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Old 05-25-2008, 04:40 AM
1,542 posts, read 5,392,959 times
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random question for the detroit sports fans on this board:

what is the most closely-followed professional sport in the detroit area or michigan in general? and by extension, which of the four major league teams (lions, tigers, pistons, red wings) is the most popular and/or receives the most media coverage locally?

i've been wondering about this recently, what with the pistons and red wings making deep playoff runs this season and looking like championship contenders (esp. the red wings). i've only been to detroit on a couple of very brief visits, so most of my knowledge of the area and its sports culture is limited to an outsider's perspective.

new york is IMO a baseball town first and foremost. same with boston and st. louis. philly, dallas, houston, and buffalo are football towns. pretty much anywhere in canada is hockey-mad, with all other sports of secondary interest by comparison.

but what about detroit? it seems like it's one of the only american cities in which the hockey team is at least as popular as the other local teams. in other sports-crazy u.s. cities, even if the hockey team has a rabid fanbase, it generally isn't as large or receive as much media attention as the other sports. new york is a perfect example, where hockey is clearly the fourth option after baseball, football, and basketball in local popularity.

are the red wings as popular - or more so - than the other detroit teams? or are they merely more popular in their home market relative to other u.s. hockey teams, but still second- or third-fiddle compared with the tigers/lions/pistons?
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Old 05-25-2008, 10:33 AM
Location: Burkina Faso
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I think in most American cities, football is the biggest sport, though New York is an exception to that. In Detroit, the football team has been weak for a long time, but there's also University of Michigan football which is a giant spectacle. Professional hockey is big in Detroit, as is basketball due to the strength of the teams. Relative to other cities, baseball is somewhat weak.

It's difficult to put things in an absolute rank, if that's what you wanted.
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Old 05-25-2008, 11:52 AM
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basically i was wondering if hockey, and the red wings in particular, are undisputedly #1 in detroit sports right now the way baseball is in ny, boston, and st. louis or football in philly, texas, and any number of other cities/states. i know things aren't always clear-cut, and maybe in detroit's case there isn't an obvious choice.

but most for most major cities, it seems that one of the four pro sports - or perhaps the local college team - gets disproportionately more attention from the fans as well as the media. so if there isn't a standout in this regard, then detroit would be an exception IMO.

also, i was wondering about the red wings' relative popularity because i can't think of any major american city in which the local nhl team dominates the headlines and sports talk radio chatter despite sharing the market with the nfl, mlb, and the nba. detroit's obviously on the border with ontario, canada and has a long and proud hockey tradition, so it occurred to me that the city might be the only american city in which the nhl was king.

Last edited by pbergen; 05-25-2008 at 12:02 PM..
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Old 05-25-2008, 12:04 PM
Location: Viña del Mar, Chile
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I'd say the wings are probably the biggest in Michigan, you will see more hockey fans in Detroit/Michigan than probably most other places in the United States.
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Old 05-25-2008, 12:12 PM
Location: Burkina Faso
421 posts, read 626,175 times
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I looked up some numbers.

The Detroit Red Wings actually have the least revenues and lowest valuation of Detroit's big 4 sports franchises.

As crap as they are, the Detroit Lions are actually by far the king in terms of value (more than the Pistons and Lions put together), and revenues (just exceeding the Tigers).

#21 Detroit Lions - Forbes.com
#19 Detroit Tigers - Forbes.com
#6 Detroit Pistons - Forbes.com
#3 Detroit Red Wings - Forbes.com

The ranks reflect the relative positions of the teams within their leagues. So even though the Lions rank poorly amongst football teams, the fact that pro-football is such a big money maker still puts them on top with respect to stronger teams within their sports like the Pistons and Red Wings.

So in Detroit, it's roughly football, baseball, basketball, then hockey in that order, at least from a money standpoint. I would say that in general this reflects the immense popularity of pro-football in America, and baseball's long standing reputation for being America's national sport. Perhaps issues like stadium size (with basketball and hockey having small indoor arenas) also factors into it.
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Old 05-25-2008, 12:54 PM
Location: Phoenix,AZ
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Just a guess, but I did live in the Detroit area for 20+ years.

1. Hockey

Even during the "lean" days of the Wings, many diehard fans. Knowledgable about the game too. I would say most folks know the history of octopus tossin' and the meaning behind it. Very popular with youth leagues, high schools, etc.

2. Football

Even though the Lions are terrible, they still sell out regularly at Ford Field. A lot of televisions tuned in on Sunday, even though the channel prob'ly gets changed by the middle of the third quarter. Saturdays are HUGE in Ann Arbor & East Lansing. Another popular sport for youth leagues & high schools.

