Fans are the lifeblood of sports—without stands filled with men and women who live and die by their favorite teams and athletes, sports would merely be recreation. The high school gym class and intramural frisbee.
In short, through their passion and cold hard cash, fans give sports meaning.
Like any relationship born with an unbreakable link, it isn't always pretty, but the two parties have to learn to live with each other. Because one wouldn't exist without the other.
Some of the greatest moments in sports are those occasions when fan and team joined together in harmony—celebrating a world championship on the streets of their city or giving a standing ovation as a future Hall of Famer leaves the field for the last time.
However, fans are often the culprits behind some of the most ugly moments in sports.
As spectators, we can't suit up and change the momentum. We can't arrive to practice early and get ready to win next week. All of these raw emotions—in the role of the vicarious "12th Man"—sometimes lead to poor decision-making and behavior that would seem completely alien in any other setting.
These are 21 ways that some sports fans can be terrible.
And please remember, these aren't personal accusations directed at you—so keep it together.
Like those crazy celebrity stalkers who are convinced the only thing standing between them and a happily ever after with their celebrity obsession is the fact that they've never met.
Well...that...and a restraining order, of course.
There are plenty of sports fans out there who think that just because they see someone on that magical picture box in their living room, that means they actually know them.
Or that being a fan means that you are simply entitled to hearing every one of your opinions heard. By everyone. Including athletes and team ownership.
Most fans keep these annoying interactions confined to the virtual world of Twitter, but others go for a more hands-on approach:
- Fashion designer Calvin Klein decides he's qualified to coach the Knicks, too.
- Strange woman wanders onto the court to talk to a player during a 2012 playoff game between the Lakers and Nuggets.
- Brazen lunatic storms the pitch during an international-friendly soccer match in an effort to aggressively pursue the affection of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi.
These kinds of incidents provide people with instant viral superstardom these days, at least for a brief moment in time. Which is probably why they're becoming more common.
If you've ever been to a major sporting event, you've probably noticed there is often one guy in the area who seems far more interested in causing trouble than watching the game.
Some sports are pretty violent by nature, so I guess it makes sense that they can attract people who are pretty violent by nature. This guy is a much different animal than the guys involved in drunken fan altercations that tend to increase as the game goes on.
Sometimes he's so angry that it's hard to tell if he even has a rooting interest in either team. Almost as if he paid the price of admission in hopes of baiting someone into a fight he knows he'll win.
Thankfully these types are relatively rare at sporting events in the U.S. because they're easily spotted and quickly removed by security. They seem to make more of a mark at international soccer matches.
Overall, the rise and widespread availability of the internet has been a pretty good thing.
But one of the worst things about the digital age is that any way-too-intense fan with a computer and internet access can, and probably will at one time or another, create their own blog.
That's not to say every fan blog is terrible. There are a handful of well-executed, thoughtful fan sites that have built a loyal base of readers.
But for every one of those, there are about 15 largely abandoned blogspot blogs that haven't been updated since 2007.
This one is kind of specific, in that it really only refers to fans of hockey and other indoor sports that play behind glass like this.
And really, it only applies to those fans who are seated in the first or second row. So that's an even more limited audience in an already limited audience.
I am an avid hockey fan, so this has been something that has irritated me for two decades. So if you've never experienced the glass bangers for yourself, you're just going to have to take my word for it.
You're probably thinking that lunatic in the photo is pretty amusing. And in still photography, he actually is. It's funny like when you pause a movie and someone is making a ridiculous face.
But in reality he and every other drunken like-minded lunatic in the front row spend the entire game manically pounding on the glass anytime the action gets within 10 feet of their seats. It's far more menacing than amusing.
The whining is something that sports fans just do. I whine. You whine. Your buddies whine. Even your dad whines about sports. If you care enough about your team, you'll find something to bellyache about.
It doesn't matter how good or how bad your team is, there is almost always something to complain about. Fans of perennial bottom-feeders like the Pirates or the Browns are deserving of the pity parties they're always throwing.
What's funny though, and I'm just speaking from my own experience as a writer, is that I never hear from the whining fans of bad teams like that. Perhaps they're too tired, or just have completely given up, but it's a very rare occasion when that happens.
I'm far more likely to be on the receiving end of irate complaints by Yankees, Cowboys or Patriots fans about the perceived injustices and conspiracies that are keeping them down.
And, as a Steelers fan, I begrudgingly count myself as an occasional member of this club.
I'm going to concede right up front that I've been to dozens, maybe even hundreds, of sporting events in my life and I've never seen any fans going the arson route.
Not to celebrate. Not to protest. Not to liven up a boring game. Not even to keep warm during particularly chilly tailgating.
That being said, we all know that many fans are no stranger to fire. In the U.S. and Canada we're more familiar with celebratory arson during championship celebrations. Or in some cases, like mine, the burning of gear that displays the name of a player who has forsaken you.
But celebratory fires and small, contained backyard exorcisms aren't meant to do harm. Unlike...say...the fires fans have been known to set in the stands at soccer matches overseas.
