NFL Fandom Post-Mortem

Football fans that we are, after an incredibly lopsided Super Bowl, we need a little bit of NFL fun before we let football go into hibernation for another six months.  So let’s take a look at how football fans broke down across the country during the NFL Playoffs this year.  Facebook compiled this data last year, and we shared it then, you might recall.  It was an amazing set of maps, shading each county by what team had the most fans of that team on Facebook in that county, and then doing the same for each round of the Playoffs.  They did it a little differently this time, shading the counties by percentage of fans for a specific team in a specific game in the Playoffs.  Just like last time, there’s some weird stuff in there, like random pockets of Seahawks fans in South Jersey, so let’s dive right in and have some fun!

DIVISIONAL ROUND - SAINTS AT SEAHAWKS

DIVISIONAL ROUND – SAINTS AT SEAHAWKS

DIVISIONAL ROUND - COLTS AT PATRIOTS

DIVISIONAL ROUND – COLTS AT PATRIOTS

DIVISIONAL ROUND - 49ERS AT PANTHERS

DIVISIONAL ROUND – 49ERS AT PANTHERS

DIVISIONAL ROUND - CHARGERS AT BRONCOS

DIVISIONAL ROUND – CHARGERS AT BRONCOS

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME -  49ERS AT SEAHAWKS

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – 49ERS AT SEAHAWKS

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP - PATRIOTS AT BRONCOS

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP – PATRIOTS AT BRONCOS

SUPER BOWL XLVIII - SEAHAWKS AT BRONCOS

SUPER BOWL XLVIII – SEAHAWKS AT BRONCOS

 

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A Brief History of the Super Bowl

As huge football fans, we here at Joseph’s Custom Clothiers excitedly watched yesterday’s Super Bowl XLVII.  It turned out to be another great game, even with the half hour-long power outage!  Congratulations are, of course, due to the Baltimore Ravens on their stunning win!

And their epic confetti angels.

And their epic confetti angels.

This 47th iteration of the Super Bowl marks a special point for the NFL.  There has officially been a Super Bowl at the end of the majority of NFL seasons now.  For 46 years, there was an NFL with no Super Bowl, something that’s almost impossible to think of now!  After 47 years of the “Big Game,” it’s easy to take the over-the-top spectacle of the event for granted.  It feels like there’s always been a Super Bowl, and that they’ve always been these huge meta events.  Of course, that’s far from the truth.  Last year, we posted a blog entry about the history of Super Bowl halftime shows, and how they went from Up With People and college marching bands to Madonna and Black Eyed Peas and massive pyrotechnic displays.  But that’s just scratching the surface of the changes…

Going all the way back, the Super Bowl was created for a very specific reason: competition.  From the NFL’s founding in 1920 up until the 1960s, there simply wasn’t another football league that could compete with the NFL’s total dominance of the sport in North America.  Any league that tried was either shuttered, or absorbed into the NFL.  But then along came the American Football League, or AFL, in 1960, who, instead of just trying to be another football league, tried new and unique rule changes and quirks to make themselves a legitimate companion league to the NFL.  The NFL and the AFL clashed mightily for six years, before finally deciding that the endless battling for players and fans was just hurting both of their bottom lines, and that they would both be better served by merging.  Combining the 16-team NFL with the 10-team AFL would take some time, though, and so a special championship game was created, to be played between the champions of both leagues, in order to get the public familiar with the idea of the two sets of teams competing directly until the actual merger in 1970.

The first Super Bowl was played at the end of the 1966 Season, between the NFL champion Green Bay Packers, and the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs.  It wasn’t known as the Super Bowl at first.  It was officially the “First AFL-NFL World Championship Game.”  That…  Doesn’t really roll off the tongue.

500px-Super_Bowl_I_Logo

Or lend itself to stunningly attractive logo design…

But in a letter to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, the Chiefs’ owner Lamar Hunt wrote, “I have kiddingly called it the ‘Super Bowl,’ which obviously can be improved upon.”  The media, for obvious reasons, liked this name a lot better, and by the third game at the end of the 1968 Season, it had become official.  Hilariously, Rozelle’s first choice for an official name was “The Big One.”

