Do You Like Fun? Then Follow These Teams, Says Data

New data from scientists at Berkeley conjures up a few surprises

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Donovan Mitchell / Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images

Recently, UC Berkeley’s online masters in data science program decided to tackle the big question: Which pro sports team is the best team to follow? They focused on four major categories—ticket pricing, best “deal” relative to how often the team wins, overall cost for fans, and best of all, which teams are the “most fun.” Their findings are here, and they are compelling.

Some findings in the study adhere to common perception. For instance, ticket prices in bigger markets are higher than prices in smaller ones, due to the relative demand and average prices overall in those markets. (The average ticket price at a New York Knicks game is $128; the average price at an Indiana Pacers game is $32). When it comes to the best “deal” category, the teams on the “good deal” side of the spectrum tend to be smaller market teams (Pittsburgh, Memphis, Kansas City) that win a lot, where the “bad deal” teams are almost unanimously based in Los Angeles, New York or Chicago, with the exception of Toronto and Vancouver, two of the top five NHL markets.

In general, the data scientists do the Lord’s work with this sweeping study, in particular the chart that visualizes pro sports teams’ value based on the market in which they reside. But the most fun one to pull apart is—get this—“most fun.” From a statistics perspective, getting to the bottom of which pro sports teams are the most fun to experience live is an admirable task, mostly because the concept of “fun” isn’t really quantifiable. But the UC Berkeley team casts that concern aside like an empty Solo cup and goes for it, pulling in the variables “stadium fullness,” “cost of beer,” and “ticket price.”

Now, it’s not necessary to drink in order to have fun at a sports event, but I respect UC Berkeley’s use of a variable like “cost of beer” as an attempt to bottle some of the more intangible aspects of a great experience. That being said, the “most fun” victor in the NBA category is a stunner—Utah, whose team is located in the center of beerless Mormon culture. The Jazz! Oklahoma City, one of the NBA’s smallest markets whose team wins a ton, took second.

The other leagues’ most fun teams are less surprising, if interesting. The NFL’s “most fun” team is Atlanta (cheap concessions, packed new stadium) and the MLB’s champion is the St. Louis Cardinals (cheap, win a lot, cheap beer). In the NHL it’s Dallas, who consistently fill their stadium. So if you want to enjoy sports, as in, have a fun, less disillusioning time supporting your team, choose one that aligns with the data. It never fails.

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