Still America’s Team: Dallas Cowboys have the Most Loyal Fans in the NFL


Nov 18, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) points to a fan before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Whether you’re a Dallas Cowboy fan or some other NFL team fan I’m sure you’ve heard something like this before, “Dallas Cowboy Fans are all just fair-weather fans. They shouldn’t even be called America’s Team anymore.”

I’ve heard that fair-weather label so much I almost started believing it. Then I took a moment and looked around.

“If the Cowboys have all fair-weather fans then why are there so many of us?” I asked myself.

“How can we be fair-weather when the Cowboys have had such little success over the past 15+ years? Shouldn’t we have all stopped cheering for the Cowboys by now?” I rhetorically followed up with myself.

But for some reason that fair-weather stereotype stuck.  Not based on logic or fact but presumably something else. Misguided perception maybe. Perhaps it’s still jealousy over the past success. It may be the amount of national coverage the Cowboys always get (forgetting that coverage is purely based on fan viewership and not a secret plot to give the Cowboys unwarranted coverage). It’s possible it’s simply because Cowboy fans are everywhere – and we’re pretty darn annoying to other fans. I admit it. We’re annoying to be around. But fair-weather fans? I think not. But could we really be the most loyal of all NFL fans?

Let’s take a deeper look…

The Study

Emory University Sports Marketing program in Atlanta decided to look into fan loyalty recently. They grew sick of the non-factual opinion polls all over the web and developed a (generally) unbiased model to find who really are the best fans in the NFL.

The Results?

Dallas Cowboy fans are the most loyal fans in the NFL.

How this Study Differs From Other Studies

Most mindless studies on fan support have a heavy dose of surveying to determine results. This is a very inaccurate way of conducting a study since any student of Marketing will tell you, the people who complete surveys are often atypical of a normal population in the first place. So taking their statements with more than a grain of salt is giving their opinions way too much value.

Surveys use stereotypes and perceptions rather than facts or tangible measurements. What Emory did that’s so different is they conducted their study much like they would conduct a Customer Loyalty study in the business world. Instead of relying on anecdotes, stereotypes and perceptions, they simply let the customers do the talking. And as we all know, Money talks.

Says the Emory study,

"The key idea is that we look at team box office revenues relative to team on-field success, market population, stadium capacity, median income and other factors.  The first step in our procedure involves the creation of a statistical model that predicts box office revenue as a function of the aforementioned variables.  We then compare actual revenues to the revenues predicted by the model.  Teams with relatively stronger fan support will have revenues that exceed the predicted values, and teams that under perform have relatively less supportive fan bases."

Emory’s first step in the formula was to determine expected revenue. They would weigh the different media markets, their stadiums, and basic economic environments and scale it based on the team’s on-field success (or failure). If a team did well, more was expected and then vice versa. If a team exceeded revenue expectations it was because the fans continued to invest in their team above what the on-field performance would otherwise justify.

So to put it bluntly – teams did well when their fans put their money where their mouth was and supported their team regardless of on-field success. That sounds an awful lot like loyalty to me (A bit of stupidity but mostly loyalty).

Dec 23, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys fans holds up a sign during the game against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium. The Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

You may be thinking that the bad teams have an advantage since the good teams have raised expectations too high to realistically realize.  Look at the rankings again. Dallas was 8-8 so they weren’t helped by being poor anymore than they were hurt by being good. Most of the teams at the bottom of the list finished with a losing record and it didn’t seem to help them much. New England was #2, the NY Jets #3, the Saints #4 and the NY Giants #5. NE, NY,  and NO have had fairly recent success, but expectations weren’t too high for them to still overachieve and rank highly on the list. So being good didn’t hurt them at all.

When looking over the list you can see teams are pretty evenly dispersed so it’s not an obvious matter of incorrectly setting expected revenue. Of course it’s impossible to perfectly project revenue in this regard but nothing appears glaringly incorrect or biased.

The Arguments

1. Merchandise sales sway the results too much against us because we (other NFL team) don’t have all-star players who sell jerseys.

To that I respond, “So what?” Cowboy fans apparently have a terrible QB and yet they keep buying his jersey. Every year we keep buying jerseys and merchandise claiming this is the year they will get it done That’s kind of what makes a fan a fanatic. We irrationally support and dream of the unlikely as being…well…likely. What’s wrong with you other guys?

2. City viability and local economics sway the results to just favor the markets with higher disposable incomes.

This is an excellent point but it appears that issue was addressed. I wasn’t able to locate exactly how this taken care of but Tripathi and Lewis did say this,

"Detroit, of course, suffers from a … struggling local economy.  But we should note that our method does explicitly control for these factors."

3. Just because our fans (other NFL team) don’t buy merchandise or go to games doesn’t make them any less fans than you Cowboys fans.

You may still be a fan but you aren’t a loyal supporter. Hey, I went to school for 4 years in Wisconsin. Green Bay Packer fans are crazy-great fans. But a staggering amount of them do not attend games and/or purchased merchandise this decade. Many do little to actually support the team. I think of the old saying, “if a tree falls in the woods…” Well try this, “If a Packer fan cheers from his moms basement wearing a Ray Nitschke jersey, do even the Packers care?”

It’s as simple as this, If you’re not willing to tangibly support your team through money then you really aren’t much good to them.

4. If you compare the fans in AT&T stadium in Dallas to those of Philadelphia or Seattle, you’d see the Cowboys don’t compare.

Now that’s a great argument but it’s really an entirely different issue. I agree that Cowboy fans lack vocal passion. It’s not the stadium that drowns them out either. I hate that argument. Watch a College game at AT&T stadium and you’ll hear how loud that place can get. Cowboy fans just don’t cheer well. They lack basic passion if you ask me. I’ve been to many stadia across the country and Dallas (Texas Stadium and AT&T Stadium) is one of the quietest venues. When I attend games it seems like pulling teeth to get people out of their seats and yelling on 3rd down. Green Bay doesn’t have that problem. Philly doesn’t either. Seattle needs earplugs at halftime they’re so loud.


No study on something as subjective as “Loyalty” is going to be perfect and this is no exception. There are obvious flaws but by using a model and weighting the variables, they’ve evened the playing ground more than what an opinion or attitude survey could ever approach. Considering the Cowboys are one of the 5 LEAST successful NFL franchises in the past 15 years and still has the most fans tangibly supporting them. That really screams something  – loyalty.  We are loyal for continuing our brash and unapologetic fandom despite underachieving, and often pathetic, results. But you can’t call us fair-weather.

We’re America’s Team and we’re the most loyal fans in the entire NFL.

Now go share this on Facebook and Tweet away because it’s fun making Cowboy-Haters angry!

The complete list:

1. Dallas Cowboys

2. New England Patriots

3. New York Jets

4. New Orleans Saints

5. New York Giants

6. Indianapolis Colts

7. Chicago Bears

8. Baltimore Ravens

9. Pittsburgh Steelers

10. Tennessee Titans

11. San Diego Chargers

12. Denver Broncos

13. Washington Redskins

14. Green Bay Packers

15. Carolina Panthers

16. Houston Texans

17. Philadelphia Eagles

18. Minnesota Vikings

19. Cincinnati Bengals

20. Cleveland Browns

21. Kansas City Chiefs

22. St. Louis Rams

23. Seattle Seahawks

24. Buffalo Bills

25. Miami Dolphins

26. San Francisco 49ers

27. Jacksonville Jaguars

28. Detroit Lions

29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

30. Arizona Cardinals

31. Atlanta Falcons

32. Oakland Raiders

Do you have questions or comments regarding Dallas area sports? Email Reid at You may be included in the next weekly mailbag. Follow Reid on twitter @ReidDHanson