Over the years, the growth of the Super Bowl from a relatively minor, even ignored sports event to the multimedia juggernaut of today is truly staggering.

Super Bowls have gone from this…

blogSpanTo this!

020313_sbusa1Super Bowl halftime shows have gone from this…

Pictured: $4,000 worth of entertainment.

To this!

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Super Bowl cheerleaders have gone from this…

1971-cheerleaderTo this!

super-bowl-xxvi-cowboys-cheerleaderSuper Bowl rings have gone from this…

Super-Bowl-ITo this!

Super-Bowl-XLVSuper Bowl fans have gone from this…

jets-fans2To this!

130203194447-fans-op6p-26163-mid-single-image-cutAnd Super Bowl winners have gone from this…

09000d5d8184d551_gallery_600To this!

gty_ravens_won_kb_130203_wblogBigger!  Bolder!  Louder!  Everything about the game, from top to bottom, has grown in leaps and bounds over the years.  The first Super Bowl couldn’t even sell out the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with $12 tickets.  Current tickets are usually well into the four-digit range for the nosebleeds, and are sold out far in advance.

In many ways, the Super Bowl’s gradual explosion in popularity can be attributed to two people.  One was Bill Walsh, who popularized the West Coast Offense with the 49ers in the ’80s, and turned what was before a slower, more defensive-minded game into a much more fast-paced and exciting sport, which appealed far more to the masses.  The other person was Joe Namath.

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This guy.

His famous “guarantee” that the Jets would defeat the overwhelmingly favored Colts in Super Bowl III brought enormous attention to the game on its own.  The fact that he and the Jets actually pulled it off was so shocking, it completely changed the way people thought about the AFL teams, which became the core of the new AFC, and the way people thought of the Super Bowl.  People started watching because of “Broadway” Joe.

Some quirks about the game that have coalesced over the years…

  • Super Bowl Sunday, practically a national holiday in its own right, is the second biggest grilling day of the year after Independence Day.
  • 1.23 billion chicken wings are consumed on Super Bowl Sunday.
  • 49.2 million cases of beer are drunk on Super Bowl Sunday.
  • Last year’s Super Bowl XLVI was not only the most watched Super Bowl of the 47, it was the most watched broadcast in US history, with approximately 111.3 million viewers.  What’s more, of the top 10 rated broadcasts in US history, nine of them are Super Bowls (the tenth was the last episode of “M*A*S*H”).
  • 30-second Super Bowl ads cost $3.8 million a piece this year.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers have the most Super Bowl wins, with 6, and are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for most appearances in a Super Bowl, with 8 each.
  • The Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Dallas Cowboys is the most common Super Bowl matchup, having been the focus of three Super Bowls (X, XIII, XXX)
  • The Buffalo Bills have the ignominious honor of having both the most consecutive appearances in a Super Bowl, with 4 (XXV, XXVI, XXVII, XXVIII), as well as being tied for the most Super Bowl losses, namely those 4 games.  The Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots have also lost 4 Super Bowls, but not in a row!  The Bills also hold the record for committing the most turnovers in a Super Bowl, with 9 in Super Bowl XXVII.
  • Joe Montana was named Super Bowl MVP more than anyone else, 3 out of his 4 Super Bowl appearances (XVI, XIX, XXIV).
  • The Mercedes-Benz Superdome has hosted the Super Bowl more times than any other stadium, 7 times.
  • The oldest person to play in a Super Bowl was Colts kicker Matt Stover in Super Bowl XLIV, who was 42 years, 11 days old at the time.
  • The biggest blowout in super Bowl history was the 49ers’ 55-10 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XXIV.
  • The closest game in Super Bowl history was the Giants’ 20-19 victory over the Bills in Super Bowl XXV.
  • While teams have won back-to-back Super Bowls 8 times, no one has ever won 3-in-a-row.
  • Only 4 of the NFL’s 32 teams have never been in a Super Bowl, the Cleveland Browns, the Detroit Lions, the Houston Texans and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
  • No team has ever come back from being down by more than 10 points in a Super Bowl and won the game.
  • The most points scored by in one Super Bowl was in Super Bowl XXIX, when the 49ers and Chargers scored 75 points combined.
  • The most attended Super Bowl was the 103,985 attendance of Super Bowl XIV, thanks to the massive capacity of the Rose Bowl.
  • There has never been a shutout in the Super Bowl.
  • There has never been a Super Bowl that went into overtime.
  • 14 of the league’s 32 teams have yet to win a Super Bowl.
  • The home team alternates year-to-year between the two Conferences, with the AFC team being the home team in odd-numbered Super Bowls, and vice versa for the NFC team.
  • No team has ever played the Super Bowl in its home stadium.
  • The NFC team won every single Super Bowl from Super Bowl XIX to Super Bowl XXXI.

