Friday, March 30, 2007

ESPN's Ultimate Fan Rankings: An ultimate crock of shit.

How well does ESPN understand the public's sentiment? (See above photo) I rest my case.

I wasn't prepared to get all riled up about ESPN's "Ultimate Standings" until I listened to sports talk radio this morning (gets me every time). ESPN released an "Ultimate Standings" that purport to rank every major sports team in order of how satisfied their fan base is with the organization. The standings stem from extensive polling (over 80,000 people were polled) of visitors to their website (a very diverse group) who were asked questions regarding how satisfied they were with such things as stadium promotions, ownership loyalty and fan accessibility, you know, stuff every fan cares about ("Well, I'm pretty satisfied with the direction of the Browns except for the fact that they don't offer "Browns bumper sticker night" and Charlie Frye's phone number is unlisted."). I could live with the subjective standards if that's all that this represented. A fan's "satisfaction" for his team is inherently subjective and that's fine. It wouldn't mean much to me, but at least I would understand what ESPN was trying to achieve. But then, in an effort to submarine the whole operation, ESPN decided to add a few objective catergories. They added cost of attending a game as well as some stat they referred to as "bang for the buck," which is calculated by dividing "revenues directly from fans" by wins in the past three years, or some such nonsense. Put more simply, a measure of how satisfied you should be with management's use of your money. So essentially there's a ton of data about how happy fans are with their teams and then there's other information mixed in about revenue use and ticket price that has nothing to do with how fans feel about their teams. Oh, and did I mention that different rankings are weighted differently but the weights are not explained (outside of a vague explanation about cost of attendance mattering 50% more than other rankings). Right, well through this ranking system, Red Sox fans are 26th most satisfied fan group for baseball teams out of 30 teams and the 88th most satisfied team in all of pro sports. In baseball, we Red Sox fans are more dissatisfied with our team than Marlins fans, Rockies fans, D-Rays fans, Nationals fans and Rangers fans. What the poll did on sports radio was confirm the national perception that Sox fans are self-loathing, unappreciative whiners. And while that may be the case to a degree, you can't tell me that Sox fans are less satisfied with their team than the Rangers or fucking D-Rays. Balderfuckingdash. The fact is that this ranking system is completely nonsensical. The categories polled about were perfectly reasonable measure of fan satisfaction. Things like loyalty to the fans, stadium experience, on-field effort, championships and championship expectations seem like fair measures of how satisfied you are with your team. The two additional objective categories obscure this statisfaction data, especially when given more fricking weight than the poll questions! Plus, the stadium experience already partly encapsulates cost of attendance. If it costs you a million dollars to go to a game, your experience will be worse than if you pay $10 and are able to move into the front row because no one's there. So why did ESPN add those categories? The reason is so teams like the Yanks, Sox & Cubs can be shown as having disproportionately "unsatisfied" fan bases despite the fact that all their games are sold out (ok, almost all of them). And since those fan bases are more vocal about their fandom than most other areas, this would spawn debate, emails and email forwarding and ultimately result in more website visits. Total BS. You can't tell me that Blue Jays fans are more satisfied with their piece of shit club than Yankees fans. I just don't believe it. Anyhoo, the system they have sucks and it could have been better if they'd just kept it to the subjective fan answer stuff without getting into cost of attendance and "bang for the buck." So here's what I did to solve this injustice: I took out the ticket costs and "bang for the buck" stat and put the list together based solely on fan answers the fan's gave. Next to each team is where they formerly resided on the list:

(7)White Sox
(26)Red Sox
(10)Blue Jays
(11)D Backs

To me, this seems like a more reasonable set of results. The Cards just won the whole thing, the Tigers were in the World Series and field a young and exciting team in a new stadium, the 'Stros underachieved to a degree but have shown a willingness to do whatever it takes to win and have a great stadium, and the Yanks, Sox and Cubs fall closer to where they should. This list accurately depicts how satisfied fans are with their favorite teams and ESPN had the necessary info to create this list until they f'd it up. Don't overthink it, ESPN. You were right the first time.

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