That the Detroit Pistons have a passionate fan base is not news (well it was news one time). But now, an analysis of television ratings shows just how excited the metropolitan area gets when the team is doing well and being ‘Bad Boys’.
As part of a long-form article on the Pistons, Jabari Young of CNBC went over the difference between how popular Detroit was in its glory days compared to how it is now.
The point trying to be made was, when a team loses it identity, it starts losing games and then fans stop following. The team is no longer what is used to be when they first became fans, so people lose interest.
Pistons great Isiah Thomas commented about the Pistons ‘Bad Boy’ identity in the article.
“There is a fan base that says, ‘This is the standard of play and commitment that we expect,’” Thomas said to CNBC. “And they measure it against our Pistons ‘bad boy’ team. That’s the criteria — and the team and players that come through have to live up to that standard.”
Following the ‘Bad Boys’, who won the championship in 1988 and ’89, were the ‘Goin’ to Work’ crew that made the Eastern Conference finals from 2003 to 2008, and won the NBA title in 2004.
While they had different nicknames, both Pistons teams of those eras had similar characteristics: tough, hard-working, never backing down and giving a total team effort to achieve victory.
And the Pistons hard work was rewarded by the fans putting down their hard-earned money to buy tickets.
Although its population was way below that of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the Pistons led the entire NBA in attendance from 2003-06, and was second in 2007, and back to being first in 2008-09.
But as the team backslid, and stopped playing the kind of ball the fans expected, the seats became empty. Since 2010, Detroit has been in the bottom half of the league in attendance.
According to Home Team Sports in the story, the television rating showed the same effect.
During the heydey of ‘Goin’ to Work’, Pistons games on cable television averaged 4.02 (meaning 4-percent of all televisions in the Detroit area watched the games). However, after 2008, the last time the team was in the East finals, the rating plummeted, to a 1.45 average.
Last year, which started late, had Detroit lose the two big names that casual fans knew in Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, and lasted into the summer when many families are on vacation. The ratings went under one-percent, to 0.8.
Pistons still have a loyal fanbase, but when they are good, that fanbase expands greatly, much more than normal cities.
“That market loves sports,” said Gregg Liebman, Home Team’s head of research in the CNBC piece.. “When their teams are competitive, the ratings and interest are through the roof. It might not be the biggest market in terms of market size. But it is in terms of sports passion”
The TV and attendance figures make it plain: When the Detroit Pistons are doing well on the court, there is no better place to play.