Are Rangers now more popular than Cowboys?

Have the Rangers surpassed the Cowboys in popularity? A recent poll of Dallas-Fort Worth fans says so.

And if you believe that poll, you believe Dewey defeated Truman, Notre Dame was the best team in college football and Justin Bieber should have swept the Grammys. Drawing conclusions from polls and popularity contests is a tricky business.

There is some truth to the data compiled by Scarborough Research that says 62 percent of Dallas-Fort Worth adults are Rangers fans while 61 percent are Cowboys fans.

The Rangers have become immensely popular in the last five years, a boom that started even before their World Series runs in 2010 and 2011. They’ve been a fun team to follow.

Ratings are up, and attendance has boomed. You see folks wearing Rangers gear everywhere. Rangers Ballpark gives fans a great in-game experience and team president Nolan Ryan is one of the state’s most popular figures.

But none of that has Jerry Jones quaking in his Italian loafers just yet. The Cowboys’ TV ratings still dwarf the Rangers. The Cowboys still pack Cowboys Stadium despite no playoff appearances the last three seasons.

Even ho-hum Cowboys news gets headlines and leads sportscasts because it moves the needle. The numbers bear it out, or local media would stop doing it. Advertisers don’t care about history and tradition, they crave eyeballs.

So how does a poll conclude that the Rangers are more popular when the Cowboys are still the 800 pound gorilla in North Texas? Well, the problem with polls is most people just look at the answers and forget to look at the question.

It’s a lot more fun to write a buzz-worthy headline that the Rangers have surpassed the Cowboys in popularity than it is to actually dissect the results.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the survey question posed to Dallas-Fort Worth adults was whether they have watched, listened to or attended a Rangers game or a Cowboys game in the past year.

A “yes” response to either team labeled a respondent as a fan of the team. So 62 percent said they had paid attention to a Rangers game in the last year, compared to 61 percent who said they bothered to watch or listen to a Cowboys game.

Here’s the catch: The Rangers play 162 games. The Cowboys play only 16.

That means the Rangers have 10 times as many opportunities as the Cowboys to catch the eyes and ears of the public. Having 81 home games and cheaper tickets also gives the Rangers more opportunities to draw in non-fans through group sales and promotions.

The major league baseball regular season also stretches out over six months compared to basically four months for the NFL. That’s two more months of exposure. In two of the last three years, the Rangers’ season actually lasted seven months because of those trips to the World Series.

So when you ask people if they’ve been to, watched or listened to a Rangers game in the last year, the odds are in the Rangers’ favor just by the sheer volume of opportunities. Throw in the Rangers’ success over the last three seasons versus the Cowboys’ 22-26 record in that period, and it’s a wonder the Rangers didn’t win the poll in a landslide.

It’s true that interest in the Cowboys has slipped since the team last made the playoffs in 2009. TV ratings dipped at times last fall and Cowboys Stadium is often packed with the visiting team’s fans.

The Cowboys’ spell over Dallas-Fort Worth is nothing like it was during the Super Bowl eras of the 1970s and 1990s, when freeways and shopping malls were deserted when the ‘boys were playing.

But the real-world numbers say that the Cowboys are still the lead dog among Dallas-Fort Worth sports franchises. That the Rangers nosed out the Cowboys in one particular popularity contest reflects the Rangers’ recent and well-earned success… and not much more.

Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire