The first few weeks of the 2016 NFL season are in the books, and every football fan everywhere is breathing a sigh of relief, even the ones whose teams played terribly. At least the game is back on. Despite our collective loyalty and passion for the game of football, there are over 150 million fans in the U.S., and nearly all of us are doing something wrong. Many infractions are widespread and relatively harmless, like thinking that other people want to hear about your fantasy squad. Other crimes are downright shameful, such as wearing a personalized jersey or spilling someone else’s beer… on them (unless they are wearing a personalized jersey). But there are some wrongdoings in the practice of rooting for a team that are so despicable, so deplorable, that those who commit them can truly and certifiably be branded BAD FANS. And some cities, sadly, are chock full of these awful people.
Here we examine the seven deadly sins of NFL fandom, and the fanbases that are the worst practitioners of each of these terrible behaviors. Some of them might surprise you! But probably not. Whether it was the result of too much winning, too much losing, too much drinking, or some combination of the three, these jerks should just STFU and GTFO. Real fans are trying to enjoy the game.
7. SIN #1: THINKING YOU ARE PART OF THE TEAM
“We need to pass on first down more.” No, they do. You know, the dudes who spent a thousand hours last week watching film. “We should draft a wide receiver.” No, they should. Or they shouldn’t. Who knows? Not you. “We are kicking their a$$!” No, they are. The fellas out on the field there, the ones with otherworldly physical gifts and work ethic, risking debilitating injury on every play, all under the suffocating microscope of the press and social media, with a tiny 4-year-average window to carve out some financial stability for their families and an honorable legacy for themselves. They are doing the a$$-kicking. You are sitting on your butt watching a game. Sometimes you’re standing up. Probably clapping. Maybe some high fives, if you’re popular.
7. WORST FANS: SEATTLE
This is both tragic and hilarious, because these bad fans don’t see it as a sin but in fact as a point of pride. The 12s. The spoiled, name-stealing, petition-writing toddler-fans of football (apologies to the Deadliest Catch guys, you seem cool), who think being loud is a thing they invented. Guess what? Your stadium was built to be the largest megaphone on earth. And since when did nonstop screaming equate to being a good fan? Did you actually think you were part of Pearl Jam when you saw them live? They used to have blast crowd noise over the loudspeakers because you were so indifferent to your squad. But now, you get to have some cool dudes who are badass athletes to root for and you don’t even give them the credit that they would be balling out completely independently from how much you love yourselves. Oh, and passing was the right call, you just got outsmarted, which leads us to the next sin …
6. SIN #2: NOT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT FOOTBALL
Football is complicated. No sport on earth is more directed and influenced by sideline intelligence; it is literally human chess. On every play, there are 22 men of various massive sizes and blazing speeds flying around with specific assignments, contingency plans, and raw instinct when things break down. And of course, there is a physical ante that ensures that if even a single player messes up his directive, someone is going to get obliterated. There are so many things going on before, during, and after each snap, that there is no one on earth who can confidently claim that he knows everything there is to know about football. That being said, it’s not impossible to understand most of it. There’s running, passing, blocking, and tackling. And once you get what it takes to be successful at these pursuits, then you can truly enjoy both the nuance and sheer spectacle of the violent ballet.
6. WORST FANS: NEW ENGLAND
Did you hear the one about the Harvard grad and the MIT alum extrapolating that if a nickel defense has five DBs, then the dime must have ten? It really happens, all the time. I mean, I get it, you have this dastardly genius coach who keeps the best in the business guessing year in and year out, with his annual dirty tricks, 120-year-old film guru and automaton game manager QB, so of course you have no idea what’s really going on. Your job simply is to puff out your chest and play the victim every time your team gets busted doing shady stuff. But as a group you really don’t know much, because really, you’re from New England and suck at football. There isn’t a single NFL player who grew up in New England, and there never has been. Not a single one. Ever.
5. SIN #3: FAIRWEATHER FANS
Every successful team will grow its fanbase with bandwagoners. Especially kids. Little kids are just the worst, totally shameless bandwagoners of all. And when a team wins a ring or two, it attracts all the fringe fans because everybody wants to feel like a winner too, and it just brings ’em out. But fairweather fans have actually been fans of that one team all along. They stuck with them, but only really care about the team when it’s doing well. And that right there is the fundamental difference between bandwagon fans and fairweather fans: bandwagon fans are just new fans of the game, and fans of winning, but they really aren’t true fans at all. Fairweather fans are fans of one team, but they bail when they’re losing. Bandwagoning is the misdemeanor, fairweathering is the felony. The fairweather fan is a betrayer, while the bandwagoner never really had any loyalty to begin with.