Expansion, Contraction and Relocation (Not of Waistlines)

Let’s go off topic, and talk sports!  In case it wasn’t extremely obvious, we’re big football fans around these parts.  Being based in the New York area, location of NFL Headquarters, and within 200 miles of 6 different NFL teams’ stadiums, we’re right in the middle of the action every season. The only way we could be in a more football-centric location would be if we opened a showroom inside the Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio!  And, of course, as we have made no secret, we’ve made suits for many current and previous NFL players and personalities, and we have pals at every level of American Football.

We’re kind of a big deal. People know us.

So, yes, we watch a lot of football, and we get invested in the insanely complicated rules, the crazy draft and trade processes, injury reports, logo designs, Super Bowl host city debates, all of it.  But the one subject that has always fascinated us, and has inspired some moments of truly intense passion/hate, is the relocation of teams, and the expansion of the NFL through new teams.

The NFL is, without a doubt, one of the stablest sports leagues in history.  That might have something to do with all of those “record profits” we keep hearing about.  The NFL hasn’t contracted, that is to say, shuttered a team, since 1952.  The other three major sports leagues in North America have all come close in the interim, and none of them expanded at anywhere near the speed, or with the success, that the NFL did.  This stability extends to relocation, too.  When a team moves to a new city, it’s almost always an extremely acrimonious affair that utterly breaks the hearts of the city being abandoned.  Multiple NBA, NHL and MLB teams have all relocated in the past few years, while the last NFL relocation was in 1997, with only another four going back to the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 (six if you count the Raiders leaving Oakland and then coming back).  Relocation is serious business for the League, and expanding into a new market is always a risky affair, threatening to dilute the talent of the player base nationally.

Behold the 50-team NFL!

However, there are some glaring gaps in the current NFL map, and the NFL’s incredible stability means it very well could handle another expansion or two in the near future.  To that end, let’s prognosticate, and look at where teams might be added, what teams are in danger of leaving and to where, and what teams actually started somewhere else (some of these are VERY surprising).

WHO’S FROM WHERE?

You hear the words “Chicago Bears” and it sounds downright eternal.  Meanwhile, say the word “Oilers” to someone under 25, and they’ll likely stare at you blankly.  Most of the older, legacy teams in the NFL started out somewhere else than where they are now.  In some cases, even their team name changed!  And yes, some of you reading this are nodding your heads sagely, saying, “OF COURSE I know the Rams were originally from Los Angeles.”  Yes, they were.  By way of Cleveland.  Like we said, there’s been a lot of moving over the years.  Ignoring all of the old, small market teams that defined the early NFL and mostly closed up shop (the Packers are the only one of these left with the same name and city as back then), let’s go over who’s actually who here.

