Super Bowl XLVII features a decidedly East versus West contest between San Francisco and Baltimore, and - with a few major exceptions - fans' rooting interests largely break down along time zones according to a recent SportsNation poll.
If you're east of Texas, you're more likely to root for the Ravens; folks in the western half of the country are more frequently pulling for the Niners. (The only poll we've seen more likely to cause a longitudinal split among the fans is one that asks if the Super Bowl should be moved to a Saturday. People in the Eastern and Central time zones, it seems, would prefer a day off after a late night.)
It's not at all surprising that California is bright red and Maryland deep blue, but neither the 49ers nor the Ravens are America's team. We know from a poll earlier this season that 4 percent of NFL fans claim the 49ers as their favorite team compared with just 1.3 percent of fans who picked the Ravens.
So how does everyone else decide for whom to root?
The mottled map is a testament to how the 49ers and Ravens have inflamed the passions of sports fans around the country based on perceived slights, rivalries and local affections for particular athletes.
Let's take a look at some of our favorites:
To make it to the Super Bowl, the Ravens had to beat the Colts, Broncos and Patriots. Fans of the losing teams don't seem too forgiving, and get less so the more recently they got beat. Fifty-five percent of Hoosiers, 59 percent of Coloradans and 70 percent of Bay Staters hope the Ravens get stuffed Sunday.
The Niners' victims are similarly unforgiving: 58 percent of Georgians and 66 percent of Wisconsinites are rooting for the Ravens after the 49ers took down the Falcons and the Packers. It seems those fans are also hoping for some Super Schadenfreude.
We could probably also throw Louisianans into this group, as many Saints fans would hate to see 49ers faithful reveling on Bourbon Street just a year after crushing their spirits with "The Grab."
That hostility was taken up another notch last season after visiting Saints fans reported getting harassed at Candlestick Park during a 36-32 divisional round playoff loss.
Some states' preferences can be explained by natural rivalries. Take the West's lone blue holdout, Washington. Seattle had an incredible run of success this year that included a beatdown of NFC West rival San Francisco in Week 16. But after a playoff loss, the Seahawks won't be sporting any championship rings this year. And their fans (60 percent of them, anyway) are hoping the 49ers won't be winning any more hardware either.
Likewise, there are a few states in the East that have bucked the regional trend, probably because of their distaste for the Ravens. In Steelers country, including parts of Pennsylvania and West Virginia, most fans would hate to see AFC North rival Baltimore send Ray Lewis out a champion.
Ohio, home to the other AFC North teams in Cincinnati and Cleveland, also favors the Niners. This likely reflects the displeasure (and envy, perhaps) of Browns fans who watched Art Modell whisk their team away to Baltimore in 1996. Although the Browns were revived in 1999, they've suffered through years of mediocrity while the Ravens have flourished. In the past 14 years, the Browns have gone 73-151 and appeared in the playoffs just once, and Baltimore has gone 134-90, appeared in the playoffs nine times and won Super Bowl XXXV. One more trophy might be too much for the Dawg Pound to bear.
The Hometown Heroes:
Wonder why Alabama is a little bluer than the rest of the South? Perhaps it's because the famed Ravens defense features three stars from the state's unprecedented run of college football national championships - nose tackle Terrence Cody and linebacker Courtney Upshaw from Alabama and linebacker Josh Bynes from Auburn.
Nevada and Delaware are deeply red and blue, respectively, perhaps because they neighbor the competing states. But fans there also likely are expressing pride in their local quarterback heroes: Colin Kaepernick played collegiately in Reno, and Joe Flacco is a former Blue Hen.
And how to explain Michigan's heavy lean toward the Ravens? Try as they might, the hometown Lions simply can't get over the hump and beat the 49ers; they've lost the past nine in a row. But a simple losing streak probably isn't enough to earn Detroit fans' ire -- they're pretty used to being on the wrong side of the scoreboard. What probably chafes them most about the 49ers is a strange incident that happened last year just after the Niners completed a last-minute comeback. A fired-up Jim Harbaugh sprinted across the field to Lions coach Jim Schwarz, grabbed his hand and smacked him heavily on the back. Schwartz took offense, and the two men had to be pulled apart and sent to the locker rooms. The coaches insist they've moved on; the fans, evidently, have not.
If it seems as if the whole country has a rooting interest in seeing a particular team win or lose, you're not far off. It's the Super Bowl, after all, the most-watched game in the world.