5. WORST FANS: EVERY CITY EXCEPT CLEVELAND
Obviously, Seattle and New England are right at the top of this list due to their recent spoilage, as well as loser towns like Miami and San Diego, where it is so bad that fans don’t even show up to the games unless the actual weather is literally fair. But even the most passionate fanbases, like Philly and Oakland, will see quite a bit of bailing when the garbage on the field is just too tough to watch. But not Cleveland, baby. These poor souls have endured all of the worst things that can happen to a franchise and yet the gluttons for punishment keep coming back for more. Think about this cruel list of indignities: no Super Bowls, iconic playoff fails, having your team move to Baltimore, a terrible owner, a lousy stadium, the very ugliest color scheme, a parade of QB’s that is basically a who’s who list of worst NFL careers, and last week’s inevitable blowout served up by the rookie QB they passed on at the draft. Season after season, these fans just get dawg pounded. And yet, here they are. Good fans.
4. SIN #4: HOMERS
Everybody knows a homer: he’s the guy who refers to all the players by their first name, only to burn their jerseys when they leave in free agency. It’s just like the brilliant Seinfeld bit about rooting for clothes: if all you care about is who is wearing your team’s colors, then you are doing it wrong. However, this is just one symptom of homering, the sin of loving ‘your guy’s’ way, way too much. But it’s hard to tell which kind of homerdom is worse: when your kicker costs you a playoff game and local kids mail him get well soon cards, or when the wrong play call costs you a Super Bowl and every fan posts weeping accusations of betrayal on YouTube. In both instances, there is an unhealthy relationship with the men who play football for your hometown, most likely all of which aren’t even from your hometown.
4. WORST FANS: MINNESOTA
Sure, we could also give this one to the multitudinously bad fans of Seattle (it was mathematically proven that they are the worst homers in baseball), but Vikes fans are just so damn nice that they really went out and earned this one. Picture this scenario: you are standing and screaming for four hours in an outdoor stadium, at minus 10 degrees, only to witness your kicker bone a 20-yarder to end your season on the last play of the game. What thoughts would race through your head? What feelings would unfurl in your soul? What dark place would you surrender to, curled up in the fetal position, cursing your fate? Well, in Minnesota, it’s just the perfect time to remind the poor fella of your undying love and support, help your second-grader pen a heartfelt letter to the guy, and look ahead with optimism to the start of next season. Just horrible. How do these people sleep at night?
3. SIN #5: VIOLENCE
It is a violent game, but it is (mostly) controlled violence. There are rules. There is honor. There are helmets. When fans fight, there is none of this. And when fans fight in California, there are guns and knives. But the NFL basically has a formula for world domination that mixes brutal, war-like sport, lots of beer, and patriotism. So really what do you expect? That said, there are just so, so many fans that can get completely amped up watching the game and never, not once, have the intention to go cold clock somebody else, even if the urge is to do exactly that to every opposing fan they ever see. It makes sense that some of you dumb a-holes are gonna have to go to jail over this great game, and while getting drunk and fighting isn’t nearly as bad as some of the other sins, it’s still dumb enough to make this list.
3. WORST FANS: A Battle Royale Among Every OAKLAND, LOS ANGELES, PHILADELPHIA, and NEW YORK fan in a Last Man Standing Cage Match to the Death
New York still probably loses this one even with two fanbases, because for every tough there’s a little nerd in those stands. But not in LA (now), or Oakland (for now). Or Philly, of course, where the stadium came equipped with a judicial system. It would be remiss to ignore the naked aggression of San Franciscan football fans, but they don’t make the final cut because they can’t afford to travel to the suburban techie hellscape where the games are now, so they’ve lost a lot of their best chances to stab people afterwards. Almost certainly it would be the fine folks from Raider Nation who would win this metropolitan smackdown, because they really do dress the part. But you gotta wonder how the line would move if the team ends up pushing their luck in Vegas.
2. SIN #6: WHINING
Refs blow calls. It happens every game. There is also replay. Some of us remember when there wasn’t. But seriously just shut up about it! Perhaps a good exercise here would be to think about other sports, and how much whining they have. Baseball is a good sport; not too much whining. Maybe some balls and strikes, but generally it’s ok. Basketball? A lot more whining! Not as good. Soccer? The whiniest of all human endeavors. Half the game is faking injury and whining about it! And then getting cards with colors and whining about that! And at any given moment, every fan is either singing, fighting, or whining! Or adjusting their scarf. Football shouldn’t be anything like soccer (except for the kicking, but we can all agree that kicking is obviously the very worst part of the game), so football fans should not be like soccer fans. A good start would be to stop whining.
