We created the Ultimate Standings in four steps.

First, Markitecture, a Norwalk, Conn., marketing consulting firm, conducted a poll of 1,000 fans across North America to determine what they want most in return for their emotional and financial investment in their favorite teams. The survey covered 21 topics, from "has strong leader as coach" to "provides avenues for fan feedback."

Second, through ESPN.com, we asked fans of MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL teams to rate their clubs in these 21 areas of performance. We gathered more than 60,000 responses. We grouped those responses into seven broad categories.

Third, for an eighth category, Bang for the Buck, we examined how efficiently teams convert dollars from fans into on-field wins (regular and postseason). Fan costs were determined by researchers at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon.

Fourth, we combined each team's scores (not its rankings) across all eight categories into one final, weighted score, taking into account, for example, that fans rated Affordability as about 67% more important than Stadium Experience.

The result: a ranking that combines the fan perspective with an objective measure of how well teams turn fan dollars into wins. -Peter Keating