Obviously, Massachusetts Schools Neglect to Teach Geography of Areas outside of New England (or No, Western New Yorkers are not Yankees Fans.)

MEMORANDUM

TO: The Collective Population of New England (especially the Citizens of Massachusetts)

FROM: A Disgruntled Western New Yorker Turned Bostonian

RE: Geography of New York State and the Sports Fandom it Dictates

DATE: November 2, 2007

 

I feel it prudent at this time to provide you with a refresher geography lesson of New York State (or for those of you who did not pay attention in social studies, a first lesson.) This lesson was spurred on by the absolutely drunk (and I believe underage) Bruins fan and native New Englander who sat in front of me during Thursday evening’s Bruins-Sabres game. This fan proceeded to taunt all the Sabres fans (of which there were many, including myself) by telling us that the “Yankees suck,” and that A-Rod does several unrepeatable acts of a sexual nature. He then decided to mention that “Look, who won the World Series this year – the Red Sox, not your stupid (insert-bad-word-here) Yankees.”

 

Oh, Mr. Underage Drunk who was using a fake ID to provide his even more underage girlfriend with beers, which proceeded to cause her to do several imitations of various Family Guy characters for all of us to enjoy throughout the evening (not well, by the way – they were clouded by her Jimmy Fallon-esqe fake Bostonian accent circa the Saturday Night Live “Billerica Knights of Columbus” sketch.) If the Massachusetts school system had taught you anything, you would know that true Western New Yorkers couldn’t give a darn about Major League Baseball, seeing that many of us go our entire lives without seeing a MLB game live. This, of course, because we live no where near a MLB team worth merit. Of course, we could cross the border and watch the Blue Jays, but no one has wanted to do that since the mid-1990s. Anyway, we are too busy with football, hockey and lacrosse – baseball would over extend our sports focus.

 

Mr. Underage Drunk and your fellow New Englanders, to best argue my case, I present a map of New York State.

A Regionalized Map of New York State

 

The red part of the map represents New York City, Westchester County, and Long Island, aka, the parts of New York that Western New Yorkers and New Englanders mutually loathe. The orange part of the map represents a few counties that think they are Upstate, but are really lumped together in our disdain with New York City residents. The green part is indicative of the Adirondacks region of New York State, a part that I’m surprised has yet to be annexed and split in half by the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. People here don’t pay attention to sports that are not represented in the Winter Olympics. The rest – the yellow – represents true Upstate New York.

 

Upstate New York can be further divided into four separate areas:

  1. Western New York (of which I am biased towards, being raised here.)
  2. Central New York (another place I am somewhat biased towards, as I went to school here.)
  3. Albany/Capital Region
  4. Poughkeepsie, or the Land of Downstaters-Who-Aren’t-Really-Downstaters, therefore we like them.

A Map Detailing Upstate New York

 

Within these four regions, sports team devotion is quite varied. Those from Albany and Poughkeepsie definitely tend to like the Yankees or Mets, because of their proximity to New York City. However, for football, while those from the Poughkeepsie area tend to like the Giants or Jets, I have found that those from Albany like either the Bills, Giants or Patriots, but not the Jets. The Giants hold their training camp at SUNY Albany, the Bills are considered the team of all of Upstate New York, and the Patriots are somewhat close by (2 ½ -3 hours) and for a few years now, have been quite popular to follow.

 

Central New Yorkers seem to split when it comes to liking baseball – half seem to not realize the sport exists, while the other half either like the Mets or the Yankees. When it comes to football, this region is all over the map – while you will find your fair share of Bills fans, I have come across Philadelphia Eagles fans (for example, Binghamton, NY is on the Pennsylvania border, and is maybe a 3 hour drive away from Philly – thus the Eagles fans there) and Giants fans. Strangely, I rarely found a Central New Yorker Jets fan. It is important to note that the further North you travel in Central New York (Syracuse and Utica, for instance) you will find mostly Bills fans, while in the armpit (Broome, Delaware, and Chenango counties), you find the most diversity.

