Does This Map Prove the Yankees Are America’s Team?

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March 31 2014 4:20 PM

Does This Map Prove That the Yankees Are America’s Team?

Facebook's map of baseball fandom is as fun as it is potentially misleading.
Facebook's map of baseball fandom is as fun as it is potentially misleading. Click map to enlarge.

Courtesy of Facebook

The New York Yankees appear to be America's favorite baseball team.

That, at any rate, is one conclusion you might be tempted to draw from Facebook’s unscientific yet irresistibly debatable map of U.S. baseball fandom. Released by Facebook’s data science team on MLB's opening day, the map shows which major league team has the most Facebook fans in each U.S. county.

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By this metric, the Bronx Bombers boast easily the farthest-flung fan base. They command a plurality of Facebook-likers not only in their home state but across swaths of the mid-Atlantic, the Bayou, the Great Plains, and the Far West, including big chunks of Hawaii and Alaska.

The rival Red Sox, meanwhile, dominate New England while also maintaining social-media strongholds in distant states such as Idaho and Utah. The fan bases of the Atlanta Braves and Texas Rangers, meanwhile, are more geographically cohesive, though still sprawling in their own rights. The map also makes the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, and Colorado Rockies appear surprisingly popular.

Pity the Oakland Athletics and New York Mets: Neither team has the most Facebook likes in any U.S. county. Not even their own, where they’re overshadowed by the San Francisco Giants and Yankees, respectively. The Miami Marlins fare only slightly better, holding just Miami-Dade county and one other (Okeechobee, I believe) while ceding the bulk of south Florida to a team based more than 1,000 miles away. Yep, Yankees again.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

But before you Yankees fans get carried away, there are a few things the rest of us would like you to keep in mind about this map. First of all, it measures Facebook likes for your team’s page—nothing more, nothing less. Unless or until the Census Bureau decides to add a baseball-fandom question, this is probably the best map we’re going to get, but that doesn’t make it perfect. At the risk of stating the obvious, the map over-represents the sort of fan who goes around liking things on Facebook (cough, San Francisco Giants). It also favors teams with more active social-media presences.

The bigger caveat with maps like these is that not all counties are created equal. With just four counties, the White Sox appear as a tiny enclave on this map, making their fan base look relatively pathetic. But one of those happens to be Cook County—the second-largest in America by population, with more than 5 million people. That’s as many as all the counties in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Nebraska combined. That goes double for the Dodgers, whose geographically modest Southern California fan base is almost certainly one of the country’s largest if you count people instead of counties. The seemingly lowly Mets almost certainly have more Facebook fans overall than a team like the Kansas City Royals, even if they don't constitute a plurality in any one county.

One other thing: Just because you’re the most-loved team in a given county doesn’t mean you aren’t also the most-hated. If Facebook had a dislike button, the Yankees would probably find that they’re America’s team in more ways than one.

Those who are into this sort of thing might also enjoy Facebook's map of NFL fandom, which is at least as flattering to the Dallas Cowboys as this one is to the Yankees. There's also a Facebook map of college-football fandom, which looks good for the Texas Longhorns.

Update: Facebook has helpfully provided Slate with some additional data showing not only which teams carried the most counties but which have the most Facebook fans overall.

Here are the top five by number of counties (a metric whose meaningless becomes rather glaring when not displayed in map form):

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Texas Rangers
  4. St. Louis Cardinals
  5. Minnesota Twins

And here are the top five by total number of Facebook fans:

  1. New York Yankees
  2. Boston Red Sox
  3. Chicago Cubs
  4. San Francisco Giants
  5. Texas Rangers

Previously in Slate:

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