Small Market Fantasy Fans: A Hidden Advantage?

By  Last updated: 28th August 2008

Strange but true…the latest FFL data shows that small-market FFL teams actually win more home games than their league rivals from larger markets.

Consider first of all the relative size of each FFL team’s home media market:

1- New York (7,391,340 TV households)
2- Chicago (3,469,110)
3- Dallas (2,435,600)
4- Boston (2,393,960)
5- Atlanta (2,310,490)
6- Phoenix (1,802,550)
7- Miami (1,536,020)
8- Hartford & New Haven (1,007,490)
9- Kansas City (927,060)
10- Honolulu (424,010)
11- Charleston (294,230)
12- Billings (104,970)

This doesn’t give a complete rendering of each team’s home fan base. For example, the Blazers draw many fans from the Pacific Northwest. The Conquistadors attract a certain degree of the Los Angeles market due to their TV broadcast arrangements. Waikiki thrives on drawing in international tourists and has many fans on the California coast. And even New York is able to leverage the empty Philadelphia market to supplement their already robust income. By and large, though, these are good rough estimates of the population that each team has to draw on for annual ticket sales. New York and Chicago are the FFL’s two mega-markets. Dallas, Boston, Atlanta, Phoenix and Miami represent the league’s large to middle markets. Connecticut and Kansas City fall into a classification of small to medium markets, and Waikiki, Charleston, and Montana still remain as the league’s perennial small-market franchises.

Now consider the following rank of historical homefield advantage (1992-2007) from franchise to franchise. Each number indicates the team’s differential of home win percentage vs. road win percentage:

1- Charleston / New England (+0.123)
2- Montana (+0.070)
3- Kansas City (+0.044)
4- Connecticut (+0.042)
5- Dallas (+0.004)
6- Miami (-0.005)
7- New York (-0.009)
8- Waikiki (-0.010)
9- Boston (-0.016)
10- Chicago (-0.034)
11- Phoenix (-0.057)
12- Atlanta (-0.168)

The data illustrates that only four FFL teams — Charleston, Montana, Kansas City, and Connecticut — derive a significant advantage from playing in their home stadiums.  For the Charleston Challengers, residents of Waffle House Field, this advantage may translate out to up to one extra win per season.  Interestingly, these teams are also four of the five smallest markets in the FFL.  Waikiki is the lone exception among the small markets, as they don’t seem waffle houseto receive much of an advantage one way or the other when playing at home (a fact that could be due to their more hectic travel schedule, or simply the fact that they are a younger franchise than the others).

Dallas, Miami, New York, and Boston seem to play just as well (or poorly, given the year) at home or on the road.  Meanwhile, Chicago, Phoenix, and particularly Atlanta seem to thrive as road warriors.  Why their poor (relative) luck?  Anecdotal evidence suggests that the wind gusts off of Lake Michigan may cost Black Sox kickers game-deciding field goals every couple of years.  In Phoenix, the excessive heat at Dunkin Donuts Stadium might be the culprit in their losing an expected win every season or two.  In Atlanta, though, the team seems to inexplicably drop a home game nearly every year.  Conspiracy theorists will eagerly trump this up as more evidence of a deBoer curse.  However, Billings-Le Field (a.k.a. The Big B-Lay) also has notorious turf problems.  In the process of promoting their grind-it-out “Dirty South” playing aesthetic, the Big B-Lay has become infamous for its ragged playing surface.  The Predators’ field has finished dead last for six years in a row in player surveys of league turf quality.  Could a new FieldTurf surface in Hotlanta in 2009 be the key to their snapping their losing ways, or will they break the “curse” in 2008?

Then there is the matter of establishing a rationale for the small-market team success at home.  Charleston, Montana, Kansas City, and Connecticut are certainly known for their passionate fans.  Could sheer 12th man willpower be behind the success of these franchises at home?

Montana not only draws a remarkable percentage of Billings residents and fans in the state at large to its games, but it has a season ticket waiting list of over 20 years.  Their 2002 championship only increased the size of the tailgating tent city at Ball Field.  The Magic City is crazy about the Blazers, for sure, and it’s not just the Super Fan behind it.  Billings also features the harshest weather of any FFL locale — harsh cold and snowfall are a staple of November and December games in Montana.  Blazers players learn to tough it out and acclimate themselves to those gametime conditions — perhaps that in itself accounts for picking up a few extra wins over the years.

The Charleston fanbase — derived from an alliance of good-‘ol-boys and old city patriarchs — were somehow able to draw an already-small-market team from Springfield, Massachusetts to an even smaller (but much less competitive) market in 1995.  And they are rabid fantasy football fans, weaned on southern college football tradition.  Waffle House Field in particular may have the dual advantages of a raucous crowd as well as their infamous location abutting the Atlantic Ocean.  The swirling winds at the Waffle House are known to affect passes and field goal attempts alike.

Kansas City, despite being a small market, wisely cornered the market for “Middle America’s” fantasy football fans when it became an expansion team in 2000.  Today, folks stream in to Blockers home games from South Dakota to the Ozarks.  There’s no doubt either that the team has scored with Christian conservatives by shortening the team’s official moniker of “Cock Blockers” to just “Blockers” in all team marketing.  The 10-year-olds of Kansas City remain blissfully unaware that, every Sunday, they are subliminally rooting for the deterrence of sexual consummation.  Heck, even H&R Block has seen the merits of coupling tax preparation with fantasy football, paying the Blockers for a lucrative naming rights deal to their stadium.  Yet, even though the Blockers had a series of five horrible seasons from 2002-2006 (years that could kill many a franchise’s fanbase), the team built a tremendous early following by making the playoffs in their first two years.  Hope springs eternal in Kansas City, where the running duo of Adrian Peterson and Joseph Addai is sure to keep the turnstiles turning — and, we assume, further their winning ways at home.

And of course, Connecticut plays in the birthplace of the FFL itself.  Their fans come keyed up for every game, high on enthusiasm from their visits to the FFL Hall of Fame or the Benjamin Fleming Birthplace (he of the infamous “exploded wiffle ball” of city lore.  In recent seasons, the team has also benefited from having the poshest digs in the league, as the Neon Deli Coliseum can boast of the best field surface and locker rooms in the country.  Randy Moss once called the classic Palmer Field’s facilities a “stank-ass embarrassment,” and his criticisms of the Middletown dating scene added to the public furor that drove him out of town.  But even then, the Twins/Syndromes/Twins were able to pick up a few extra wins when playing at home.  Maybe it was something in the air or water.  Certainly, this interesting question deserves further research.

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Comments (4)

  1. Hendrik says:

    Don’t count out the benefits of having access to Fancy Lads groupies the Fuini twins available.

  2. benicio says:

    shut up rapist

  3. T says:

    Seriously, why was that article ever written?

  4. ZMan says:

    It’s FANTASY football. The next article is going to feature me, Neil Peterson, a vial of sweet rose water —

    and NO RULES


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