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Proof That the Texas Rangers Own Texas

Astros fans have been successfully contained around Houston.
Astros fans have been successfully contained around Houston.

Several weeks back there was a map of Major League Baseball fandom circulating. It was based on the preferences Facebook users had made public. It was disturbing to see how much of our country, absent a team in their own local market, had been given over to the cancer known as being a Yankees fan. It chilled me to the bone.

Anyway, several days ago the New York Times published an even more detailed look at that data, breaking it down to ZIP code level and creating interactive maps to show the precise geographic fronts along which two or more teams fight for dominance in the hearts of locals. (Thanks to the alert FrontBurnervian who passed along the link.)

The Texas Rangers (as you can in the screenshot of the map above) own Texas. Except for the swamps in and around Houston, and the lunatics out in El Paso who’ve given themselves over to the Dark Side, the team in Arlington commands almost all of the state’s territory, plus a significant chunk of Oklahoma and a corner of Arkansas.

Even in the Astros’ home county, the Rangers command 9 percent of fandom. Contrast that with the Rangers’ home county, where the Astros aren’t even among the three most popular teams, polling something less than 2 percent.

Obviously the Rangers’ recent run of success coupled with the Astros’ last few seasons of futility have much to do with the reason “the Nolan Ryan Line,” as the Times playfully dubs this geographic division of fandom, is so much closer to Houston than Arlington. If we were looking at this data in the early to mid-Aughts (never mind that we couldn’t have because Facebook wasn’t a thing yet), when the Astros were regularly contenders and the Rangers were cellar dwellers, I’m sure much more of our state would look orange.

Check out the interactive map here. You can zoom in on your own ZIP code to see how many of your neighbors share your MLB proclivities.

3 comments on “Proof That the Texas Rangers Own Texas

  1. The problem for the Houston Astros is worse than that. A couple of years ago, they left Fox Sports Southwest and created a new sports network to broadcast their games. Because they co-own the network, it was thought to be more lucrative financially than their deal with Fox, but has come with a huge tradeoff: It isn’t carried by most cable companies in Houston, such as Time Warner, Dish TV, AT&T U-verse and Comcast (even though Comcast is also a limited owner in the sports network). In fact, it’s in only 40% of Houston homes and bars, while Fox Sports Southwest is in most homes and bars. Upshot: when the Astros and Rockets moved to this new sports network, Fox Sports Southwest immediately started carrying Texas Rangers games, not just in Houston but in Central and South Texas markets (notably Austin and San Antonio) that previously received Astros games exclusively.

    The Rangers are now on TV everywhere in the Lone Star State; the Astros aren’t, even in their home market. Oh, and their sports network has already gone into bankruptcy.

  2. Fair weather fans… I remember seeing a lot more Astros hats and jerseys in DFW in the early to mid 2000′s when Houston was considered one of the better teams in the league.

  3. Where does this data come from? I live in Dallas and no one has asked me where my baseball loyalties lie. Also, I think a good portion of that 9% of Rangers fans in Houston probably grew up in DFW and moved to Houston. I’m sure the same goes for Astros fans in Dallas (myself included). The people in San Antonio are Cowboys fans, so it’s probably easier for them to identify with the Rangers as their baseball team. Austin has a AAA Rangers team, so that draws them in.