Fifty states filled with professional and collegiate fanbases in mountains, deserts, hills, swamps, metropolises, farms, and every environment you can think of make up this star-spangled country, and all of them have a favorite sport that stands just a bit above the rest when you take the state as a whole.
Whether it’s the SEC-crazy South or the baseball-rich big-city California and New York, or the college basketball-first Kentuckians, let’s take a look sport-by-sport:
Favorite: Texas, Delaware, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, Florida, Wisconsin, Maryland, Wyoming, Virginia
Strong Runner-Up: Pretty much everywhere else
Largest U.S. Fanbase: Dallas Cowboys
Most Passionately NFL-first State: Wisconsin
Favorite: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia
Strong Runner-Up: Ohio, Florida, Iowa
Largest U.S. Fanbase: Ohio State Buckeyes
Most Passionately CFB-first State: Alabama
Favorite: Missouri, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Alaska, Nevada
Strong Runner-Up: Minnesota, Connecticut, New York, North Dakota, Michigan, Illinois
Largest U.S. Fanbase: Chicago Blackhawks
Most Passionately NHL-first State: Massachusetts
Favorite: New York, California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey
Strong Runner-Up: Missouri, Maryland, Massachusetts, Texas
Largest U.S. Fanbase: New York Yankees
Most Passionately MLB-first State: New York
Favorite: Utah, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado
Strong Runner-Up: California, Wisconsin
Largest U.S. Fanbase: Los Angeles Lakers
Most Passionately NBA-first State: Utah
Favorite: Kentucky, North Carolina
Strong Runner-Up: Indiana, Kansas
Largest U.S. Fanbase: Kentucky Wildcats
Most Passionately CBB-first State: Kentucky
Here’s the overall breakdown:
College Football: 12
College Basketball: 2
The NFL and college football are king in U.S. sports, say all you want about baseball’s place as “the national pastime,” and the NFL tends to rope in any state without a specific, brand-name team from another sport that carries the state. It’s never been able to take the SEC out of the South, with Florida being the only state with an SEC school to prefer the pros to college.
Professional hockey comes in a surprising third, holding a strong hold on New England, the Great North, and Missouri, whose love for their St. Louis Blues is stronger than the St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs. Nevada’s also really enjoyed their new Golden Knights, though I wonder if they’re starting to drop them for Allegiant Stadium’s Raiders instead.
The Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Cubs, White Sox, and other flagship MLB clubs have largely kept their states from falling under the football trance, and while not very many states call themselves “baseball states,” the ones that do are ginormous and home to some of America’s biggest cities.
College basketball has a unique hold on Kentucky and North Carolina that’s held off all the other sports over the decades with their teams’ unique roles in the two states. Kentucky has no pro teams, and the UK-U of L rivalry has made the entire state a college hoops state rather than just the Lexington area. While North Carolina has some pro teams, the state is full of hoops rivalries and traditions in every corner with not just Duke and UNC but also NC State and Wake Forest in the ACC.
Which sport is biggest in your hometown, and what rivalries and franchises and schools dominate the calendar where you live?