 

Now we come to the land of my birth, Western New York, where you are a Bills and Sabres fans upon your conception. Besides my Uncle Sean, I know of no Jets fans in Western New York, and I certainly have never met a Giants fan from here either. (Although, if I remember correctly, there is/was a bar on West Ridge Road in between the Kodak complex and the retail Candy Land that is Greece, NY that advertised as being the Giants fan hangout on Sundays. It is in that strip mall with the Abbots and, I believe, Buffalo Bill’s Tavern that has the white, hot pink and ’80s teal awing. Those of you who know Rochester know what I’m talking about.) The only other football team represented in the area are the Cleveland Browns – a small contingent of their fans exist throughout the area. These fans tend to be older in age and hawken back to the day before the Bills existed, and the Browns were the only team nearby. Strangely enough, this leads to a weird mix in Erie, Pennsylvania (just over the Buffalo border) where you have a pretty divided mix of Browns fans and Bills fans, with a smattering of Steelers fans.

 

However, baseball fandom in Western New York tends to be highly personal in nature. I know three devoted Red Sox fans in the area and two Yankees fans. When I was in tenth grade, I knew a few guys in school who aligned with the Red Sox because it was, in the words of one of them, “the team that college kids like.” I don’t recall their fandom going any further than the purchase of Red Sox hats. The majority of Western New Yorkers really do not align themselves with a particular baseball team. For example, when I was growing up, I once asked my father, who I looked to for all of my sports knowledge, what baseball team I was supposed to root for. He shrugged and answered, “I don’t know – the Blue Jays?”

 

Western New Yorkers do care about Triple A baseball, with the Buffalo Bisons, Rochester Red Wings and Syracuse SkyChiefs all in the International League and all playing each other regularly in “Thruway Series” games. But when it comes to Major League Baseball, Western New Yorkers live too far away from New York City (at least a six hour drive) to make it to a Yankees or Mets game on any regular basis. In addition, culturally, Western New Yorkers despise New York City with every ounce of their being – we equate Bloomberg, Guliani and their political counterparts with the devil for monopolizing state funding away from our region; we blame New York City for the past two decades’ influx of crime in the area due to criminals from NYC being sent to serve their time in Western New York and residing here when they are released; and overall, we hate the way Downstaters pretend we don’t exist. Truthfully, Western New Yorkers have an inferiority complex when it comes to Downstate, and we aren’t afraid to show it. Thus, the majority of Western New Yorkers would never think of adopting a New York City sports team as their own.

 

This disdain of Downstate New York is a reason why many young Western New Yorkers are seemingly flocking to Boston to lead their adult lives – career opportunities in our home region are so limited, but we can’t bring ourselves to move down to New York City because of our overwhelming dislike of the area. So we choose Boston, an area with similar, if not more intense, feelings towards Downstate as the ones we were brought up with. And this is why, at Sabres-Bruins games, the Sabres fans come close to outnumbering the Bruins fans – we’re moving up here in droves.

 

So, Mr. Underage Drunk, the next time you attempt to taunt Buffalo Sabres fans by telling us how much the Yankees suck, recall that we too, hate the Yankees. Instead, we recommend that you just singsongingly taunt, “Chris Drury. Chris Drury. Chris Drury.” or make up some taunt regarding the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals. We’ll smirk, and then, just like what happened on Thursday, some Sabres fan will remark to the other Sabres fans around him, “Never mind – the Rochester Amerks (the AHL team in Rochester) sell more tickets than the Bruins.” We’ll all laugh, proclaim the fan’s correctness, and look at the New Englanders’ confused faces.

*******

An aside added later – I forgot to add an important discussion piece in this entry. I feel that Major League Baseball had more of a fan base less dependent on geography before the most recent players strikes. In order to appeal to fans outside of a teams geographical region, a sport needs to have a momentum building that transcends geographical limitations. With baseball, when you had larger than life players like a Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and the like, ones who seemed almost mythical, the story sold in places with smaller populations like Western New York, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Iowa, even though the teams involved played far away. Once player strikes began to happen, outlying fans such as these had less buy-in than fans in the actual regions where teams existed, and thus, were the first to abandon baseball. Baseball has been back for over a decade now, but only now are they rebuilding the momentum – you had three long suffering franchises win the last four World Series, which is again news worthy for those with no baseball team in their area. It will take a bit longer for baseball fandom to reach its before strike levels, and the fear should be that they have lost an entire generation (those 22-28 or so, who were of prime fan development age during the 1994 strike) of fans. However, I have no doubt that baseball will always be a relevant and successful sport in this country.

