February 8, 2013

Rangers pass Cowboys as most popular team in DFW

The Texas Rangers are more popular than the Dallas Cowboys. That doesn't sound right, does it?

The Texas Rangers are more popular than the Dallas Cowboys. That doesn't sound right, does it?

Nolan Ryan even had to take a second to digest the information. The thought of that had never crossed his mind.

When Ryan spent the final five years of his big-league career with the Rangers from 1989-1993, the Cowboys were America's Team. They were starting a dynasty that would win three Super Bowls in four years behind the triplets, Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin.

The Rangers, meanwhile, had never made a postseason trip and could have only dreamt of being as popular as the Cowboys one day.

"The Cowboys were an extremely big attraction and draw, not just here but nationwide," said Ryan, the Rangers' CEO and president. "They had such a history and popularity. The Rangers obviously weren't even close to having that type of fan interest, so I never gave it much thought about how we rated with the Cowboys."

Well, that one day has come and it's happened. The Rangers have become more popular than the Cowboys in Dallas-Fort Worth, according to a survey by the Scarborough Sports Team.

The survey asked Dallas-Fort Worth adults whether they have watched, attended or listened to a Rangers or Cowboys game in the past year. A "yes" answer is considered a fan, and 62 percent answered positively for the Rangers.

That was one percentage point higher than the Cowboys.

It's the first time the Rangers have been ranked higher than the Cowboys, and DFW is one of only 10 metropolitan areas with more fans of the baseball team than football team.

There are a handful of reasons why the Rangers overtook the Cowboys, and all signs point to winning.

The Rangers have been to the playoffs the past three seasons, including two of the past three World Series. The team also had star power, from Josh Hamilton to Adrian Beltre to Yu Darvish.

The Cowboys, conversely, have lost more games than they have won (22-26) over the past three seasons and have not been to the playoffs during that time.

Local fans have expressed some distress with how this past off-season has gone for the Rangers, but it's nothing compared to the vitriol thrown daily at the Cowboys.

Chris Navarre, a 29-year-old from Grapevine, is a passionate fan of all the Metroplex teams. He splits season tickets to the Rangers, Cowboys and Mavericks, and is not surprised to hear the Cowboys have fallen behind the Rangers.

"Winning will do that," Navarre said. "You have an ownership group that cares about winning and it goes back to winning sells. Honestly, the Cowboys have slipped to No. 3 for me behind the Rangers and Mavericks.

"It seems like the only thing out of Valley Ranch is headlines and drama. And there's no home-field advantage at Jerry World."

Cowboys Stadium has priced out many fans with personal seat license fees and increased ticket costs.

The Rangers boosted ticket prices this winter, and time will tell how much of an effect that will have on attendance.

But it's clear that sports fans have gravitated more toward the Rangers, who set an attendance record of 3,460,280 at Rangers Ballpark last season, third highest in baseball.

The Rangers are well aware of the increased fan support, too. General manager Jon Daniels opened his season-ending press conference by thanking the fans for their support, not just in the DFW area but throughout the country.

The overwhelming support even caught new Rangers catcher A.J. Pierzynski by surprise when he served as a guest analyst for the 2011 World Series telecast. He recalled a story last month at FanFest about walking throughout DFW with his family, and seeing Rangers gear on every corner. That wasn't the case, Pierzynski said, when he visited Texas early in his playing days.

Fox Sports Southwest senior vice president/general manager Jon Heidtke has also enjoyed watching the Rangers wake up what had been a sleeping baseball town.

In 2007, the Rangers' average rating for a game was 1.4. Last year, it reached an all-time high of 5.9.

Additionally, the Rangers had nine of the all-time top-10 ratings on FSSW last season, led by a record 10.7 on April 9 for Yu Darvish's major league debut.

"This market has always been a baseball market, but the fans just didn't have much to rally around or cheer for," Heidtke said. "Over the last few years, the Rangers have really galvanized that, and you saw it with the attendance record. I think it comes down to the team success, signing Yu Darvish, getting Nolan Ryan back involved, all those things really energized the fan base.

"And it's not just in DFW. We're really seeing it throughout the region, in San Antonio, in Oklahoma City, in Austin. There's an excitement and energy, and Ranger-mania has been sweeping the region."

Say it again, the Rangers are more popular than the Cowboys.

Sustaining it is the challenge that lies ahead for Ryan and Daniels.

Ryan said the two most important factors to maintaining popularity is to continue to win on the field and sign players who make it easy to pull for by playing hard.

"As long as we continue to stay on the course that we're on, we'll stimulate that fan interest," Ryan said.

Drew Davison

817 390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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