What do sports fans spend the most time grousing about? Above all else, it's lousy teams or high ticket prices.
Woe is the fan forced to put up with both at once. Who wants to pay premium prices to sit in the stands and watch the losses mount? Fans in Miami know about that. Over the past year, the city's four major sports teams – the Dolphins, Marlins, Heat and Panthers – have combined to win just 40 percent of their games while fans have forked over money for tickets and accouterments at the seventh-highest rate among 29 major sports metros.
Throw in a $38,632 median household income for the greater Miami area, fifth-lowest of the 29 markets, along with a $292.50 price tag for a family of four to see a game, and the city's pro sports scene ranks as the worst deal in the country by our accounting. That's what happens when the NBA Heat and NFL Dolphins combine to go 16-82 during the 2007-08 season, more than offsetting the competitiveness of baseball's young Florida Marlins.
Lining up behind Miami for the booby prize are San Diego ($300 a game for a family of four; .425 combined winning percentage for the Chargers and Padres), Indianapolis (a lower-income market with middle-of-the-road ticket prices) and New York (second-highest prices in the country for teams that lose just over half their games, the Super Bowl champion Giants not withstanding).
The best deals? You'll find those in Detroit (only No. 17 in costs for a .612 winning percentage for its four teams, including the Stanley Cup champion Red Wings), Houston (third-cheapest prices for a .565 winning percentage), and the Bay Area (so-so teams, but a high-income market with the ninth-lowest costs).
In figuring the toughest cities in which to be sports fans over the past year, we compared the latest median household income figures from the Census Bureau to the Fan Cost Index for each team compiled by Team Marketing. Those metros with the lowest ratios of income to ticket cost were deemed most expensive for fans. Those ratios were then compared to team performance, with regular season won-lost records and playoff outcomes combined for all teams in a given city.
The formula eliminates a city like Boston, which carries the highest pro sports prices in the country but also the fourth-highest household income. Plus its teams win. Also landing in the middle of the pack is New Orleans, where low prices and an excellent .643 winning percentage (thanks to NBA Hornets' 56-26 record last season) are offset by the lowest household income of all 29 metros.
Incomes were compiled by Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) rather than being restricted to city boundaries, since outlying areas make up a good portion of a team's fan base. Fan Cost Index represents the typical cost for a family of four to attend a game, based on Team Marketing's compilations on the prices of four tickets, two small beers, four small sodas, four hot dogs, parking, two game programs and two inexpensive team caps (sure, a family can always cut back a bit by foregoing a few of those little extras, but you get the idea).
The study was limited to the four major sports leagues – the National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League and Major League Baseball. Only the 29 cities with teams in at least two of those four leagues were considered. For football, basketball and hockey results, we used the most recently completed season of 2007-08. For Major League Baseball, now well into its 2008 season, we used the current regular season won-lost records but reverted back to 2007 for the latest post-season results.
The top five: