's favorite team in America's favorite sport. The NFL as a whole boasts 37.4 million Facebook fans — 15 million more devotees than any other sport.
And while all fan bases have a strong geographic pull, the Cowboys claim fanatics far outside the boundaries of Dallas-Fort Worth. Cowboys supporters are also dominant in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona (south of Phoenix).
It's a pretty impressive display of loyalty for a team that hasn't graced the Super Bowl stage in 17 years. Just imagine how many more fans the Cowboys will gain when they finally break out of their 8-8 slump.