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Questionable study ranks Browns fan base 26th best in NFL

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A study ranks Cleveland Browns fans as a bottom-tier group thanks to some very questionable criteria. It leaves out something very important in its methodology.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Cleveland Browns Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a new study that concludes the Cleveland Browns fan base is 26th best in the NFL. Michael Lewis at Emory University ranked all 32 teams’ fan bases based on three qualifying criteria: fan equity, social media equity and road equity.

It’s an interesting study concept, mainly because we all know every group tends to inflate its own worth. But the criteria are clearly dubious and somewhat slanted towards certain groups.

Here’s a look at the rankings before we dig any deeper.

Table 1 from the study shows its final fan base and branding rankings for 2017.
Michael Lewis

Props to Joel Thorman at Arrowhead Pride for standing in solidarity with Cleveland in the face of this travesty. The Kansas City Chiefs were ranked dead last by Lewis’ study, and SB Nation’s NFL league manager went on the offensive again after ridiculing the concept last year. He threw a bone Cleveland’s way, taking another jab at the “dumb” study, calling the Browns fan base a Top 10 group.

Different socioeconomic conditions apply to different areas of the country. Is it fair to include monetary measures as a means of ranking the passion and fabric of what makes a fan base better than another?

The study’s reliance on attendance, prices and revenues somewhat skews the rankings toward teams in big cities with citizens who collectively have higher spending power. Is that really how we want to measure the quality of fans?

Something completely left out of the study is loyalty. Cleveland has the most miserable fan base in the NFL, according to a 2016 Sporting News ranking. As a result, it has been annually relegated to single Thursday night primetime games each year, with an occasional Monday Night Football appearance. That really hurts exposure to other markets, so it’s understandable why the team’s “road equity” has been so poor.

Being stuck in a miserable quagmire for nearly two decades, not having national exposure, and lacking a comparably affluent metropolitan area as others doesn’t make Browns fans lesser, and certainly not in the bottom third of the NFL.

There really should be another category added into the rankings, we’ll call it the “Misery Index,” which would undoubtedly boost Browns fans into the Top 15 of this study, if not higher.

Maybe you can factor some intangibles into your next study, Michael, because money and population sizes aren’t everything.