The Method to Our Madness

A glimpse of how ESPN The Magazine determined its 2011 Ultimate Rankings. 

The Ultimate Standings ranks MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL franchises according to how much they give back to fans for the time, money and emotion they invest in them. Here's how, in four steps.

First, working with Maddock Douglas, an Elmhurst, Ill., consulting firm, we conducted a poll of 1,003 sports fans across North America to determine what they most want from their favorite teams. The survey covered 21 topics, from "has players who always give their best effort" to "provide avenues for fan feedback."

Second, through ESPN.com, we asked fans to rate their favorite clubs in these 21 categories. We received more than 69,000 responses -- thanks to all of you who participated! -- and grouped those responses into seven of the eight broad categories you see on these pages.

Third, with the help of researchers at the University of Oregon's Warsaw Sports Marketing Center, we determined how efficiently teams convert dollars from fans to on-field wins (regular and postseason). These calculations are the basis for the remaining category, Bang for the Buck.

Finally, we combined each team's scores (not its rankings) across all eight categories into one final weighted average, taking each category's importance from our national survey. (For example, fans rated Affordability about 50 percent more important than Ownership.) The result is the 2011 Ultimate Standings: the only list of rankings that combines fan perspective with an objective measure of how well teams turn fan dollars into wins.

Peter Keating is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.