3. Baseball

Many fair weather fans. I always found it kinda hard to sit in the house & watch the game when MI summer kicks in. The Tigers do rather well for day games on Sundays.

4. Basketball

I may be wrong, but it's more like a "cult" sport in Detroit. Kinda like hockey out here in Phoenix.
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Old 05-25-2008, 01:32 PM
Location: Michigan
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ESPN and Versus were all over Detroit last night, in a positive way. They called it titletown and showed great skyline shots. All three games yesterday were sold out, so basically people in Detroit and Michigan love their sports.
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Old 05-28-2008, 06:56 PM
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No wonder Detroit is one of my favorite places to be! Hockey's a cult sport in SoCal (I'm not a native here, but I sure miss hockey being popular!), so it's nice to see hockey and basketball reversed there.
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Old 05-29-2008, 01:27 PM
Location: Tokyo
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I grew up in Massachusetts where all pro sports, in particular baseball but the others as well, are taken very seriously, almost too seriously. And as everyone knows, Boston fans are as obnoxious as they are knowledgeable (but I still root for my Boston teams!). Compared to that, Detroit fans seem to have the knowledge without the smugness.
I would agree that hockey in Detroit is probably more popular than in any other U.S. city, and the fact that the Wings have won more Stanley Cups than any other U.S. team, and are third among all teams after Montreal (of course) and Toronto somewhat attest to this popularity, although there is an element of chicken-and-egg.
That doesn't necessarily make it the hottest ticket in town all the time although they are right now obviously the biggest draw up 2-1 in the Stanley Cup finals. The Wings have to some extent become the victim of complacency in the past few years not among the players but among the fans. The economy has also played a role. As many here know, there were lots of empty seats this year well into the playoffs in spite of winning the President's trophy.
Baseball has dropped way off too after the Tigers raised everybody's hopes in '06 only to get progressively worse in each year since, though this season is far from over. But with the small capacity of Comerica Park (for how long does the Comerica Bank of Dallas have naming rights??) the number of empty seats are still not huge.
As others have noted football always sells out, but that may also be a function of there being a mere 8 home games a season in one of pro football's smaller parks. U of M and State are also big draws. I don't quite understand this, especially U of M's popularity since it seems that half the student body and most of the football players are from out of state anyway.
Basketball is a little weird. It seems that the Pistons are everyone's second favorite Detroit team, but not the first. It seems to have a strong following but with a strangely low profile.
As usual from me, a long post that goes nowhere. If I had to rank them, I'd say the following:
1. Hockey has the most rabid, loyal and knowledgeable fan base even if they don't spend a lot of money on tickets or paraphernalia
2. Everybody has a Tigers hat
3. The Pistons are consistent winners and reflect Detroit's "bad boy" street image even if they do play out in Auburn Hills
4. The Lions sell out because there is no college football on Sunday, and the only place you'll ever see a Lions jersey or jacket is at Ford Field on game day.
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Old 05-29-2008, 10:58 PM
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that's really interesting that the pistons and pro basketball have somewhat of a niche following in detroit - popular without ever receiving top billing in town. i don't know if that reflects a "like" instead of "love" for the team specifically, the nba in general, or both. but either way, the situation is not dissimilar to nyc, where i'm from - even during the peak years of the patrick ewing era or the late '60s/early '70s, the knicks were never the most popular team in town despite having a large fanbase. i wonder if any of this has to do with the fact that the other three leagues (mlb, nfl, nhl) were well-established in both detroit and nyc by the time the nba started up in the mid-1940s. contrast this with a sunbelt city like phoenix, which is a much newer region whose first pro sports team was the suns (nba); perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, then, that the nba is #1 in that town to this day.

seems like detroit might be the only city/metro area in the u.s. in which hockey is the most popular of the "big four" professional sports. that's really interesting. i know these things can sometimes shift over the years, but i can't imagine hockey ever leapfrogging over baseball, football, or even basketball in popularity in nyc.

also, i've always assumed detroit was a great baseball town because of the tigers' long history and relative success compared with the lions, not to mention a historic stadium (which i'm sorry to see go). but at least based on your responses, it seems there's no clear-cut #2 sport in town after hockey.

maybe the pistons aren't quite the top team in town because prior to the isiah/laimbeer/dumars era, they were never a good team? meaning that perhaps the older generation had very little interest in the nba compared with people born in the mid-70s and later? or am i totally wrong on this?
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