The whole soccer "hooligan" thing is a bit exaggerated, but there's no question it's based in reality.
Storming the field/court en mass isn't something that happens in professional sports, but rather in college.
And it doesn't even have to be a particularly big game, any dramatic win can trigger an impromptu celebration like this.
But since when are you entitled to celebrate on the field with the players who actually won the game? I would never even consider jumping over the wall at Heinz Field to celebrate a mid-October win with the Steelers.
That's just insanity.
This happens on the regular, so I know the mere suggestion that it's inappropriate behavior is going to have plenty of people balling their fists and turning red with rage.
Oh well! Pardon me if I don't think paying tuition makes you an honorary part of the football and/or basketball team.
Some fan signs are relatively clever, while others leave a little bit left on the table in terms of concept and execution. Although, anyone who goes out of his way to make a sign deserves a little credit, of course.
Coming up with an idea, gathering all those materials and actually creating something? That's more preparation than some people put into their 9-5 day job in a full week's worth of work. Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows that's true.
But I'll tell you one thing right now—even if I never saw another ridiculously stupid "D + (cutout of a fence)" sign, it would be too soon.
And Brian Kelly picking his nose? I'd hate to see what ideas didn't make the cut.
Maybe I'm just too cynical to understand the value or motivation behind the panicked frenzy fans often create in seeking autographs from their favorite athletes. The last autograph I remember coveting was from a member of the New Kids on the Block—probably around 1992.
There are some autograph-seekers who collect signatures purely for financial gain, which actually makes sense to me. Financial gain is worth going out of your way a little bit and even putting someone else out.
But you know damn well the people in this photo aren't those type of autograph seekers. There's no way you could whip yourself up into this kind of state just to acquire something to sell on eBay.
It just seems like a complete waste of time to spend a week milling around NFL training camp, or hours camped out by the players exit after a game, or standing around forever figuring out the best time to ruin an athlete's dinner, just so you can have them illegibly scrawl their name on a piece of paper you'll probably lose within months.
Listen. Nobody expects fans to sit quietly with their hands folded on their laps during a game. That would be insane and literally no fun whatsoever.
But there's a difference between cheering on your team, whether it be at the game itself or watching at a bar, and screaming your face off for three straight hours.
I'm not even going to pretend that I understand the way people behave when television cameras are involved. I've never wanted to be on reality television.
I've never agreed to an interview with a local news reporter. And I've never created a sign pandering to a broadcasting network in hopes it would get me on air.
Occasionally this kind of compulsive fan behavior results in unexpected comedy gold. Like, for example, when a fan (see photo) visiting New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII shouted at a reporter during a live report: "Hey, local news! I'm from California! 49ers!"
The reporter jokingly told the drunken disruptor she was doing a story on STDs and then she shot back "No, I don't have a STD. That's so disrespectful!." Something tells me the irony of that statement was completely lost on her.
Unfortunately most fan-hamming doesn't result in such hilarious exchanges. Generally it consists of an ever-growing mass of locals gathering behind live programming doing anything possible to attract attention whenever the camera pans their way.
Idiots jumping, waving, grinning, yelling, pointing to themselves and texting basically ruined every live television broadcast in the week leading up to the Super Bowl. And all for what? So their idiot friends could see them on TV in the distance for a brief second.
One thing that is equal parts terrible and amazing about sports fans is the amount of power they believe should be afforded to them on the mere grounds of them being a fan. Not to mention the level of expertise they think they possess from watching games.
Every time something doesn't go as well for a team as expected, a vocal minority of fans take it upon themselves to publicly demand ownership (insert stupid action here). Fire the coach! Cut that trouble maker! Start that benchwarmer! Draft so-and-so!
- "Fire Mike Tomlin" Facebook Page
- "Bench Mark Sanchez" Facebook Page
- "Trade Alex Rodriguez" Facebook Page
Really, Steelers fans! You want to fire one of the most popular coaches in the NFL and replace him with who, exactly? So, Jets fans! You don't think Sanchez was only starting because your other options were garbage too? And Yankees fans! Trade Alex Rodriguez, really? Trade him to where, exactly?
It's hard to say how serious of a problem fan-on-fan violence really is because there isn't a comprehensive resource that logs all such events. Which means there's no way to statistically evaluate the risk and the overall prevalence of violent incidents.
But it sure does seem like there has been a significant uptick in the number of ugly fan altercations in recent years. A YouTube search for "fan fight," "fight in the stands" or any other vaguely similar search term will return dozens of results of drunken dudes exchanging blows.
And that's stuff that doesn't even come close to making the news. That's because there are much more high-profile incidents which routinely make headlines, many of which recently have ended in fatalities. In the last three months alone there have been a number of deadly incidents at sporting events around the world.
I imagine that professional athletes and the people working the ground crew at stadiums and arenas must feel like they're taking crazy pills every time tens of thousands of fans, most of whom are adults, react to something they don't like by throwing everything within reach onto the field of play.
Honestly, is there any other place in your adult life when something like that is even remotely acceptable?
Would you pour a beer on your boss if you were passed over for a promotion?
