Recognizing the best fans in sports
Franchise owners, athletes and coaches often thank their fans- the ones they call the "best fans in the world". If you're an avid fan of any particular team, sport or athlete, I'm pretty sure you've heard lines like "without you, we won't be here". And truth be told there's indeed wisdom in that line. I'm not here to discredit the support and value of certain fans to their teams, rather I would like to pay homage to the most loyal and devoted fans out there in our vast and awesome world of sports.
Looking within, I must say that there's been a huge drop in the Pacers' fan support since Reggie Miller walked away from the game of basketball. I was actually present during Reggie Miller's final game against the Detroit Pistons in the semifinal round of the 2005 NBA playoffs. It was definitely a surreal and touching moment. You can feel the love in the atmosphere when the capacity crowd stood up to applaud and give Reggie what it seemed like a 30-minute ovation during the latter parts of the game. The game had to be paused as the Pistons bench led by their coach Larry Brown went over the Pacers bench to congratulate Reggie as well. Tears were abundant not only among fans, as team officials, family members, players and coaches together with Reggie himself were left teary-eyed by the special moment. It's moments like those that make you feel proud and lucky you're a fan and have been there.
But since then, add to that the effects of the "brawl", injuries, performance, on top of some questionable trades, the Pacers are among the lowest in crowd attendance. The economy probably played a big role in it too but sometimes you just feel like the Pacers couldn't even get people in the seats even if they gave the tickets away for free. And on several occasions they have done that. Indiana fans love their basketball- it's called the "basketball state" after all. The attendance may have dropped but it doesn't mean fan support has dramatically vanished either. True, there's been a drop but TV ratings for the past 3 seasons are up from previous ones. People are still watching, they just aren't paying to see this team play live like they used to. It comes with the territory here in Indiana I guess, just like most cities. Winning is still a the best attraction. One thing you have to credit Indiana basketball fans however, is the fact that they are probably one of the most knowledgeable in the sport. I've traveled much troughout my life following basketball and I tell you Hoosiers know their basketball.
Now I'm going to try to determine, based on my experience and feedback from my colleagues and research, who the best fans in the some of the major sports out there.
Best Fans in the NBA
Los Angeles Lakers Fans
(Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
This was a tough one. We all know the tradition and mystique behind the Boston Celtics and their die-hard supporters. The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls also have their share of loyal supporters around the world. But how can you not give it to the Lakers nation? It seems like everywhere Kobe and the Lakers go, whether it be Toronto or Oklahoma, you could be certain there's a good contingency of Lakers fans that will show up. As storied as the Celtics, Knicks and Bulls franchises are and how loyal their fan base is, I never thought I'd see the day when a Boston Celtic arena would cheer and chant M-V-P for an opposing Lakers player. Lakers fans travel well and bring star power too. You already know about Jack Nicholson and all the celebrities from Hollywood. By far Lakers message boards and forums are always the most active on the internet. Try visiting sites such as The Lakers Nations and Lakers Ground and see what I'm talking about. For the past decade the Lake show has definitely been the hottest ticket in any town and definitely couldn't have achieved that without their fans.
Best Fans in the NFL
Pittsburgh Steelers Fans
(Photo by Getty Images)
This was another tough call. The NFL has some of the greatest fans in all sports. You got the Raider Nation, the Green Bay Packers fans, the Dallas Cowboys fans, the Eagles, Giants and so on and so forth. I had to pick only one however and I give the distinction to the Steel Curtain. Steeler fans go everywhere for their team. It's not hard to spot them either as they often come with their yellow towels ready and maniacally twirl it in the air during games. It also helps that throughout history the Steelers have always had very good teams. The owners of the team, the Rooney family have definitely taken care of their fans and put forth a product they can pull for almost year in and year out. The result, happy fans = the most loyal fans in the sport.
Best Fans in MLB
New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox Fans
(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)
I know I might come across as a total suck-up right now, but how can you really pick between either of these two? The Yankees and the Red Sox go hand in hand like Oreo cookies and milk. Their rivalry has surpassed sports mythology status. And their fans will not give an inch to the other even if their lives depended on it. You can't really pick which one is better than the other as the fans of both teams share the same amount of devotion and loyalty to their team. Just like Ali and Frazier or Jordan and Pippen, these two teams and their fans are better off next to one another. Take away the other and it just isn't the same. Other notables are Chicago Cubs fans and St. Louis Cardinals fans.