At the risk of putting "fair-weather fans" in the spotlight, a recent study has ranked all 32 NFL teams based on their fan loyalty. The study, by Emory professors Mike Lewis and Manish Tripathi, takes more of a business approach in its findings. The simplest way to explain Emory's study is to point out that attendance wasn't the main factor. They compiled large amounts of data to form projections on revenue. A team's on-field performance, market size, average income, and other factors were considered. Based on the information collected, Emory attempted to project what expected revenue should be. Whatever revenue resulted was compared with estimates, and the difference contributed to what Emory believes is an indication of how loyal each NFL team's fanbase is.
So where do the Cincinnati Bengals rank? Among the 32 NFL teams, the Bengals ranked 19th in fan loyalty.
Steve Watkins of the Cincinnati Business Courier highlighted how surprising it is that the Green Bay Packers are ranked at 14th. This also happened to be my first reaction. I grew up in a Packers household. I've been to Green Bay, surrounded by Packers fans in and around Lambeau Field. I find it hard to believe that a franchise with season ticket holders hoping to outlive the waiting list would fail to crack the top ten in fan loyalty. So, as Watkins succinctly puts it, perhaps the results are a bit "skewed."
I can't pretend to fully understand Emory's study inside and out. They're looking at the Bengals through the lenses of marketing analytics. Most of us see Bengals fan loyalty by shouting "Who dey!" to a fellow tailgater. We see fan loyalty by sharing in the euphoria of victory or offering therapy to one another during the agony of defeat. I won't argue that fan loyalty can't be quantified by numbers to a certain degree, and I don't doubt that Bengals fans aren't collectively the most dedicated bunch especially when considering the past twenty years.
It isn't surprising that most teams in the bottom ten of Emory's list have experienced abysmal seasons over the past several decades. In fact, when you look at some of the teams below the Bengals, Cincinnati fans have held together remarkably well when you consider the last two decades.
Whether you're a fan that has endured the Bengals for decades or a fan jumping on the bandwagon and conveniently purchasing your tickets for Paul Brown Stadium this season, there's no doubt that you have plenty of reasons to be excited about the Bengals in 2013.