Let's talk about baseball towns. Wait, no, let's talk about true baseball towns. Josh Hamilton opened his yapper on Sunday, and made some unfortunate comments during an interview with a Dallas-Ft. Worth newscaster:
In an interview that aired Sunday night on CBS-11, Hamilton told Gina Miller that "there are true baseball fans [in Dallas-Fort Worth], but it’s not a true baseball town."
Ooh, that seems inflammatory. It's talk-radio fodder for sure, and people on the Twitters and Internets were a little disgruntled. Over at Hardball Talk, Craig Calcaterra listed which sports garnered the most attention in each of the major-league cities, and it led to a rather lively discussion. People seem to care about this.
So let's dive in. The first question: Do more people in Texas care about football more than baseball? Before you answer, please note that this was a giveaway at Rangers Ballpark in 2011:
The prosecution doesn't rest, but it's sitting down with its arms crossed and a smug look on its face. And if you're not convinced by a single promotional giveaway, here's another 1,000-word entry:
By Aerial Photography, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons
That's a high-school football stadium in Texas. My high-school football team played in a rabbit burrow by candlelight. If you want to know how important football is in Texas, look at how much they care about their high-school stadiums, much less their college and professional programs. Every time I meet a woman from Texas, I just assume that she's like the Frances McDormand character in Lone Star.
So if a "true baseball town" can only be an area that cares more about baseball than football, well, sorry Dallas-Ft. Worth. You're NOT a TRUE BASEBALL TOWN.
Except it's useless to get binary with this stuff. True baseball towns, football towns … it's all arbitrary. And passion for one doesn't preclude passion for another. To explain what I mean, here are some pie charts:
Oh, we love our sports here in America, alright. The cameras love to cut to people with crazy costumes and face paint. Look at those sports nuts! Aren't they nutty … about sports?
But here's how seriously people take their football in the rest of the world, for just one example.
That has to do with an Argentinian club getting relegated, and it's relatively mild. Search YouTube for soccer riots, and you'll find some real doozies. When it comes to how seriously most of the world takes soccer, that's when you can start using the binary labels to describe how a city feels about a sport. If it's not soccer, it doesn't matter.
When it comes to football and baseball in America, though, there is crazy left to give. The crazy that Texas has for football doesn't preclude the state from distributing most of the leftover crazy to other sports. And if the definition of "real baseball town" is expanded to mean "a place that unquestionably supports its baseball team, as measured by attendance and television ratings", Dallas-Ft. Worth measures up with just about any area in baseball.
2012: 3.5 million (2nd in AL)
2011: 2.9 million (5th)
2010: 2.5 million (5th)
2009: 2.2 million (8th)
2008: 1.9 million (11th)
The 2008 attendance came when the Rangers had finished under .500 in eight of the previous nine seasons, missing the playoffs every year. Actually, the Rangers had finished over .500 in just 15 of their 41 seasons in Texas to that point. Yet they still drew close to two million fans, which used to be something of an enviable benchmark. Once they started their recent run of success, the fans responded and made each of the 81 home games something of an event.
Is baseball bigger than football in Dallas-Ft. Worth? No. Is baseball in Dallas-Ft. Worth a thriving enterprise, even compared with every other market in the game? Unquestionably, yes. If I had to guess, I'd wager that there's a little more sports-related crazy in the average Texas sports fan, but instead of being funneled toward a single sport, it's distributed a little more evenly.
And that means Rangers fans probably don't need to worry about Josh Hami ... oh, right, they've already forgotten about him. The Rangers might not play in a baseball-dominated town, but they certainly play in a true baseball town. Figuring out how much more the average person cares about football is missing the point.