2. WORST FANS: THE ENTIRE NFC WEST
Super Bowl XL: Seattle is still crying about it. Super Bowl XLIII: Arizona is still crying about it. The Forty-Whiners. The Whaaaaaams. So much whining comes from just one division. How can this be? Is there something about the mental and emotional constitution of people who live out west? Could it be from all the sunshine? Doesn’t explain Seattle. What about all the kale and kombucha? Doesn’t explain Arizona. All the recent winning? Doesn’t explain the Niners or Rams. Whatever the reason, fans of NFC West teams need to quit the complaining because they really have sunk to new, pathetic lows of late. Writing petitions because you don’t like a player? Because you don’t like a broadcast team? That is just some next-level embarrassingly bad fan stuff, and it needs to be banned for good. It’s really not surprising that soccer is so popular out there.
1. SIN #7: LOVING THE WRONG TEAM
The world is an absurd place, filled with cruelty and unfairness. The NFL is no different. The math says that if you are a fan for at least 32 years, your team should have reached the mountaintop at least once, and you would have been there to witness a championship season in all its glory. But that’s not how it goes. Great fanbases like Pittsburgh and Green Bay are rewarded with new championships spanning decades, and a trash fanbase like New England, which still to this day cares more about the Sox and Celtics than the Pats (sad, but true) have gotten to lord some sick, delusional supremacy over fans from every other town in America. But these dynasties aren’t the only teams worth rooting for. There are the Denvers and the Baltimores and even Tampas that have drank the champagne, held the parades, and made beautiful memories to last forever. But then, there are the rest of us. When is it our turn? When?! Hopefully in less than 32 years.
1. WORST (BEST) FANS: PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
WARNING: 4-ALARM HOT TAKE, what you are about to read is 100% true and no one else has ever said it: the PHILADELPHIA Eagles have the best fans in football. There is no fan base that is more knowledgeable, more passionate, and more loyal. They are an underrated athletic group (how many other teams can say that a fan tried out for the team and made it?) and basically embody the opposite of every previous sin listed in this article except one. But you might be violent too, if your team tortured you the way the Iggs do their fans. They have suffered one fool’s gold coach after the next, from Dick Vermeil to Buddy Ryan to Andy Reid to Chip Kelly, all flirting with greatness only to fail more spectacularly than the guy before. Star quarterbacks have come and gone, but always save their worst for the playoffs. Dominant defenses have eroded quickly, shedding superstars to free agency, untimely injuries, and even tragic death. And the draft has been a sickening charade, most especially to a fan base that boos picks not just because they are willing to boo Santa but because they are informed enough to know which players the team should have chosen. Nevertheless, no one ever feels bad for these poor souls. They get mocked for no rings. They get reminded of batteries in every comment section ever. And yet they come out in droves, year after year, and do football fandom about as perfectly as a city like this can do. One day, it will be very sunny in Philadelphia when the team finally loves them back.
BONUS: OTHER THINGS BAD FANS DO THAT ARE BAD BUT NOT QUITE A SIN
LIVING IN A BASEBALL OR BASKETBALL TOWN
Look, other sports are good. Okay, only a few other sports are good. But baseball, basketball, and hockey are definitely worth watching from time to time. But they ain’t football! And if you don’t agree then you are insufficiently passionate about America’s game. You don’t have to leave the country or anything, but if football isn’t #1 in the hearts and minds of your fellow fans, you are deserving of pity and they of contempt.
LIVING IN THE PAST
Throwback jerseys are rad. Even radder? Actually having been alive to watch the hall of famer who’s number you’re rocking. But when the current version of your favorite team is devoid of stars, and your owner is a greedy prick, and your stadium is a crumbling cesspool of shame, and your beer cost $12.50, you must still resist the urge to have pride and/or talk sh*t because your team won a Lombardi in the 80’s or 90’s.
HAVING MULTIPLE FANTASY TEAMS
Fantasy is great. It helps you follow players around the league, keeps you interested in uninteresting games, and is good fun with friends and family. That said, too much of a good thing is a bad thing.You don’t root for multiple real teams, do you? No, you don’t. Have one team. One team.
Actually, this is the worst sin of all. Let’s give Kap some dap and revisit the conversation about Dan Snyder’s Washington D.C.-based football team in need of an update.
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