The 10 Most Passionate Fan Bases in the NFL

Bryn Swartz@eaglescentralSenior Writer IIIJanuary 26, 2009

Denver Broncos fans are underrated. I don't hear much about them, but they always rank in the top five in attendance. The team has sold out 301 consecutive home games and they have a season-ticket waiting list of 27,600. They also routinely have lots of support at away games, sometimes as much as one-third of the stadium.

They were ranked as the eighth most loyal fans in the NFL. They also have one of the wackiest forms of celebration—every time the opposing quarterback throws an

incompletion, they stand up and scream, “IN-COM-PLETE!” at the top of their lungs.

Give these fans credit. The Bills haven't fielded a playoff team since the 1999 season but that doesn't stop the fans from showing up to games. Last season, the Bills possessed the most season-ticket holders since the team went to the Super Bowl following the 1993 season.

That's pretty impressive for a franchise that has suffered through four consecutive Super Bowl losses, the Music City Miracle, and zero Super Bowl wins in its history.

Give the fans more credit for showing up, considering the Bills' home-field situation—they are the only NFL team to have two home sites, one in New York, and the other in Canada. Bills' fans are famous for their tailgating, with parties frequently lasting the entire weekend leading up to a game.

They also routinely deal with -10 degree weather on game days.

The Washington Redskins ranked second in attendance during the 2008 season, despite finishing in last place in the NFC East. Fans have filled the stadium to capacity in six of the past eight seasons, sporting their trademark feathers and face paint.

They have sold out 327 consecutive games, dating back to the 1960s. This is the longest streak in the entire NFL. They also have a season-ticket waiting list of 200,000, which is the largest waiting list in the NFL.

Their fans were voted the 10th most loyal fans in the National Football League. Their stadium is located 45 minutes away from anything resembling civilization, but fans still flock the stadium.

Their patience is well-known and admired throughout the NFL, which has come in handy with the recent string of head coaches.

There's no way I could leave Dallas Cowboys fans out of my top 10. Trust me, I wanted to, but it just wouldn't be right.

I went through all 32 NFL teams today. There are more Dallas Cowboys writers than any other team on Bleacher Report.

The reference “America's Team” may be debatable, but the Cowboys are the definition of a love 'em or hate 'em team. The Cowboys have fans in every city across the United States and no conversation with a Cowboys fan is complete without the phrases “five rings,” and “America's Team.”

The Dallas Cowboys' star has become a thing of legend. The only knocks against Cowboys' fans are as follows:

  1. Many are bandwagon jumpers from the dynasty in the early 90's who have now transformed into 'diehards.'
  2. Texas Stadium was a joke. Matt Mosley of ESPN called Texas Stadium “one of the safest places in the league to wear an opposing jersey.”

It's simple: Kansas City is the sixth smallest market in the National Football League, yet they have had the second highest attendance over the past decade.

They haven't won a playoff game since 1993, despite three home games (1995, 1997, 2003). But their fans still show up and turn the stadium red. The Chiefs have sold out almost 150 consecutive home games. Their stadium is frequently referred to as the loudest stadium in the entire NFL.

How could anyone not admire a Chiefs fan?

The Chiefs are also famous for their barbecue, easily the best in the NFL. The Chiefs are often referred to as the "Green Bay of the AFC," which, as you'll see, is a huge compliment.

Oakland Raiders fans are awesome. I admire them more than any other fan base, with the possible exception of the Cleveland Browns. They have suffered through one of the most pathetic recent strings of losing in the NFL, maybe in all of professional sports.

Since going to the Super Bowl after the 2002 season, they have become the only NFL team to lose at least 11 games for six straight seasons. The 2006 Raiders team is frequently considered one of the worst teams in NFL history. But they still attract fans. Lots of fans.

Younger fans don't realize the history of winning that is associated with the Oakland Raiders. They won the Super Bowl three times: 1976, 1980, and 1983. They've been to the Super Bowl five times, and they have won 15 division titles.

“Raider Nation” is one of the rowdiest fan bases in the history of the NFL, particularly the Black Hole section of the Oakland Coliseum. Sitting in the Black Hole is not a safe place for an opposing fan.

One lifetime Raider fan, asked to describe “Raider Nation," responded with, “The massive Raider Nation is beyond doubt the sleaziest and rudest and most sinister mob of thugs and wackos ever assembled.”

Raiders fans dress up in ridiculous costumes for all of their home games. ESPN described them as “maybe the most fun group of fans in the entire league.”

My only complaint with Pittsburgh Steelers fans: They are possibly the most annoying fan base in the entire world. Every argument, every sentence, every breath, begins and ends with mention of the phrase “five rings.”

Why are the Steelers the best team in NFL history? Because the Steelers have five rings. Why do the Steelers have the best fans? Because the Steelers have five rings. Why is Troy Polamalu the best safety in the game? Because the Steelers have five rings.