  • The Chicago Bears were the Chicago Staleys were the Decatur Staleys (what the heck is a “Staley”?)
  • The Arizona Cardinals were the Phoenix Cardinals were the St. Louis Cardinals were the Chicago Cardinals
  • The San Diego Chargers were the Los Angeles Chargers (yes, L.A. lost even more teams over the years)
  • The Kansas City Chiefs were the Dallas Texans
  • The Indianapolis Colts were the Baltimore Colts (do not mention the name “Irsay” within 50 miles of Baltimore if you value your life)
  • The Detroit Lions were the Portsmouth Spartans
  • The New England Patriots were the Boston Patriots
  • The Oakland Raiders were the Los Angeles Raiders were the Oakland Raiders (we swear Al Davis was just messing with the League here)
  • The St. Louis Rams were the Los Angeles Rams were the Cleveland Rams
  • The Baltimore Ravens were the Cleveland Browns…  Sort of (do not mention the name “Modell” within 50 miles of Cleveland if you value your life)
  • The Washington Redskins were the Boston Redskins were the Boston Braves
  • The Tennessee Titans were the Tennessee Oilers were the Houston Oilers

And, just to make your head spin more, the New York Jets began life as the New York Titans, and the Pittsburgh Steelers started out as the Pittsburgh Pirates.  And we haven’t even mentioned the plethora of now defunct teams from back in the day!

Obamacare is easier to understand.

WHO’S GOING WHERE?

Now, on to the meat and potatoes.  What teams are in danger of leaving, and where might they go?

Buffalo Bills

Buffalo has lost huge portions of its population over the years, just like the rest of the Rust Belt.  But combine that with Buffalo’s poor economy and intense, agonizingly painful football history (even the Cigarette Smoking Man plots against them), and you have problems.  The Buffalo fan base is dedicated, though, even with four years of Super Bowl hell.  But the team is not profitable.  Seats at Ralph Wilson Stadium are the cheapest tickets in the league, and the merchandise is among the poorest-selling.  But the biggest issue here is that the owner, Ralph Wilson, is 93.  And though he has no intention of moving the team, when he’s gone, the next owner likely won’t feel the same way.

Where might they go?

Toronto: “It’s Like Albany, But Cleaner”

Believe it or not, The Great White North.  As the only major North American league in just one country, the NFL desperately wants to expand into Canada, CFL or no, and they’ve been testing the waters by having the Bills play a Regular Season game in Toronto yearly, soon to be two games.  And Toronto is a good sports town, as well as the fifth largest city in North America.  The writing is on the wall here.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The NFL may have made a mistake when they awarded one of the two new 1995 expansion teams to Jacksonville.  Jacksonville is a big city only on paper, with most of the metro population spread across a huge, mostly rural area.  Meanwhile, Florida already has two other NFL teams with built-in fan bases, and North Florida is far more interested in college football, like the rest of the Deep South, than the mostly Northern-transplant-populated South Florida.  Add in seventeen years of near-futility, and you end up with a partly empty stadium for every game, resulting in local blackouts, where people in Jacksonville can’t even watch their own team!

Where might they go?

San Antonio! You could do worse!

The second biggest American city without an NFL franchise, San Antonio has been on the NFL’s radar for some time.  After Katrina made the Saints temporarily vulnerable, a definite effort was made by the city to lure the team from New Orleans.  Texas is football-crazy as a rule, and has more than enough people to support three teams.

Oakland Raiders

Al Davis’ death has made an already tenuous situation more unstable.  The Raiders now play in the second oldest stadium in the league (after the storied Lambeau Field), share a media market with a more popular team (the 49ers), and have years of bad blood with the city government in Oakland.  Davis, infamous curmudgeon that he was, made no secret of mulling over departing Oakland for greener pastures, just as he did for the exact same reasons in 1980 and 1981, before he took off for Los Angeles in 1982.

…After suing the entire NFL when they wouldn’t let him go. Say what you will, the man had chutzpah.

Where might they go?

Los Angeles. No, seriously.

Wait, what?  Really?  BACK to Los Angeles?  After going BACK to Oakland FROM Los Angeles?  Good God, Al Davis is flipping off the League from beyond the grave!

