SBD/October 24, 2011/Franchises

DC Sports Fans' Team Loyalties Reflect City's Population Growth, Transient Makeup

72% of DC area hockey fans chose the Capitals as their favorite NHL team
DC residents “care more about sports than the national average, but many don’t cheer for Washington teams, reflecting the region’s dramatic population growth and sizable transient makeup,” according to a WASHINGTON POST poll of area sports fans cited by the paper's Dan Steinberg. Former Nationals President Stan Kasten said, “Washington fans are really a wonderful blend of the best parts of Northern tier fans and Sun Belt fans. They’re really in the middle.” In a city “whose power structure is biennially reshaped by wins and losses, fans flock to winning teams and tend to ignore losers.” Eighty-one percent of area sports fans “say the city is an average or above average sports town and 11 percent say it’s the best in the country.” Only 1% in a recent national poll “say the same about" DC. Former Univ. of Maryland men's basketball coach Gary Williams said, “It takes time to build a fan base, and just as you’re starting to get people interested, all of the sudden they’re gone, they go somewhere else. Politics change, contracts run out. This is a unique area.” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said, “You move to a new city, you don’t give up your allegiance to your hometown team.” Steinberg noted that is why “virtually all the local pro sports teams are courting a minority audience, even on their home turf.”

BREAKING IT DOWN: Just 48% of pro football fans in the area say the Redskins "are their favorite team." Among area baseball fans, 51% “support either the Nationals or the Orioles, while 16 percent favor either the Yankees or the Red Sox.” Twenty-nine percent of area basketball fans "choose the Wizards as their favorite team, with a stunning 14 percent identifying the Los Angeles Lakers and 9 percent the Boston Celtics." Forty-two percent of area soccer fans “say D.C. United is their favorite professional team.” Thirty-seven percent of area sports fans aged 18-39 “have ‘strongly’ favorable views of the Capitals, more than double that of any other area team.” The Capitals “are chosen as the favorite NHL team by 72 percent of area hockey fans, dwarfing any other local franchise.” The poll also confirmed that DC is a "decidedly pro sports market; 55 percent of area sports fans favor pro sports and only 10 percent choose colleges." Thirty-five percent “say they like both college and pro sports equally.” DC residents said that “they care about sports, even more so than Americans at large,” with 83% calling themselves “sports fans” and 45% “describing their passion as greater than casual.” That compares to 75% of Americans who “call themselves sports fans, with 38 percent saying they’re more than casual fans” (WASHINGTON POST, 10/23).
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