The method to our madness

The Ultimate Standings measure how much MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises give back to fans for all the time, money and emotion we invest in them. Here's how: Working with Maddock Douglas, a Chicago consulting firm, we polled 1,000 fans across North America to find out what they want most from their favorite teams. Our survey covered 21 topics, from "has strong leader as coach" to "players who act professionally on and off the field" to "provides avenue for fan feedback." Then ESPN.com asked fans to rate their favorite clubs in these categories; we received more than 50,000 responses. We grouped those responses into seven of the eight broad categories listed above. For the 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 calculated by researchers at the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center at the University of Oregon. Finally, we combined each team's scores across all eight categories into one final, weighted score, taking each category's importance from our national poll. (For example, Stadium Experience counts for slightly more than twice as much as Coaching because that's how fans rated the categories.) The result is the only ranking that combines fan perspective with an objective measure of how well teams turn fan dollars into wins.