This morning I saw an amusing data visualisation: a map of US professional sports teams’ spheres of influence, assuming that everyone will support the NFL/NBA/MLB team based nearest to where they live. It’s just a toy, that neither makes any serious claims about anything important nor includes either of the sports I follow at all, but it illustrates something important about Seattle. It’s clearest if you look at the NFL view and combine teams in the same metro area, like so:
Look at the size of the Western teams’ territories—especially Seattle, Denver & Minneapolis—compared to the Eastern ones. When we drove across the northern US years ago, what we saw was even more extreme, because I don’t recall any Denver Broncos paraphernalia along the way. Somewhere around Montana and Northern Wyoming there was a fuzzy divide between Minneapolis & Seattle’s spheres of influence; roughly where espresso shacks started appearing at gas stations. That same divides reflects who would travel to Seattle for a big game, their Christmas shopping, a night at the opera or a Broadway show on tour. I think this disproportionately huge catchment area is why Seattle gets to have a lot of big-city amenities while still often feeling like a small town. This is one of my favourite things about the place, and I’m still getting used to it having grown up somewhere so unlike this.