NFL: Ranking the Best Fan Bases

Tommy Favaloro@@BiancoNeroBlogContributor IIIMay 18, 2011

NFL: Ranking the Best Fan Bases

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    ARLINGTON, TX - FEBRUARY 06:  Green Bay Packers fans celebrate after winning Super Bowl XLV 31-25 against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Baseball might be America’s favorite pastime, but football has become the most popular sport in the United States. Millions tune in on Super Bowl Sunday to watch the big game. Whether they are diehard fans or people who only watch one football game a year, NFL has a huge fan base from coast to coast.

    Every Sunday, an average of 65,000 people attend each game, and even more watch on television. Cities close down and people stop whatever it is they are doing to cheer on their favorite team.

    The NFL has 32 teams spread out across the country, each with their own rituals, stadiums, chants, and fans. Through good times and bad, there are certain fan bases who continue to show their loyalty to their favorite team. Other fan bases are front runners and are nowhere in sight when their team is having a down year.

    Here is a list that recognizes the true fans of football. These are the top 10 fan bases in the NFL.

10. Seattle

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    Qwest Field: Home of the 12th man
    Qwest Field: Home of the 12th manOtto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    When Seahawks Stadium (now known as Qwest Field) opened in 2002, it completely changed the role that fans played in football games. Seahawks fans taught the country that fans can truly influence a game. Spectators don’t only have to sit in their seats and cheer every time their team scores a touchdown. They can work together to make the game a nightmare for opposing teams’ offenses.

    Home of the "twelfth man," Seattle fans are the loudest fans in football. The Seahawks defense should thank their fans for causing so many false start penalties throughout the history of Qwest Field.

    The Seahawks haven’t had much success ever since they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL, yet fans still show up. After the Supersonics moved, the Seahawks have become Seattle's favorite team. They have a huge following and a dedicated fan base up in the Pacific Northwest.

9. Indianapolis

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    Passionate Colts fans
    Passionate Colts fansAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Indianapolis has the Pacers and is home to the Indianapolis 500, but it is simply a football town. The single most famous person in the city is Peyton Manning.

    John Madden once pointed out something so trivial on the air of a Sunday Night Football game in Indianapolis, but it was absolutely true. He was astonished by the number of fans wearing Colts jerseys throughout the entire stadium. If you haven’t noticed, next time you watch the Colts, pay attention to how virtually every person in the stadium has on a Colts jersey.  I know it’s not much of a big deal, but it is something that makes this fan base unique.

    Colts fans are also one of the loudest fans in football. From their days in the RCA Dome to their new home at Lucas Oil Stadium, the sea of blue jerseys make things extremely difficult for visiting teams.

    Colts fans love their team and are thankful that they have the opportunity to watch Peyton Manning lead their team to glory each and every year.

8. New England

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    An energized Gillette Stadium
    An energized Gillette StadiumMichael Heiman/Getty Images

    Whether it’s because the Patriots almost end up going undefeated every year or because they get to watch Tom Brady pick apart defenses every week, New England is a fan base that has been thriving since the beginning of their dynasty in 2001.

    Football is very special in Foxborough. Mainly it is because Bill Belichick puts together a winning team every season and Tom Brady plays like an MVP year in and year out.

    Patriot fans expect nothing less than going all the way, and this is what makes this fan base so exciting. New England has been one of the most popular teams ever since they made that improbable run to Super Bowl XXXVI without Drew Bledsoe.

    Once a young Tom Brady emerged as the next Joe Montana, New England football was put on the map. Brady jerseys can be seen everywhere, and the Patriots are always the talk of football.

    The Patriots have a great fan base, but I can only put them at number eight because the Red Sox own the town.

7. Chicago

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    Bears fanatics
    Bears fanaticsDoug Pensinger/Getty Images

    One of the biggest sports media markets in the country, Chicago is a city infatuated with sports. Chicagoans love their Cubbies, Bulls, Blackhawks, White Sox, and especially their Bears.

    The Bears have a rich history going back to the ‘80s in the days of Mike Singletary, Walter Payton, William “The Refrigerator” Perry, and Coach Mike Ditka. They are a team that is used to winning and the fans of the Bears have adopted the same mentality.

    Much like New York and Philly fans, Chicago fans can be tough on their own team. The NFC Championship Game last season was a game that definitely proved just how serious Chicagoans are about their team. They let it be known that they did not appreciate the way Cutler left the game and abandoned his teammates. Injury or not, Bears fans had no sympathy for their quarterback.

    Soldier Field is always packed and the raucous crowd is always into every play of the game. When the Bears are playing hard-hitting lockdown defense and winning games, Chicago fans are some of the best in the game.

6. New Orleans

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    The "Who Dat" nation
    The "Who Dat" nationChris Graythen/Getty Images

    For years the Saints were one of the worst teams in the NFL and fans would wear paper bags on their heads. The devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005, however, changed things in the city of New Orleans. The Louisiana Superdome was no longer just the home stadium of the Saints. It also became the home of thousands of people who needed shelter from the hurricane.

    The connection that these people have with the Superdome is something that will stay with them forever. Whenever they watch a home game at the Superdome, they truly feel at home. The emotion and atmosphere in the stadium is unlike any other venue.

    When the Saints had that surprising run in 2006, it re-energized football in New Orleans and lifted an entire city.  And when the Saints won Super Bowl XLIV, it was a victory not only for the Saints but for an entire city. The fans had something to help them forget about the terrible tragedy.

    On game day, the Superdome is one of the loudest and toughest places to play. The “Who Dat” nation is behind their team for every snap of the game. People gather on Bourbon Street before every game and after every thrilling win. It is a truly exciting fan experience that is made possible by the overwhelming support of the Saints fan base.

