I meant to get to this last week, not because I'm hockey's greatest defender or anything, but just because. And this admittedly is a little bit of an odd time to be wondering who is more popular in town, the Sixers or the Flyers, given their recent spectacular demises. But, well, here goes.
On 950 ESPN, Mike Missanelli is a huge hockey hater. He's a talented guy, he's kicking ass in the ratings -- really an amazing thing to watch -- and that's all fine. He doesn't like the game and that's not a big deal. Lots of people don't like hockey (although I would argue that Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby throwing dueling hat tricks at each other in the same game is worth a look). But his insistence that there are "10 times as many" Sixers fans compared to Flyers fans is just wrong.
I know, I know, "10 times as many" is just a conversational shorthand. But by any standard, you can't come up with anything approximating the claim.
Attendance, you know. The Flyers have outdrawn the Sixers for most of the last four decades. The haters dismiss that one with the idea that there are only 20,000 Flyers fans in town, and they all show up, and they have more money, and et cetera. OK, fine.
But television is different. Most everybody who wants cable has cable. There is no great economic barrier to getting it anymore. For the overwhelming majority of people in this area, watching the Sixers involves no economic burden. All it takes is click of your thumb.
And, well, the Sixers and Flyers were both just beaten in first-round playoff series after playing middling kinds of regular seasons.
In the regular season, the Sixers averaged a 1.4 rating (42,000 households) on Comcast SportsNet. The Flyers averaged a 2.4 rating (71,300 households).
In Game 5 of their playoff series against Orlando, the Sixers drew a 2.6 rating and peaked at a 4.1. In Game 3 of their playoff series against the Penguins, the Flyers drew a 5.2 rating and peaked at a 6.8, beating the CW and NBC in primetime.
One demographic: for ages 25-54, the Sixers did a 1.9 rating and the Flyers did a 4.6.
These are not isolated numbers, either. The Flyers have outdrawn the Sixers for years. These are real numbers, real facts, and they drive economic decisions by advertisers.
Now, we all remember 2001, when the Sixers went to the NBA Finals and enchanted the town. That was a special time. I will agree that basketball has the potential to build a bigger bandwagon than hockey in those kinds of moments because of overall familiarity with the sport among the people who climb upon bandwagons. But I also recognize that as a unique situation driven by two unique personalities, Allen Iverson and Pat Croce.
But day-in and day-out, the Flyers are a lot more popular than people think -- even here, even today. Hockey is not as popular as basketball but the Flyers are, in many ways, more popular than the Sixers.