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ESPN The Magazine looks westward for ‘Bay Area Issue,’ surveys fan allegiances with help of Facebook

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Editor’s note: To see more Raiders fans in all their glory, check out ESPN The Magazine’s gallery.

ESPN The Magazine’s “Bay Area Issue,” on newsstands today, explores what its editors have dubbed “the most thrilling place in sports.” Consider: The San Francisco Giants won the World Series; the 49ers came within five yards of a Super Bowl ring; the Warriors pulled off the NBA Western Conference’s biggest turnaround; the Sharks nearly upset the 2012 Stanley Cup champs L.A. Kings in the 2013 NHL playoffs; and the A’s have posted consecutive 90-plus victory seasons.

In producing this issue, The Mag worked with Facebook to survey allegiances in every single town in the Bay Area — 162 towns across 10 counties, to be exact. Front Row caught up with Deputy Editor Bruce Kelley and Senior Editor Megan Greenwell — both former Bay Area residents — for the inside scoop on The Mag’s third annual city-specific issue.

How is this different than the D.C. and Boston deep-dives?
BK: We had The L.A. Issue on our schedule for fall. . . But I had moved here a year before from my hometown, missed my teams, and secretly wondered, “How about a Bay Area Issue?” Then the day after the 49ers got to the Super Bowl, three months after the Giants had won the Series, Chad Millman [The Mag’s Editor In Chief] forwarded the team an email from Rob King [ESPN’s SVP for Content, Digital & Print Media]. “Bay Area Issue,” it said. That was a good day. I believe I sent the email telepathically.

What makes the Bay Area exciting for sports in 2013? How did the region become the focus of an entire issue?
MG: [As mentioned above] Over the past 12 months, most Bay Area sports have been on an absolute tear. . . And the Raiders, the only underperformer in the bunch, have perhaps the most devoted — and certainly most colorful — fan base in the NFL. Plus, the apps and social media and other technology coming out of San Francisco and Silicon Valley have completely transformed the way we play and watch sports.

What led The Mag to work with Facebook?
MG: Along with millions of other sports fans, we were wowed by the NFL fandom maps Facebook published last January showing the preferred team for every county in the United States.

That made us wonder whether we could get even more detailed data to settle age-old questions about the dividing lines in the rivalries between the Giants and A’s and Raiders and 49ers. Facebook was able to provide us data for all 162 towns in the Bay Area, which allowed us to publish the most detailed fandom maps ever created.

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