    The Saints have come a long way since their losing years. No longer are fans showing up with paper bags on their heads. Now, all New Orleans citizens are proud to be Saints fans.

5. Philadelphia

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    Crazy Eagles fans
    Crazy Eagles fansJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The fans of the Eagles show a lot of love to their hometown team in the city of Brotherly Love. But that sure isn’t the case when the Eagles aren’t doing well. Philly fans are tough. Don’t mess with them. Ask Santa Claus and he’ll tell you how he was booed and pelted with snowballs by his own fans.

    To them, winning is everything. And who can blame them for wanting to win so badly. Eagle fans will turn on you in the blink of an eye and reign down an orchestra of boos if you don’t perform up to par. Maybe they are right. Maybe the tough love brings out the best in the Eagles because each and every year they are competitive.

    One thing is for certain. Philadelphia has some intense fans.

4. New York

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    Fireman Ed
    Fireman EdAl Bello/Getty Images

    In such a big city like New York, there are so many people that the NFL decided to give New York two professional football teams. There is no other city in America that has two football teams and has both share a $1.6 billion state-of-the art stadium. Every year New York has two chances at winning a Super Bowl.

    When both teams are doing well, football in New York is like nothing else. The atmosphere is electric. Jets fans declare their superiority over Giants fans, and vice versa.

    In New York, there is quite a difference between Jets and Giants fans. The mostly younger Jets fans feed off of Rex Ryan’s trash talk and are more vocal. They sellout the 80,000 seat New Meadowlands Stadium and scream J-E-T-S in unison led by their “mascot” Fireman Ed.

    Giants fans, however, are mostly the old school fans who watched their team enjoy a lot of success in the 1980s and 1990s. They are more reserved and don’t like to trash talk as much as Jets fans. Despite the generation gap between both fans, the Giants fans are just as loud as the Jets and also sellout the stadium.

    When New Yorkers aren’t bashing their city rivals, Jets and Giants fans love to hate their respective divisional rivals. Jets fans hate the Patriots and Dolphins. Giant fans despise the Eagles, Cowboys, and Redskins. New Yorkers can be tough on their own team, but when their team is winning, the city has a love affair with either the Jets or the Giants.

    With Super Bowl XLVIII being played in New Jersey, New Yorkers will only become more entrenched in the game of football. When the Jets take on the Giants during the regular season this year, watch the game and you all will know exactly what I am talking about.

3. Dallas

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    "America's Team"
    "America's Team"Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    “America’s Team” as they are known, the Dallas Cowboys have fans all over the country. Heck, don’t be surprised if you see Cowboys jerseys overseas.

    The Dallas fan base is a passionate one to say the least. There is no other fan base in this country that expects to win the Super Bowl every single year. Anything less is unacceptable in the eyes of a Cowboys fan. Many expected them to have home field advantage this past Super Bowl in the brand new “Cathedral of Football” in Arlington, but that simply didn’t happen.

    Cowboys Stadium has the largest capacity in all of football at 110,000, yet Jerry Jones has no problem putting people in those seats. In its inaugural season, Cowboys Stadium set the regular-season attendance record in their opener against the rival New York Giants.

    Dallas does have the Mavericks, the Stars, and the Rangers who play in Arlington. However, put all these fans together and you still can’t beat the number of Cowboy fans there are.

    Football is religion in Dallas.

2. Pittsburgh

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    The Terrible Towel
    The Terrible TowelAl Bello/Getty Images

    Pittsburgh finished second to Green Bay back in February and they also finish second to Green Bay on this list. Despite the success of Pittsburgh’s NHL team the past few years, Pittsburgh is without a doubt a football town. As soon as opposing players take the field at Heinz Field, they are greeted by boos and then by the “You’re in Steeler Country” banner along the sidelines of Heinz Field.

    Pittsburgh is also home to the famous terrible towel which can be seen swirling around the entire stadium in the hands of 65,000 diehard Steelers fans. The Steelers have sold out every home game since November of 1972 when they played at Three Rivers Stadium. It’s no Packers sellout streak, but nonetheless it is pretty impressive.

    One of the interesting things about the Steelers fan base is the fact that Steelers fans can be found throughout the entire country. Living in New York I see plenty of Steelers fans wearing Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger jerseys on Sundays.

    Steeler fans are passionate fans who love to watch their team deliver Super Bowl after Super Bowl. It’s no wonder why this fan base loves football. Six Super Bowl titles will definitely energize a city.

1. Green Bay

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    The Cheese Heads
    The Cheese HeadsMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    It’s not because they won Super Bowl XLV that Green Bay tops this list. There is no other city in America that is more connected to a football team than Green Bay is. Green Bay only has one professional sports team and the people embrace it because the Packers are their one true love.

    On game day, the entire city shuts down to watch the Packers. No matter what their record is, 70,000 passionate cheese heads pack Lambeau Field despite below freezing temperature in the dead of winter. If you want to take in a game at Lambeau, good luck trying to find a ticket because the Packers have sold out every home game at Lambeau since 1960. Even more impressive is the fact that the waiting list of 86,000 people is enough to sellout two Lambeau Fields. Now that’s loyalty.

    Lambeau Field is the Yankee Stadium of football and the arguably the most iconic sports venues in America. Its fans travel long distances to watch their team play on the road. Whenever the Packers are playing, you are sure to see a good number of cheese heads even if the game is in Tampa Bay.

    Sure the Packers fans have had a lot to cheer about throughout their storied existence with four Super Bowl titles. But even if Green Bay went 0-16, the fans would still flock to Lambeau Field to watch a game on the Frozen Tundra.