The Most Stressed Sports Fans

Being a sports fan can be stressful, but which fans are the MOST stressed? We decided to find out and offer some tips on how to stay stress-free.

Being a sports fan can be stressful. Every missed shot or dropped pass has a way of weighing on a fan’s psyche. All those missed opportunities play over and over in their head whenever their team lets a close game slip through their fingers, or even in the waning moments of a victory before the outcome is fully secured. 

All sports fans have experienced those kinds of agonizingly close games. Frankly, we wouldn’t blame any of them if they wanted to mitigate their stress with acupuncture or other herbal products. When thinking about this kind of sports-induced stress, we began to wonder: which fans experience the MOST stress as a result of how close their favorite team’s games are? 

To find out, we decided to look at box scores from the last five full seasons worth of major sporting contests to find how many close games each team in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, and college football has been in, as well as how they have fared in terms of wins and losses. So, which fans are the most stressed? Read on to find out.


To figure out which sports fans are most stressed, we first had to create criteria for what constitutes a “close” game. We decided to count all football games where the score was within 7 points (a one-score contest), all NBA games within 5 points (the league’s definition of a close game per their two-minute reports), hockey games within 2 goals (known as “the most dangerous lead”), and baseball games within 3 runs (the scenario for a save situation) as close games for our analysis. Additionally, we include all games that went to overtime or extra innings. 

While we know that a final score does not guarantee that a game was actually as close or stressful as the score might indicate, most games within the score margins we landed on are stressful for their fans, and the scores are close enough that a single play or two could have changed the outcome.

Since most sports fans follow more than one team, and rooting interests tend to encompass all teams local to a given area, one thing we were interested in finding is which cities have the most stressed out fanbases overall. To find this we looked at every city with at least three professional teams in the four major sports and then found the average percentage of games played by those teams that qualify as close games according to our criteria.  

We found 20 cities with at least three pro teams, and ranked them according to the highest and lowest percentage of close games their teams play. Tampa Bay fans came out as those experiencing the most stress, with 61.7% of all games played by the Buccaneers, Rays, and Lightning qualifying as close contests. Good thing they have all those beaches to relax on after games! 

Pittsburgh finished second, at nearly 59% of games being close. After that there is a significant drop off, with Detroit being more than 5% points behind in third place. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Cleveland fans have experienced the lowest percentage of close games (42.3%) the last five years, though as any Cleveland sports fan can tell you, blowout losses play a big role in their number of close games being so low.

Which team’s fans have been on the edge of their seats the most over the last five years? We found that Detroit Red Wings fans have had to sweat things out the most in the regular season because their team had over 74% of their games end with a scoreline within two goals. 

Next up, in regular-season play, are the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, both of which play more than 55% of their games close. The Texas Longhorns play close games just under 50% of the time. The Toronto Raptors, the defending champs in the NBA, have seen more than one-third of their games the last five years come down to the wire. 

You can also see the percentages for playoff games illustrated here, with numbers that are universally larger due to the smaller number of possible post-season games to evaluate.  


By definition, any game that goes into an extra period of play is a close game. That’s why we tracked how many of those kinds of games every team has participated in over the last five years, regardless of the outcome. Interestingly, we found that in every league except the NBA, the teams that play the most overtime games find themselves playing an extra session in over 10% of their total games. Fans of those teams can definitely be forgiven for feeling like their favorite squads go out of their way to prolong the stress of these games.

Of course, whether a fan is able to positively or negatively release the stress of a close game depends on the overall outcome. Beyond that, sports fans that are used to their team pulling out close wins may be better at regulating just how anxious they get during a game than a fan who frequently winds up on the losing end of things. Knowing how important outcomes are to the overall stress levels of fans, we found which teams have seen the highest percentages of their games be close wins and which have the highest percentage of games that are close losses. 

Unfortunately for fans of three of the teams that play the most close games, their teams also experience the highest percentage of close losses. If fans of the Buccaneers, Red Wings, and Longhorns feel like they just can’t escape having their hearts broken in close game after close game, they’re right, with those sides all leading their respective leagues with the highest percentage of their games that are close losses. 

Everything we have examined so far focuses on which teams play the highest quantity of close games, while only briefly looking at performance in such contests. To get a more complete picture of sports fan stress, we also found which teams have the best and worst winning percentages in close games, regardless of how many they played. 

It should come as no surprise that the New England Patriots, Golden State Warriors, and Washington Capitals each lead their respective leagues when it comes to winning close games, each coming out on top in close games more than 60% of the time. All three have won championships in their leagues in the last five years, and knowing how to win tight games is something that championship teams need to be able to do, and those three teams have been among the best teams in their sports for years. 



Ironically, however, when looking at winning percentages in overtime games, the Patriots are the worst in the NFL during the regular season. They have lost every single overtime game they have played before the playoffs in the last five years. Of course, they flip the switch once they get to the postseason, boasting a perfect overtime winning percentage in those contests. 



Finally, we wanted to find which sports fans have had the least to stress about over the last five seasons to counteract the rising blood pressure of fans who have to watch tight contests time and time again. 

Unsurprisingly, the Patriots lead the way on the NFL side of things here, with only 35% of all of their games being decided by a single score. Combined with their 67% winning percentage in such games, New England fans have truly had things made in the shade when it comes to enjoying largely stress-free football. 

But even more impressive in this regard is the play of the Golden State Warriors, who boast the same winning percentage as the Patriots in close games while only playing in games decided by five points or less 20.49% of the time! 

For anyone wishing to explore some of the research relating to how many close or stressful games teams have played, we have also created some interactive tables that allow users to compare teams against one another on a number of different metrics, as well as letting them look at data relating to specific teams. These have been made for the following leagues: 





As a leading supplier of acupuncture supplies, here at Lhasa OMS we understand a thing or two about stress and how it can impact your life. Personal lives, work, and any number of other sources of stress are unavoidable, which is why the escapism of a sporting event is so inviting to many in the first place. With that in mind our team sincerely hopes that neither our study or your favorite teams cause you any extra stress or anxiety!