The other day I wrote about a Fox Sports fan-vote-generated poll that awarded the Cleveland Browns the distinction of having the best fan base in the NFL. While neither here nor there, what that ultimately proves is that their fan base was the most willing to engage in a Twitter poll over sustained rounds.
Obviously a lot of people are going to disagree—namely the fan bases of the 31 other teams—but it’s not uncommon for the Pittsburgh Steelers to be cited as having the best fan base, for a number of different reasons. Colin Cowherd agreed with that, and listed the reasons.
“Let me give you some images…in terms of fan participation”, he said. “The Steelers lead the NFL in tickets sold for visiting teams. The Terrible Towel. Maybe you’ve seen it at Super Bowls, where they’ve literally turned Super Bowls, which are supposed to be neutral fields, into homefield advantages”.
Sorry Browns fans pic.twitter.com/GhL56Sl6xD
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) April 11, 2019
It’s been a while since the Steelers haven’t sold out a game—not that there are never empty seats—but suffice it to say that their games have never been at risk of being blacked out. And there is a reason that they have five primetime games, the maximum allotted amount, almost every year.
“No team in the NFL—it’s almost collegiate—travels to as many road games as Steeler fans. Nobody’s close in the NFL. Steeler Nation”, Cowherd went on. “By the way, several years ago, in San Diego, the Chargers hosted the Steelers. Philip Rivers, San Diego’s quarterback, had to go to the silent count, at home, because there were so many Steeler fans in San Diego”.
Cowherd went on to list the criterion he would use for determining the best fan base, including size, loyalty, length, and impact—do the fans force teams to audible, call timeouts, etc.—and said that in a ranking of the top 10 fan bases, the Steelers are on top, and he’s not even sure if there is anybody close.
“So I don’t buy that Cleveland has the best fans. I think Cleveland has low self-esteem with its football franchise, so they rushed to a Twitter poll and filled it out’, he said. Perhaps overly harsh—then again, that is part of his job, to be unnecessarily emphatic—but is it true?
Personally, I think it’s hard to weigh the Browns’ fan base objectively because of their virtually uniquely bad run over the past 20 years and beyond. No fan base has had to deal with such awful performances o the field with incompetent coaches, and owners. If the Steelers were run the same way, they probably wouldn’t be selling out games either. Even at the end of Chuck Noll’s career, they still remained respectable while missing the postseason.
Regardless of how amazing Cleveland’s fan base is, it should be a harder place to play this year for both on-field reasons and because of the crowd that it figures to generate as they have more reason for hope than they have had since Art Modell owned the team.