Facebook's Data Science team has released its 2014 NFL American Fandom Map, to mark the beginning of the NFL season. The map uses Facebook "likes" to determine the most popular NFL team in every U.S. county. The result is "one of the most comprehensive samples of sports fanship ever collected."
Even if you're not a fan of sportsball, dataphiles should still find this fascinating. Facebook reported last year that roughly 35-million of its U.S. account-holders had "liked" the page of one of the NFL's 32 teams. Even if that number hasn't increased, which it probably has, it still means more than 1 in 10 Americans has pledged allegiance to one team or another. As The Upshot noted when describing their U.S. map of baseball fandom back in April, "fans may not list which team they favor on the census, but millions of them do make their preferences public on Facebook."
Each county is color-coded to match the official NFL team page that has received the most "Likes" from people living in that county, which, in turn, gives rise to some pretty distinctive regions of loyalty – and one very conspicuous no-show (sorry, Jets fans). To which team does your county, state, or region owe fealty? How have these allegiances changed since last year?
We'll be watching to see how the borders of fanship shift, shrink, and expand over the course of the season, or, more likely, the playoff season – based on Facebook's fan maps from 2013, that's when things get really interesting.
If you're into this brand of data-mapping, I recommend checking out the Facebook Data Science team's investigation of online courtship behaviors, or this map by the geo-data experts at Floatingsheep, which charts tweets of the words "beer" and "church" by U.S. county.