Boston Sports Mania

Anybody who pays any attention to professional sports at all knows that the teams from Boston are enjoying an absurd amount of success this season. A quick recap of the highlights:

  • The Red Sox win World Series for 2nd time in 4 years and win the AL East over the Yankees for the first time since 1995
  • The Patriots become the first team in history to finish the NFL regular season 16-0, break many records in the process and are heading to the AFC Championship game as heavy favorites to win the Super Bowl for the 4th time in 7 seasons
  • The Celtics hold the best record in the NBA at 30-5
  • AND the New England Revolution reached the MLS Cup for the 3rd consecutive season. Maybe they’ll join the club and win it next year.

What I’m wondering is how does Boston do it? Is it just a massive coincidence or is there something special about this city that enables it to field such strong teams? My blog stats hold a clue to the answer.

There’s little question these days that the size of the media market is directly related to the wealth of the team and therefore to its success. Baseball, with its lack of a restrictive collective bargaining agreement, displays this theory best. The Yankees are the poster children. The Twins are the commonly proposed antithesis, but it’s important to note that they haven’t actually won the World Series since 1991. The teams that have won other than the Yankees have spent large sums in doing so. See pre-fire sales Marlins before, the Angels, the Cardinals, and, of course, the Red Sox. Due to the reciprocal relationship between population and industry, New York and southern California are hands-down the two largest media markets in the country; therefore, it makes perfect sense that teams like the Yankees, the Mets, the Angels, the Dodgers etc. etc. spend a lot of money and perform generally better than the teams from other cities.

How do towns such as Boston and St. Louis, two relatively small metro areas, play as if they’re located in large media markets? The answer is fanaticism. St. Louis is a one sport town now that the Rams have played themselves into virtual obsoleteness. So, anyone who cares about sports puts all of their attention and spends all of their money on the Cardinals.

How do Boston fans support 4 teams as well as St. Louis supports their one? For some reason, the fanaticism in Boston is not limited to a small group of “sports fans.” All of Boston participates in the mania: college students, grandmothers, little sisters, engineers, and old maid aunts. They eat, drink, and dream about Boston sports and above all, The Red Sox. My mom, who has never thrown a round object in her life, calls me with great excitement when the Red Sox win a big game. This ubiquitous fanaticism, this willingness to spend more time and money on watching and thinking about their sports teams creates a larger media market than the population would normally allow for and makes the teams better. The Boston fans actually have impact.

Consider the following statistical breakdown of my blog as a measure of Boston sports fanaticism.

Here’s a look at the traffic for my Top Post, a press release from 12/13 about a clever protest outside the Goldman Sachs Christmas party:

Pay Back The Bonus Stats 2

Notice the huge spike on 12/14, the day responsible for making this my top post. The story got picked up by outside.in and was linked to in the comments of some other blogs, notably dealbreaker.com. There are a couple of other decent days, but you can see that after 12/23, it has seen almost no traffic. The story was timely, then after a week, it was not timely. It passed as normal news does.

Now look at this post about the Celtics I threw up on 10/11/07.

The Celtics Stats 2

The traffic starts very slowly then has spikes weeks apart. There’s no gradual trend and no huge days correlating to a specific event. The traffic is consistent, and the graph is even a little right side heavy, meaning that more people have been looking at this post the older it gets. The post is showing stamina, and its popularity is totally independent of its timeliness. Why is that?

If you read the post, you’ll notice there’s nothing particularly special about it. No insights, no news. It’s just me being excited about getting to root for a good Celtics team. Also consider that the traffic does not come from referrals. It comes from Word Press tag searches. People are searching for “the big three” and “the celtics” every day. They find my post and read it. What we’re seeing here is a consistent hunger for words about Boston sports no matter how significant those words are. The other post I have that sees anything like this is Bill Simmons on The Wire, but the numbers are half as big. The funny connection here is that Bill Simmons is a huge fan of Boston sports and writes about them all the time. So, that post partially owes its traffic to Boston sports fanatics.

The numbers of my blog are too small to make the statement definitive, yet it’s fairly convincing support of a frequently heard claim. Boston has the best fans in the world, and they play a huge role in the success of their teams.

How long will it last and what causes them to be so obsessed?

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~ by jaredran on January 14, 2008.

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