Sunday, September 23, 2018

Geographical NFL Traitors: Where People Are Loyal to a Team Other Than the Closest One

The map on top is "closest counties to the franchise location" (which shows what people's loyalty "should" be) and is from user @kodali_siva on Twitter, the past few days. The map on the bottom is actual primary loyalty by county from The Atlantic in 2014 (the year makes a difference because teams have moved since then.) Of course we want to know where the untrustable people are, i.e., the ones who don't swear fealty to the proper teams, so we can avoid those areas. More seriously, the reason this is interesting is that part of fandom is cultural afiliation - even though you're physically closer to City A, you're across the state line; or you're in a cultural region that's more like City B. It's even been argued that sports loyalties reveal underlying cultural divides going back to colonial times, i.e. the Keith line in New Jersey between Philly and New York teams (and culture).

What follows is a delightful romp through the quirks and personality disorders that make each and every pocket of our country so special. Join me wontcha?

So where, exactly, are the disloyal people, unworthy of the name comrade?

First, the West Coast is goofy because of the way that the map has to divide territory between the Raiders and Niners, being in the same metro area as they are. Also, legalized cannabis. Besides, the Raiders are constantly threatening to move to Vegas or anywhere besides Oakland, so who cares anyway. Still, the Niners manage to invade what should be Seahawks territory. If it's any comfort, southern Oregon is mostly inhabited by sasquatch anyway, though I'm a bit concerned that they've evolved enough to respond to NFL marketing surveys.

Then there's Nevada. That a state full of snakes, brothels and gamblers is disloyal should come as no surprise, but somehow its perfidy still manages to shock. Some of those northwestern Nevada types follow the Niners, but then there's the Broncos and - the Dallas Cowboys? Yes, as we'll see there are islands of Cowboy deviancy throughout the western US, the biggest of which is in Nevada (by proximity, the rest of the state should almost all be LA Rams territory.)

While we're noticing this singular most foul corruption of the loyalty map, the Cowboys also dominate Oklahoma (which should be partly KC Chiefs and a litte Broncos), Arkansas (should be about even between Cowboys, Chiefs, Tennessee and Saints) and the rest of Texas that Houston should rightly claim, like the Gulf Coast. My bet is that Oklahoma and Arkansas identify more with Texas than the Midwest or New Orleans respectively, and that people in more rural Texas outside of Houston are culturally anti-Houston, which somehow makes them pro-Dallas. As noted before, these malodorous islands of Dallas fans can be found throughout the country, much to the chagrin of decent Americans. I can't explain why this might be or how these misshapen cretins became "America's team." As it were, the Notre Dame of pro football, and yes of course that's an insult because what else could it be.

The Chargers are consistent between geography and proximity - down there in one corner of the country, they can have their little Orange County and San Diego, where they are fondly remembered from before their pointless move. Good for them!

Utahans give away some rightful Broncos territory to the Cardinals...but New Mexicans give away Broncos AND Cardinals territory to, who else, the Cowboys. This is what saddened me most about this post because I used to really like New Mexico.

The Vikings-Broncos border has some give and take that comes out about even but, here the state border effect comes into play, and there are plenty of people in western Wisconsin who SHOULD, by proximity, be Vikings fans. For the Green Bay fans, I want to be very clear about this (read slow so you can understand): a lot of Green Bay fans should actually be Vikings fans, and it's only because of your flawed moral character that you're not. I also don't get the pockets of Nebraskans who like Green Bay, other than, like Packers fans, the people of northeast Nebraska are physically very unattractive. Also, "Oh but we're a co-op everyone owns part of the team blah blah blah" to which the strongest counterargument is: your face.

In the South, fandom for the Titans, Panthers and Falcons basically follows state lines (with some bizarre exceptions), which does NOT follow the closest-county rule at all. The Saints however go far beyond where they should be, eating into Atlanta's and especially Tennessee's territory. My bet is that there's a "Gulf State" cultural identity effect here. The lines between New England and the New York teams show a similar effect - it's not about proximity, it's about whether you choose to identify as a New Englander or with New York/New Jersey. And if you find yourself confronted with this choice, you should consider the words of Sartre, that the only serious philosophical question is suicide.

On to Pittsburgh. You will notice the bigger-than-expected island of yellow on the actual loyalty map as well as a few counties scattered throughout South Carolina. This is a combination of identifying as Pennsylvanian (or post-coal-industrial Appalachia for the West Virginians) and the desire to AVOID identifying with Philly, similar to but stronger than the effect I argued for in Texas with Houston. (I am qualified to comment on this as I am a bit of an authority on Pennsylvania "culture".) After the Eagles Superbowl win from the 2017-18 season I bet that line will be pushed farther west. The South Carolina Steelers counties are probably all retirees, as an absolute flood of Pennsylvanians sick of snow has moved to cheaper SC instead of FL in recent years, raising the average IQ of both areas (ZING!)

I don't know why Dolphin fans extend all the way to northern Florida, or why no one seems to want anything to do with Jacksonville. I considered whether gators keep eating everyone, but a) that's just wishful thinking and b) doesn't explain why Miamians wouldn't be similarly torn to shreds in the jaws of these handsome reptiles, proving themselves in the process to be man's other best friend.

And for a final proof that the world is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we CAN imagine, witness that the Cleveland Browns actually have more fan territory than they should, relative to geography. To resolve this seeming paradox I can offer no better explanation than the understandable self-loathing of Ohioans.

A final serious note: if I failed to insult your team, state, cultural region or religion in this post, rest assured it's because you're too insignificant to bother with.

When I have more time, i.e. civilization has collapsed, I'm the last man on Earth, and I have accumulated enough canned food that I don't have to forage, I'm going to look at county-level per capita income, as well as "territorial encroachment" and its effect on team revenue and value.

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