A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting at a local Buffalo Wild Wings watching the second round of the NCAA tournament when something happened that shouldn’t have, yet did, shock me. Just as a tournament game was winding down with the outcome very much still in doubt, every main TV in the restaurant was changed to the pre-game show for the Cleveland Cavaliers versus the Milwaukee Bucks. While the college game didn’t have any relevance to the Cleveland area, it was a postseason tournament game. On the other hand, while the Cavs/Bucks game was a relatively inconsequential regular season game, yet if something has the word Cleveland stamped on the front, it’s basically gospel in this part of the state.
This singular event got me to thinking — which American sports city is the easiest to hate? My hypothesis was the usual suspects (Boston, NYC, Chicago), combined with cities featuring teams that have rivalries with teams I like (San Francisco, Pittsburgh) and Cleveland. Because holy hell this city’s sports media is obnoxious.
In making my list, I assigned a 10 point scale to the hateability factor of the city’s fans, media, NHL, MLB, NFL, and NBA teams. Sorry soccer fans, the MLS isn’t relevant. If a city has more than one team in each sport, I averaged the scores across the teams for the rating. Additionally, I added in the hateability of local college teams. To qualify, the college team had to be within 50 miles of the major city in question, with two notable exceptions due to the Media Fellatio Coefficient (MFC). To qualify, cities must have at least two major sports teams in their metro area. Apologies to Columbus, Ohio, Lexington, Kentucky, and Jacksonville, Florida.
The top ten of my list is below. Keep in mind that this list is completely subjective, but still right.
Honorable Mention: Kansas City (4.67 hateability rating), Charlotte (4.67), San Francisco/Oakland (4.80), Atlanta (4.86), Washington D.C. (4.92)
#10 – Miami (5.17 hateability rating)
Miami likely wouldn’t even make this list if LeBron were still there. His heel turn to leave Cleveland and go to Miami was one of the single most hilarious moments in recent sports history. But with LeBron leaving, so did all of the Heat’s fans, which is pretty easy to dislike. Miami was initially just outside of the top ten after all pro team scores were calculated, but adding in The U made Miami a clear winner over Washington D.C. and Atlanta.
#9. St. Louis (5.29)
The more I think about St. Louis’ place on this list, the more I feel like I might have underrated how easy it is to dislike them. Sure, the Blues are tolerable, there are no college teams of consequence in the area, and the Rams aren’t as disliked as they once were. But considering how Cardinals fans exhibited themselves to protesters in the wake of the Ferguson protests (not to mention the whole “Best Fans in the World” moniker they falsely hold), having St. Louis only ninth on the list seems low.
#8. Dallas (5.54)
As soon as I tweeted that I was writing this post, I got multiple tweets at me telling me that Dallas is the most hateable city in American sports. If this were a most hateable teams contest, I’d completely agree. The Dallas Cowboys are one of the top five most annoying sports teams globally (New York Yankees, Chelsea, Ohio State, the Cowboys, and the Pittsburgh Steelers), but the rest of the DFW sports teams aren’t actually that bad. The Stars have awesome jerseys, the Mavs have Dirk and Mark Cuban, and the Rangers…just sort of exist? Remove the Cowboys from Dallas’ score and they’re barely a top 15 city.
#7. Detroit (5.79)
Have you met a Detroit Tigers fan? Not only do they think their team is god’s gift to baseball, they think that people actually care about baseball.
#6. New York City (6.08)
This might be the first ranking to come out of nowhere for some people. Yes, NYC’s media and bandwagon fans are terrible. But here’s the thing: outside of the Yankees, what team from NYC can you really hate? The Knicks, Mets, and Nets all suck. The Rangers have arguably the greatest goaltender of his generation in net. The Devils and Isles haven’t been relevant to be hated. Can anyone name an NYC area college good at sports other than St. John’s? Similar to Dallas, NYC’s hateability is dragged down by a lot of semi-likeable teams.
#5. Pittsburgh (6.14)
If Pittsburgh had a better national media presence, they’d be the runaway winner of this competition. The Steelers have had exactly one likeable player (Antonio Brown) since the Chuck Noll era, the Penguins are headlined by two stars with extremely punchable faces, and Pittsburgh fans are not afraid of reminding you of how many championships they have. And yet, it’s hard to dislike Pittsburgh completely because you never hear about them unless they’re in a title game. Plus the Pirates sucked for twenty years without being annoying about it…but more on that in a moment.
#4. Los Angeles (6.70)
Even without a professional football team, Los Angeles manages to get a top five spot on this list. Call it the Jim Rome effect. Los Angeles fans constantly whine so much about East Coast Bias in sports media that they’ve actually created the opposite impact to a certain extent. Add in the fact that the Kings are a borderline dynasty, the Angels and Dodgers spend like the Yankees, and the Lakers still have Kobe, and it’s easy to see why LA isn’t a favorite of most sports fans.
#3. Cleveland (6.86)
So that thing I said about the Pirates being bad without being annoying about it? Cleveland is example 1A of how not to do that. No titles since 1964? Talk to any Cleveland sports fan and you’ll hear about it for hours. They make heroes out of otherwise mediocre players (Bernie Kosar, Chad Ogea), run great players out of town (Jim Thome, CC Sabathia), and give up too early on players with potential (Cliff Lee, Dion Waiters). Let’s not forget about the MFC factor in Cleveland, where Ohio State (which is in Columbus over 150 miles away) will preempt pretty much anything else because the media thinks that they’re amazing. The only things that keep them out of the top spot are that two of their three teams aren’t THAT annoying and that LeBron is so likeable.
#2. Chicago (7.22)
While the Cleveland Browns had Draft Day made about them, the original movie about an unrealistic thing happening to a crappy team no one likes took place in Rookie of the Year, where a 12-year-old kid makes the Cubs relevant again. Like Browns fans, Cubs fans struggle at losing with dignity, and aren’t much better when their other teams win. Add in MFC powerhouse Notre Dame, and a very hateable Blackhawks team, and you’ve got a despised city on your hands. The Bulls and White Sox save Chicago from being the top city on this list…but only barely.
#1. Boston (7.29)
I grew up around a family with split sports fandom. In football, everyone passionately rooted for the Browns or Steelers. In college sports, it was Ohio State or Michigan. In baseball, it was the Indians or Reds. But there was more to life than sports for them. Plus, there wasn’t a battle for hockey or basketball at the time, so I got a bit of a reprieve there.
Dealing with Boston sports fans and teams is like dealing with my family 24/7. It’s not that any single Boston team is that awful, it’s that all of them (except the Bruins) would be a top 5 annoying team in their sport. Combine that with a national media that oversaturates the Boston/NYC rivalry and fans who thoroughly enjoy shouting their perceived superiority from the rooftops, and you have a combination that makes Boston the most hateable sports city in the United States.