When it comes to selecting an NFL team to follow, British fans encounter age old problems. Firstly, American football’s popularity on these shores is yet to reach beyond a third generation, which means there is rarely a strong family tradition of supporting a certain franchise. For instance, I cannot root for the Bears simply because my grandmother did, nor can I call upon childhood memories of attending Dolphins games with my father. Simply cheering for the local team is also out of the question, due to the basic geographical fact that a large ocean separates us from the main bubble of NFL activity.
This problem, of choosing an American Football team to support, has nagged at me for years. Baseball has been my main sporting obsession for over a decade, and that has naturally led to a causal interest in the NFL. I’ve watched games on Channel 4 and the BBC since early childhood, gaining an appreciation for the pomp and pageantry of gridiron, but have hitherto felt somewhat excluded owing to a lack of allegiance. Last season, I dedicated more time than ever to the NFL, and really began to understand its nuances and history, yet my lack of a team was still cause for frustration.
Thus, perpetually agitated, I set out to find a solution, once and for all. I dedicated the entire offseason to finding the perfect team for me. However, I didn’t want to make a blind decision out of emotional whim, or root for a team on the advice of other people. To the best of my ability, I wanted to produce a cold, hard, mathematical algorithm for selecting the NFL team best suited to my specific tastes. I wanted all thirty-two teams to be evaluated on equal terms, and for the best to distinguish itself fairly. Therefore, I did what no sane person should ever do past midnight on a midsummer weekend. I opened up a spreadsheet and began tinkering.
Initially, I typed in the name of each franchise, then proceeded to brainstorm as many different aspects of a team that came to mind. I ultimately arrived at sixteen overarching categories, ranging from team histories, payrolls and drafting success to stadiums, uniforms and logos. In between, facets such as geography, roster strength and head coach were also included, while I was also keen to involve some kind of category measuring each team’s connection to Britain.
Once in possession of this framework, I then considered a series of sub-categories within each overhead aspect, which would then be scored individually to give each team a final numerical value. Theoretically, the team which impressed me most would score the most points and, thus, ultimately differentiate itself from the rest.
For example, within my ‘power’ aspect, I would take into account a team’s Twitter followers, Facebook likes, stadium capacity, Forbes net worth valuation, and average payroll since 2005. Thus, the best scoring and most powerful team would emerge from the pack, as part of a process replicated for all of the categories, delivering a concise picture of my desired NFL landscape.
Each aspect and sub-category was weighted to suit my preferences and tastes. For instance, in terms of history, preference was given to Super Bowl wins and years in existence, because I ultimately want to root for a successful team with a strong heritage. Likewise, I would prefer to be part of a large British fanbase, so the number of Twitter followers possessed by the team’s unofficial UK fan groups was taken into serious consideration. I also placed huge emphasis on the Career Added Value of each team’s draftees since 2005; the lifetime statistics of each quarterback; and the occupancy percentage of each stadium for home games since 2008. These areas are all crucially important to me; sentiments born out in the configuration of my mathematical model.
The most intricate category was always going to be geography. Accordingly, I decided to eschew a subjective system and rely on pure mathematics instead. I wrote down my most desired attributes in a city, namely a large landmass; a scenic skyline; and a literate populous. Then, I wrote down the things I truly hate in a city, namely the threat of being stabbed; the spectre of pollution; and the likelihood of being confronted by unruly drug addicts. From there, I thought long and hard about how to represent these feelings in numbers, before settling upon the following formula:
((Population + Skyscrapers + Bachelors Degree % + Advanced Degree % + per Capita Income) – (Violent crime rate per 100k + Aggravated assault rate per 100k + Robbery per 100k + Poverty Rate + Co2 emissions per capita))
Finally, before embarking on the laborious process of inputting reams of data, I also opened my investigation up to the actual teams, emailing each to ask why I should ultimately root for them. I attached a fixed points bounty to any reply, and spawned a complex system for rating the appeal of each reply.
Over the next six weeks, I tinkered away, painstakingly filling in the spreadsheet, watching the weighted points tracker increase, and automatically ranking each team in my ideal order. I collected and manually entered over 6,500 individual pieces of data, before arriving at a final list of scores and teams.
The process was exceptionally rewarding. I learned a lot about each team, gaining new-found admiration for the Dolphins and their enormous fanbase in Britain; the 49ers and their fabulous new stadium; and the Giants and their deep, engrossing history. Moreover, the Packers’ iconic uniforms and unique fan ownership stood out, while the Bears, Chiefs, Giants and Falcons presented compelling cases as to why I should root for them.
Washington emerged as the best city in my study, and New England scored heavily with the most talented roster and best coach. Yet, the Dallas Cowboys ultimately won out, amassing a total of 237,823 points, compared with 230,909 for the second-place Patriots, 224,964 for the bronze medallist Packers, and 209,054 for the Bears in fourth.
The average total was 172,894, but America’s Team won by scoring with impressive consistency across the board. Though many will disagree, my investigation found that the Cowboys have the most power, the greatest fans, and the most iconic logo and team name in the NFL. They also scored highly in terms of history, payroll expenditure, stadium and uniforms, building an insurmountable lead.
Incidentally, the lowest-scoring team in my study, and thus adjudged as the least desirable of all thirty-two franchises, was the Tennessee Titans who, with 127,056 points, finished below the Buccaneers, Jaguars and Panthers in order of ineptitude.
Ultimately, I was happy with the outcome of my extensive project. In the Cowboys, I wound up with a powerful, historic and classy team, which has a large fanbase in Britain, plays plenty of Sunday Night Football games, and inhabits one of the most awe-inspiring arenas in world sport. Moreover, Dallas has an exceptional record of success, but, at present, finds itself in something of a lull, with no Super Bowl championship in 20 years. This negates any allegations of being a bandwagon jumper.
Thus, following a lengthy process of discovery, I’m looking forward to a lifetime of Cowboys fandom; a lifetime of experiencing the thrills and spills of American Football from the inner sanctum. After years of roaming the gridiron wilderness in lonely, nomadic fashion, I finally have an allegiance, a community to be part of, an identity to uphold. I’m a Cowboys fan, and it feels fantastic.