 

The NFL has this momentum now, with a wide ranging appeal that defies geographic boundaries. What helps professional football is that every state in the US has a Division I college football team, which is essentially the equivalent of the farm system in baseball. Even those states with seemingly nothing else have college football (Montana State – always a contender in Division I-AA, Boise State – the surprising stars of last year’s college football season,) thus allowing fans to follow players from college into the professional ranks. This buy in increases the propensity for someone not near any NFL team to be a fan of a NFL team. The NBA had the mythical athlete appeal through the 1980s and 1990s and have lost it – thus why the NBA is increasingly suffering loss of viewership over the past view years. The NHL barely touched the mythical athlete appeal with Gretzky, but besides that, never had a reason for those not located near a team to become a fan – thus why the sport is now failing miserably. A professional sport built on a pure regional adoption of team as the sole reason for fandom model will no longer succeed in America.

 

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15 Comments

Filed under Albany NY, Boston Bruins, Boston MA, Boston Red Sox, Broome County New York, Buffalo Bills, Buffalo New York, Buffalo Sabres, Chenango County New York, Delaware County New York, hockey, PA, Philadelphia Eagles, Poughkeepsie NY, Rochester NY, Syracuse NY, TDBanknorth Garden, Upstate New York, Western New York

15 responses to “Obviously, Massachusetts Schools Neglect to Teach Geography of Areas outside of New England (or No, Western New Yorkers are not Yankees Fans.)

  1. FireDannyAinge

    It doesn’t seem to me that you are being fair at all to this drunk kid. While he was ignorant to assume that you were all Yankees fans. It is pretty ignorant of you to assume that no one in your area likes baseball. There are baseball fans from Kentucky, Alabama and plenty of places that don’t have a baseball team. You do not need to be from a baseball state to enjoy the game. That being said NEW YORK has 2 baseball teams and just because you don’t like baseball doesn’t mean others don’t.
    Maybe you thinking you are so much better then this kid from Massachusetts just because you are not a baseball fans makes you way more ignorant then he could ever be.

  2. katherinehas

    I understand where you’re coming from in labeling me as ignorant. However, having lived in Upstate New York for over 22 years, I knew so few baseball fans. Also, the coverage of MLB baseball in our media outlets throughout the area are minimal to say the least – except for scores on the back page, and an Associated Press story when the World Series was won, that was it. So in the years before the Internet and several different ESPNs it was nearly impossible to be a baseball fan in our area, and I imagine several other areas in the country without teams.

    Also, I think my over arching point is for the few baseball fans in Upstate New York, it is a rather personal thing, instead of a “born and bred thing” like in Massachusetts. In Western New York, those who are fans of particular MLB teams are fans because it was the team they played on in Little League, or because a long lost relative was a fan and they have fond memories of it.

    I also hope you realize that I am being funny, and I will admit that while I am harsh on the guy sitting in front of me, he did spill beer on me and my Bruins-loving boyfriend several times and knowingly hit my legs twice. Of course I didn’t retailate because I knew the guy was completely loaded and was probably a normal nice guy when sober, but the least I can do is take a few verbal shots at his behavior in my blog.

    So that’s where I’m writing from — but you are always welcome to disagree.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. FireDannyAinge

    I was half kidding with my thoughts also and I am sorry the drunk guy gave all people from Massachusetts a bad name. We are not all like him.

  4. >>Strangely enough, this leads to a weird mix in Erie, Pennsylvania (just over the Buffalo border) where you have a pretty divided mix of Browns fans and Bills fans, with a smattering of Steelers fans.<<

    Erie is about 45 percent Steelers fans, 40 percent Browns, 5 percent Raiders, 5 percent Cowboys and the rest mixed. You could fit all the Bills fans here into a minivan.

  5. Do the Amerks really outsell the Bruins? That’s phenomenal. It really makes my day.

    Hope you’re doing well! Come visit again soon!

  6. Do the Amerks really outsell the Bruins? That’s phenomenal. It really makes my day.

    I love your blog, even though I don’t really know the first thing about sports. Okay, I know the first thing – the Sabres rock. Other than that… yeah. I am acquainted with several rabid Yankees fans in the Roc, though; I believe you met one of them. 🙂

    Wow, I just called Rochester “the Roc”…aaaaanyway, hope you’re doing well! Come visit again soon!

  7. Mattnh

    Oh no! A girl with a brain for sports, intersting creative writing, and gavel banging. My male ego quivers yet reads in awe. Keep writing!

