When the Saints won the Super Bowl in February, it wasn't hard to find references to them as the new America's Team. Their long climb up from the dregs of the NFL, mixed with the hardships New Orleans endured after the levees gave way, made them an appealing story and an easy bandwagon for people to jump aboard in time to celebrate along with Drew Brees.
Those proclamations appear to have been premature, however. According to Nielsen, the fine people who tell you that America is a little too obsessed with off-key singing judged by tight shirted Brits, the Cowboys are still the most popular team in the NFL. And their rankings say that it isn't even a close race.
Nielsen's Sports Media Exposure index measures teams based on their local and national television ratings, their online buzz and the amount of visitors to their team website. The team that finishes first is given a 100 rating with every other team's rating reflecting how they rank in relation. The Cowboys finished first in national tv ratings and website traffic to give them the crown and the runner-up Steelers get an 81 ranking to finish well back of Double J's hardy warriors.
There will certainly be some who say that the Cowboys win this prize by virtue of the fact that they appear on national television so often and often play other teams that score quite well in the rankings during those games. The Cowboys wouldn't get so many spots in marquee settings if they didn't draw a ton of eyes, though, which means this is really a chicken/egg scenario that winds up with the Cowboys looking good any way you slice it.
What's the fallout from this news? Well, you can expect to see a few more Cowboys games move into prime slots once flex scheduling comes into play in the second half of the season. You can also expect to hear more people take Michael Wilbon's view that the Cowboys are overrated simply because they get so much exposure. We already know that this isn't a particularly bad thing, but it doesn't make it much less annoying to hear people complaining about the attention paid to the Cowboys.
The real upshot of all this, however, is that all the exposure in the world doesn't amount to wax beans if the Cowboys don't play well starting Sunday. And that we'll all have actual football to talk about instead of the noodlings of media companies trying to quantify things that really don't matter on the field.
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