Originally posted on 60 Max Power O  |  Last updated 5/29/12
Success brings admiration from others. In the NFL, a team needs prolonged success to build a national fan base. ESPN sports polls continually conduct telephone interviews with football fans to gauge which of the 32 NFL teams are the most popular. The most recent poll has the Houston Texans at 24th, coming off a season in which the team broke through mediocrity with the franchise’s first AFC South title, playoff appearance, and playoff win. 1.2% of the fans interviewed identified the Texans as their favorite NFL team, tying them with the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The complete list can be round in several locations, including here. It’s unfortunate that the Texans rank so low on the list, but it’s fairly understandable. Building a fan base takes time and prolonged winning. The 2011 season was the first in which the Texans finished with winning record after several seasons finishing at 8-8. The team will have to string together several winning seasons in which they are perennial contenders for a Super Bowl to improve in this area and garner greater national attention. Winning is in the franchise’s hands, but there are other factors out of their control that will prove more difficult to overcome. The first and most prevalent is that they are an expansion team, in fact the newest NFL team. When you look at ESPN’s rankings, the top 10 teams consist of both the league’s most successful teams and some of the league’s oldest teams. It will take time (and a lot of winning of course) to win over new fans and steal a larger portion of the current fan pie from the other NFL franchises. The Texans do however have one more obstacle that most NFL teams don’t share. Yes, the Texans were an expansion team, but they had the daunting task of replacing a relocated franchise. Once upon a time, the Tennessee Titans were the Houston Oilers, one of the original eight AFL teams that forced the merger with the NFL, ultimately forming the football league we all know and love today. The Oilers played in Houston for 38 seasons before moving, becoming a beloved franchise of the people of Houston. The way in which the Oilers moved out of town turned a lot of Houstonians off toward football. Trying to replace the Oilers will always be the uphill battle for the Texans. Many football fans in Houston are still Oilers fans and simply haven’t warmed up to the Texans yet. As I said earlier, prolonged winning will go a long way in building a stronger fan base, but the Texans have an extra hill to climb that most NFL teams do not. There is hope for the Texans. Looking at ESPN’s list, many of the usual players are at the top of the list (Cowboys, Packers, Giants, Steelers, Patriots) but there were some surprises. The most relevant here is the Baltimore Ravens, who came in one spot ahead of the Texans at #23 with 1.3%. Like the Texans, the Ravens had the task of replacing the Colts, a staple of the NFL in Baltimore throughout the league’s early history. Both franchise must also contend with a more popular NFL franchise within their own state (Cowboys and Redskins). It’s alarming the Ravens are so low on this list because they have been perennial contenders for the past decade, including a Super Bowl win in 2000. But there is a major difference between the Ravens and the Texans, and really it’s a big difference between Baltimore and Houston. Houston is the country’s fourth most populated city, Baltimore is 21st. In terms of just the cities’ populations, Houston is more than double the size of Baltimore (2.1M vs. 600K). When factoring in the surrounding suburbs, the disparity in population grows. As the Texans continue their stay in Houston, their popularity within the area should grow so long as the team keeps winning. Their ceiling is relatively high as compared to most other NFL franchises, so it will be exciting to see where the Texans are on ESPN’s list in a year or two from now. Be sure to check out other great articles at Sports Media 101. var switchTo5x=true; stLight.options({publisher:''});
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