    Sadly the Sabres gave up Drury to the Rangers and I just can’t f`ing stand them.. It was hard enough having to like the Sabres for those years and for the love of all things holy, what the F&%# was Brett Hulls skate doing inside the damn crease!?! I still weep for up Buffalo fans.

  8. Brad

    You labeled Albany as being in Schenectady County… Adirondackers follow sports no different than the rest of Upstaters, and in Eastern Upstate, we follow NYC teams. True, Western New Yorkers don’t follow baseball as much. I don’t think there’s too much disdain for downstaters, and most people will say Poughkeepsie is not Upstate. Eastern and Central NY should not be grouped together, and the southern tier should also be seperate… they all have different economies, politics, even landscapes. Downstaters have a very different mindset. both parts of the state are important, and both are equally arrogant.

    • Motto

      Geographically speaking no, but when you consider the fact that Syracuse is the exact midpoint between Buffalo and Albany, you can say Syracuse Rochester and Buffalo would be the Western side of Upstate and Syracuse Utica and Albany form the Eastern half.

      This holds true with most sports teams if you look at commoncensus.org sports map. Buffalo to Syracuse is the only Buffalo sports stronghold in all of New York. East of Syracuse like Utica and Albany are either NY teams or Boston.

  9. SUCO24

    I see you included Chenango in the armpit of New York…. hope your referring to its geographical location and not the area itself, if thats not the case its a beautiful and historic area sorry if you didn’t see its better qualities. With that said I am in total agreement with what you said except for the fact I am Cowboys fan and you find a lot of that around here in opposition to the Giants. Its true that MLB isn’t that popular but I really would have to say the minor leagues teams really dominate the spectating sports in the area (you left out the B-Mets by the way and not to mention Scranton-Wilkes Barre isnt that far of a drive, oh! And how could I forget the Oneonta Tigers!). Im at college at SUNY Oneonta so I really get the clash of western NY and many many downstaters. In fact I’m reading this for a New York Geography class. But its predominately Yankees and Giants, not many people like the Jets or Mets.

  10. Pingback: “Being a Jets Fan in Binghamton Sucks” and Other Search Engine Fun « …On Being a Sports Girl

  11. Pravin

    I’m just reading this post for the first time, damn near a year to the day when you originally wrote it. This is a great analysis of the sports fan tendencies of people in Upstate New York. I’ve always kind of wondered about this. And while, as a lifelong “downstater”, I can’t say I’m happy with how we’re depicted…but I can totally understand why you upstaters feel that way about New York city and its metropolitan area.

    Anyway, you were saying that in Western N.Y, there was generally an indifference towards Major League Baseball. But you had also mentioned that there were small pockets of Browns and Steelers fans in the area. I was wondering if the same thing might apply to the Indians and Pirates.

    And I would curious to know who the bigger rivalry is for the Bills: against the Jets or against the Patriots. Or is it s mutual, 3-way disdain, kind of like what exists between the Browns, Steelers and Ravens. And I guess the Sabres’ biggest rivalry is with Montreal?

    And where does basketball fit into all of this? Is there a particular team that people in Western New York prefer to root for? I’d imagine that the Knicks–not even factoring in their past seven seasons of futility–represent everything that upstaters hate about downstate. There is the connection between the old Buffalo Braves and L.A. Clippers, but not even the most ardent fan of the A.B.A. would retain that kind of loyalty.

    These are the kinds of things I sit and think about. And I’ve finally found a blog that might have the answer to some of these things. So thank you. Any insight you could provide would be helpful.

  12. Pingback: A Fellow Western New Yorker Weighs In (A Sorta, Kinda, In A Way Guest Post) « …On Being a Sports Girl

  13. Jon emailed a comment too lenghy for the comments, so I posted it here: https://katherinehas.wordpress.com/2008/11/15/weighsin/

    Thanks to all who comment!!! Keep the discussion going!

  14. Motto

    “It is important to note that the further North you travel in Central New York (Syracuse and Utica, for instance) you will find mostly Bills fans”

    False. Utica is Yankees, Giants, Rangers.

    check out commoncensus.org. Its a map of sports fan bases as voted by fans themselves.

    Also, Upstate NY generally follows NEW YORK teams followed more closely with Boston. Western NY is Bills and Sabres.

    This entire reading made me laugh hysterically.

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