If you’re an NFL fan in Nassau County, chances are you support the New York Jets. The bad news is that the western tip of Long Island is the only strip of turf in the country where you make up the majority and you’re surrounded on all sides by a sea of Giants, Patriots, Steelers, and Eagles fans.
The other bad news is that Mark Sanchez is still your quarterback.
That informationwell, except for the Mark Sanchez partcomes courtesy of fascinating new metrics on football fan allegiances put out by Facebook’s Data Science team this week. Basically, the social network patched together a fan loyalty map by cross-referencing the site’s 32 U.S. million users who’ve liked a particular NFL team page with their county location.
It’s fascinating to look at, so let’s cut to the chaseclick on the image created by Data Science intern Sean Taylor below to enlarge it. You might start by marveling over the fact that the Oakland Raiders somehow own Idaho’s Clark County but don’t have fan majorities in any county within 300 miles of the city of Oakland itself. Take your time, we’ll wait.
Back? So what did we learn? For starters, it sure looks like the Dallas Cowboys really are America’s Team, as painful as it is to admit it. Not only do Cowboys fans dominate in several states surrounding Texas, but they appear to have also infected vast parts of Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon.
The Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers fan bases also each boast impressive reach, but the Cowboys’ real competition is Pittsburgh. The Steelers easily have the most far-flung fan base, per the Facebook data. In addition to Pittsburgh’s natural Rust Belt fandom, the Steelers own the country’s northernmost support base in Alaska’s North Slope, the westernmost, by dint of ruling Hawaii, and even have pockets of fans in the Pacific Northwest, Rockies, Midwest, and Deep South.
So what does it all mean? We’re not sure, but as some commenters on Deadspin have pointed out, Facebook skews young and thus possibly more fickle in team allegiances. For example, Hawaii’s love of Pittsburgh seems as likely as not to be tied to the popularity of Steelers safety Troy Polamaluif you went back a decade to the era when the late Junior Seau was stuffing running backs for San Diego, we bet you’d have seen the Aloha State draped in Chargers blue.
Or maybe there’s just something in the makeup of Steelers and Cowboys fans that causes them to hit Like for their teams more readily than say, a typical Cleveland Browns supporter who’s still boycotting Facebook until it installs an Unlike button for LeBron James.
You also have to consider the population density of the various counties, parishes, and boroughs represented on the map. We could theoretically replicate the team page like numbers by hand, but Facebook isn’t dishing on its user location data so it’s hard to say how many fan likes it took to win a county/parish/borough for a given team.
Do the Kansas City Chiefs really have a bizarre fan stronghold in Montana’s Wibaux County? Or does the county have like, seven Chiefs fans who happen to be big Facebookers?
We’ll never know. In the meantime, Taylor also put together some additional maps that track the fan bases of teams in this year’s NFL playoffs, eliminating teams as they were eliminated in each round so the final map only shows the country in terms of whether the San Francisco 49ers or Baltimore Ravens, Sunday’s Super Bowl foes, are more popular in a given area.
By Damon Poeter, PCMag