FiveThirtyEight has been running a great series comparing teams in different professional sports leagues across North America and the world based on the teams’ popularity in Google Search.
This morning they ran a piece indexing together the popularity of all teams in six of the most popular leagues: MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, LIGA MX, CFL, and MLS.
Side note: they mentioned that WNBA didn’t come close to these, but I wonder how WNBA compares to MLU?
Anyway, they had some nice charts, but none that showed visually the popularity distributions of the different leagues. In setting out to make that, I also made one showing all the teams with popularity twice the average of the whole set of teams (that average was indexed to 1 by FiveThirtyEight).
It seems that NBA, NHL, and LIGA MX all have comparable popularity as leagues, at least on the same order of magnitude. Admittedly, this visual doesn’t show well how popularity is distributed within the main group of teams in a league: they’re all jumbled together.
It also seems the football is just slightly more popular than baseball in aggregate, but the Yankees and the Red Sox, outliers in their league, blow even the most popular NFL teams out of the water. That is illustrated further in the following chart:
Just a few notes about this one. First, the gap between the Yankees/Sox and the top teams of the other two leagues is striking, as FiveThirtyEight noticed. Second, there are only three leagues whose teams achieve double popularity of the average (though I suppose that makes sense with seven leagues in the set). Third, we get into the main group of both MLB and NFL in this chart, and it really shows the high popularity of NFL teams, which make up more than half the teams on this chart.
I will also note that there are two New England teams in the top ten. Go Sox and Pats!