All kidding aside, L.A. has been without a team since 1995, when BOTH of its teams split at the same time.  Los Angeles is the second biggest city and media market in the United States, third biggest on the continent.  You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but the League has been dragging its heels for years.  The more cynical amongst us have suggested this is deliberate, in order to use L.A. as a club with which to frighten cities into ponying up for new stadiums and facilities, lest their team bolt for L.A.  The less cynical opinion is that A, there’s no stadium of sufficient size and modernity in the area, and B, the NFL wasn’t exactly a slam dunk last time.  L.A. is not a sports town, it’s an entertainment town, and the teams that succeed there, like the Dodgers and Lakers, understand that, and use it.  The NFL didn’t.  But this is a much richer, flashier NFL than back then, and they’d be fools to pass up such a gigantic market.  And there is a solid stadium proposal with backing from the City of Los Angeles on the table.  Stay tuned.

St. Louis Rams

The Rams have been having a terrible few years.  Bad season after bad season.  Losing their longtime owner and hometown girl, Georgia Frontiere.  Winding up in a new, but poorly designed and perpetually dark stadium.  Being based in another one of those drying up Rust Belt cities, this one best known for its rampant crime problems.  Rumbles that they’d leave St. Louis have been circulating for a while now, especially as fan support erodes.  Quite a sad state for what was briefly “The Greatest Show on Turf.”

Where might they go?

Yep.

Oh, come on, really?  Them too?  What, did the Rams and Raiders just want to make L.A. jealous?

Honorable (dishonorable?) mentions go to the Minnesota Vikings and the San Diego Chargers.  The Vikings have been struggling with a stadium on the verge of falling apart, and if the state refuses to build a new one, there could be a relocation in their future, but we really don’t see the NFL allowing one of its popular “old guard” franchises to end up somewhere else.  But then, we thought the same thing about the “old” Browns.  As for the Chargers, they too suffer from placement in one of the oldest and most decrepit stadiums in the League.  And, just like in Minnesota, it all depends on the government building a new one.  But also like the Vikings, we’d be shocked if they actually moved.

WHO’S GETTING A NEW TEAM?

First of all, as we said, expansion is unlikely in the near future, but possible.  There are quite a few markets the NFL wants to be in, and we highly doubt that all four of the teams above will move.  Los Angeles, San Antonio and Toronto all want teams.  The League wants them to have teams.  But who else could support a brand new franchise?  And there’s a definite limit here on the number of new teams that could be created: too many would dilute football talent, and the League is loathe to ruin its perfect 4x4x4x4 Conference structure.  But if they did go ahead with it, these are the most obvious choices, discounting the ones above.

Columbus: Could Ohio support three teams?  Probably not, but Columbus is exploding, and has a fantastic sports tradition, albeit at the collegiate level.

Las Vegas: The largest city in America without a single “major league” sports team, Las Vegas is ripe for expansion, but its recent housing market collapse and population of mostly transplants does not a solid fan base make.

London: No, we aren’t crazy, the NFL itself has suggested this madhouse of an idea.  The International Series played yearly at Wembley Stadium seems to be just for the purpose of testing the concept, and the Londoners have been very receptive.  The biggest city in Europe, full of loyal, sports-crazed fans?  Perfect!  …Except for the logistical nightmares involved.  How on Earth would, for instance, the 49ers deal with a road game eight hours ahead, with a ten-hour flight in each direction?  And while the British love one game a year, would they REALLY support sixteen?

Oklahoma City: Another exploding Sun Belt city, OKC has been bit by the sports bug of late, with the NBA’s Thunder moving into town from Seattle a few years ago.  The support seems to be there, but the city is close (in Plains State terms) to Dallas, and Oklahoma is a state dominated by high school and college football.  Time will tell here.

So, there you have it, the past, present and future of the NFL in one neat package.  Now…  Where’s our snazzy futuresports?  Come on, people, it’s 2012!  Where’s our Rollerball?  Our Velocity?  The gigantic Laser Tag arenas those commercials in the ’80s promised us?

We’re STILL waiting for the National Thunderdome League.