Would you carry around an octopus in your pocket at all times, just so you could throw it into the center of the room if something good happened?
Would you throw everything within arm's length of you on the dinner table if the mashed potatoes were too lumpy?
I imagine the answer most everyone who isn't destined to end up serving a long stretch of time in federal prison is looking for is "No...no I would not." So why does all that civility get thrown out the window just because you dropped a few bucks on a ticket to a ballgame?
Even the most knowledgeable of sports fans often show a complete lack of comprehension and objectivity when it comes to their own team(s).
Delusional homerism is fine when it comes from expected sources, but it can be shocking and frustrating when it comes people you like and respect.
I can't tell you how many reasonable, educated people that I know have been fully convinced that the Pirates have been about to turn the corner every season for the last 15 years.
And if you do anything but nod your head in agreement, they'll go off on your "ignorance" of the game and start quizzing you on the fundamentals of sabermetrics.
It doesn't matter that they are proven absolutely wrong with each passing year of abject futility. Each year the slate is wiped clean, along with their memories, apparently.
That's just my very personal experience, but obviously this extends far beyond the Pirates. Every fanbase in sports has at least a small percentage of delusional homers.
Rioting over sports is one of the dumbest things ever. It's a very dangerous and destructive way to express whatever feelings fans may be having about anything sports-related.
Remember when rioting was reserved for important things like civil rights issues, government tyranny and workers' rights? Probably not, because they all seem to be about sports these days.
Now it's like, "Oh the Giants won the World Series? Let's burn this freaking place to the ground."
It doesn't matter what evidence is presented, the mere mention of the word "racist" is going to instantly trigger a hateful response for people who are convinced racism doesn't exist.
I'm sorry to anyone reading who counts themselves among those people. Sorry for a number of reasons, actually.
But you really don't have to travel any further than Twitter to see what lurks just below the friendly facade many people present to the world. It doesn't take anything more than Joel Ward scoring a goal or the President of the United States having the nerve to appear on television to make the n-word a trending topic.
Now before anyone gets all bent out of shape, please remember that just like with most of this list, we're talking about a small number of people.
But anyone who really wants to argue this point with me should instead direct their comments to the like-minded people on Twitter using the n-word.
One of the great things about Twitter is that it allows many fans to personally interact with athletes. That also happens to be one of the worst things, too.
Interacting with athletes is a privilege that is routinely abused by fans lobbing constant criticism, nasty personal insults and even death threats on occasion.
After a particularly tough year in San Francisco, 49ers kicker David Akers became the frequent target of online abuse by fans. In December 2012 he retweeted this message:
@RIP_FreeLaddin YOU F---OT IF YOU MISS ONE MORE FIELD GOAL YOU ABOUT TO GET YOUR ENTIRE LIFE ENDED.
Geez. I wonder why he decided to quit Twitter after that. Just kidding. He quit because psychopaths were threatening to kill him because he missed some field goals.
There are some fans out there that, if you give them a few beers and a ticket to a ball game, something bad will probably happen. The odds of something bad happening increase exponentially if we're talking about someone in Philadelphia.
Fans there have a rich history of doing horrible, ill-advised things. Although there was nothing more horrible or more ill-advised than when Phillies' fan Matthew Clemmens intentionally vomited on an 11-year-old girl at a game in April 2010.
But it doesn't matter if you're in Philly or somewhere else. It doesn't matter if you're drunk or sober. And it doesn't matter if you're intentionally vomiting on a child or chucking batteries at someone.
Attending a sporting event doesn't mean you have carte blanche to behave like an escaped mental patient.
There's no question that the worst of humanity is represented in the comment section of basically anything written on the web. The notion of expressing a difference of opinion with a thoughtful letter to the editor is dying along with the rest of the print media industry.
The physical demand of having to actually write a letter, mail it and having to make it coherent if you wanted any chance of seeing it in print was a massive obstacle that most people weren't willing to take on. Leaving a comment online removes all that red tape.
ESPN ran a story on the Paterno family's "independent report" criticizing the Freeh Report in February 2013. The story was published on a Sunday morning and within hours had accumulated 5,000-plus comments—with new ones coming in every 5-10 seconds.
And, as you would imagine, the vast majority of them fell into one or more of the following categories:
- Psychotically angry
- Mean as hell
- Trying to be clever, but failing
- Completely off topic
You expect this kind of thing with something that gets people as fired up as child molestation, but this is pretty much the norm no matter how controversial or non-controversial the subject matter. Click over to an innocuous story on CNN about the mild weather in Cheboygan and you will likely find the same kind of insanity.
You know the people who can't resist getting in your face every time their team wins a game? Well, they are the very same people who fall to pieces every time their team loses a game.
The difference being that when they win, it's because you're a loser and they are the best thing in the world. But when they lose, it's because everyone in the world is conspiring against them and you just got lucky.
The only people who should be weeping like a child after their NFL team loses a game are actual children. Everyone else needs to get a grip and recognize that, when you're an adult, not everyone gets a trophy.
**If you don't think everyone deserves a trophy, you should probably follow me on Twitter. We may have some things in common. Follow @blamberr