But there's no denying the unbelievable passion. The Terrible Towel has become “arguably the best-known fan symbol of any major pro sports team.” Since 1996, sales from the Terrible Towel have helped to raise $2.2 million for people with physical disabilities.

They have sold out every single home game since the 1972 season, a streak of 307 consecutive games. They have an incredible fan base on the road, and are often the only reason that the Cincinnati Bengals would sell out for a home game.

In November of 2007, the Steelers were ranked as the most popular local sports franchise out of all 122 teams in the MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA. They also have the highest percentage of female fans in the NFL, ranking twice as high as the average city.

“Steeler Nation” has become legendary and will continue to expand if the Steelers win their sixth Super Bowl.

The only problem: The stats don't back up their reputation. They were ranked as the 21st most loyal fans in the National Football League. They rank just 16th in percentage of seats filled since 1996, despite winning seven division championships in the last 13 years.

3. Cleveland Browns

Why are Browns fans so great? Their teams have never won—ever—and they continually support their franchise. They were ranked first out of all 32 NFL teams in “fan loyalty.” They routinely fill their 73,000-seat stadium despite cold temperatures and a dismal recent history, which includes zero postseason wins since the 1994 season.

They have the number one fan group in all of professional sports, the “Browns Backers”, which can be found in literally every city in the United States, and even in different countries.

Their fans can be visibly present at home games in the famous “Dawg Pound”, which is located in the east end of the stadium. Fans wear dog paraphernalia to all of the games.

The Browns may have lost their team for four seasons, but they never lost their incredible passion.

Everybody has heard stories about Philadelphia Eagles' fans, most of them exaggerated. But face the facts.

They have the second highest capacity rating since 1996 (percentage of seats filled), only topped by the newly-established Houston Texans, who play in a much warmer atmosphere.

They were ranked as the third most loyal fans in all of football, trailing just the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs.

Their fans are also knowledgeable. Ask an Eagles fan the quarterback before Donovan McNabb. He'll know.

Their season ticket waiting list is over 70,000 and they rank in the top three in merchandise sales just about every season. The amount of fans that travel to watch the Eagles in summer training camp sessions is almost legendary, with up to 20,000 fans on some days. They have the most famous fight song in the National Football League.

The booing that is so regularly associated with Philadelphia fans, only Philadelphia fans, and nothing but Philadelphia fans?

Eagles' fans want to win. Now. They don't play the “wait till next year” game. No offense to the Brooklyn Dodgers, but Eagles' fans want a championship every season, and if—when—they don't get one, they'll let their players know. Players like Brian Dawkins and Jeremiah Trotter thrive on this type of treatment.

Philadelphia talk show host Glen Macnow once commented, “You could drop a Martian into Philly the day after a game, and within three minutes, he'd know whether the Eagles had won or lost.”

The bullying?

It's toughness. Raiders' fans do it. Sports Illustrated once claimed that Raiders fans are the only other group of fans that Eagles' fans respect. Both pride themselves in bullying the opposition.

There's nothing wrong with installing fear in the enemy. The old 700 level at the Vet—the Nest of Death—was the last place in the world a fan would want to wear a Cowboys' jersey. The 700 level was worse than one of Dante's levels of hell.

What is the favorite team of a Philly fan? The Eagles and whoever is playing the Cowboys.

The greatest fans in the world. Better than Steelers fans. Better than Browns fans. Even better than Eagles fans.

The Green Bay Packers ARE Wisconsin. Nobody cares about the Milwaukee Brewers. It's all Green Bay, all the time. Lambeau Field has been sold out in every game since 1960: win or lose. That's almost 300 consecutive sellouts. Their season ticket waiting list is 78,000.

The fans brave the frequent sub-zero temperatures (remember the Ice Bowl?) to attend every single game. They're loyal also—they were voted the fifth most loyal fans in the NFL.

Four things place the Packers above every other fan base:

  1. The Lambeau Leap, which is the most famous touchdown celebration of all-time, giving the fans a brief moment to interact with the players.
  2. The cheeseheads—those crazy yellow pieces of plastic Green Bay fans insist on wearing to each and every home game.
  3. The owners. You know who owns the team? The fans. The Packers are the only non-profit, community-owned major professional sports team in the country.
  4. The respect they give to their players. Never have I seen any team worship one player more than Packers' fans worship Brett Favre. It's more than the Bulls and Jordan, the Yankees and Jeter, and the Patriots and Brady.

The late, great Reggie White, a man I admire more than just about any athlete to ever live, agrees with me. Reggie had the pleasure of playing in front of the two best fan bases in the NFL, but he picks the Packers as the best fans in the world.

ESPN agrees with me. Before the 2008 season, the Packers tied with the Steelers as the best fans in the entire NFL. The edge was given to the Steelers, thanks to a tiebreaker decided by Pittsburgh native John Clayton (thoughts, Packers' fans?).

Clayton was wrong. Green Bay, the team with more championships than any other team in the NFL, has the best fans in the world.