The Greatest Fan Traditions in the NFL
The game is the main thing, but the roar of the crowd and the passion of the fans give many of the games meaning and perspective.
NFL fans have longstanding traditions, and many families take their love of football so seriously that season tickets are passed down from generation to generation.
In long-established NFL cities like New York, Washington, Green Bay and Kansas City, there are waiting lists for fans who want to become season ticket holders. When they finally get that letter that says they have the option to purchase seats for an upcoming season, it is a joyous day.
Everyone who has attended an NFL game realizes that there are many times when it would be more comfortable to stay at home and watch the game on television—particularly in cold-weather cities.
However, actually going to the game makes it real, and fans have established traditions that make attending an NFL game a long-lasting memory.
8. Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings left the Metrodome after the 2013 season. They are currently playing on the campus of the University of Minnesota until their own new outdoor stadium is completed.
The Vikings began playing in 1961, and outdoor Metropolitan Stadium was their home through the 1981 season. Playing in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in November, December and January is anything but easy, but Vikings fans were a hearty bunch and never afraid of the cold.
Once the Vikings moved inside the Metrodome, the team seemed to lose much of its advantage. Playing inside in a cold-weather city may be a convenience for coaches, players and fans, but it stripped the team of an important edge that it had in the past.
Vikings players and fans were stoic when the games were played in freezing weather conditions, but once they moved inside, they lost their mental and psychological edge.
Vikings officials needed some time to realize this was happening, but prior to the 1994 season, they hired a mascot to don the costume of legendary Viking Ragnar to roar up and down the sidelines on his motorcycle.
It's not the same thing as sitting in the old Met with your shirt off in 10-degree temperature, but Ragnar often got on the nerves of the visitors, and that's something that fans appreciated.
Ragnar eventually lost his gig when he demanded a huge raise, according to a Star Tribune story by Michael Rand.
7. Oakland Raiders
Just say the words, and you know you are entering a very dangerous place.
The Black Hole.
Raiders fans have known they have had a special team since longtime owner Al Davis made them an American Football League power in the 1960s.
Davis took great pride in his team. He coined the expression, "Just win, baby," and his team regularly obliged.
As the Raiders became one of the toughest and most consistent teams in professional football, their fans started dressing for the occasion. They started going to the Oakland Coliseum in bizarre and scary costumes that are designed to intimidate opposing players and fans. They call their beloved Coliseum "The Black Hole."
The Raiders have struggled to win games in recent years, as they have lost 10 or more games in 10 of the last 12 seasons. However, fans at the Coliseum remain in character, just waiting for their team to return to glory.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles fans may have booed Santa Claus and former head coach Rich Kotite to the hilt, but they love their team like few others.
The passion of Eagles fans was portrayed poignantly in the 2012 movie Silver Linings Playbook with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and prior to that in the 2006 movie Invincible.
Both movies come close to capturing the depth of feeling Philadelphia fans have for their beloved Eagles. But to really know how much they care, head to Lincoln Financial Field on game days and wander around the outside of the stadium or through the parking lot while the fans are tailgating.
You will hear it. It's that song, "The Eagles Victory Song," more commonly known as "Fly, Eagles Fly."
Fans will break this song out at any time, but they will always sing it after Eagles touchdowns and especially after a win.
5. Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders
The Dallas Cowboys became America's Team in the mid-1960s when head coach Tom Landry transformed a nondescript expansion team into one of the most consistent franchises in North American sports history.
From the late 1960s through the mid-1980s, the Cowboys were as a consistent as a metronome. They went to the playoffs 17 times out of 18 years.
The Cowboys built traditions, and in addition to excellent coaching, brilliant player procurement and the tradition of the star on the helmet, they brought in cheerleaders.
There are cheerleaders associated with just about every high school team in the country, but the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders are special. The Cowboys have standards, and so do their cheerleaders.
The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders present themselves as being a cut above the rest, trying to prove themselves worthy of all the attention they have gotten.
While they are an extension of the team and its fans, they are one of the most widely recognized cheerleading organizations in the world.
4. New York Jets
The New York Jets have one of the most loyal—and tortured—fanbases in all of sports.
The Jets have won one Super Bowl, and that's it. They won Super Bowl III with Joe Willie Namath at quarterback following the 1968 season, but they have not been back to the big game since.
However, that one Super Bowl win is not only the biggest game in New York Jets history—it may be the biggest game in the history of pro football.
That's because the win in Super Bowl III represented the first time a team from the American Football League beat its NFL counterpart. The Jets were a tough, gutsy and talented team, but they were expected to be overwhelmed by the Baltimore Colts. Odds Shark indicates they were 18-point underdogs, but Namath wasn't fazed.
He guaranteed the win when he spoke at a Miami Touchdown Club dinner, and then he delivered.
While that game gives Jets fans pride to this very day, it also mocks them. The Jets have not tasted glory since then.
However, their fans are resolute. They have a cheer that they use at home games that is both simple and awe-inspiring. The spelling of "J-E-T-S" followed by three loud "Jets" always lets the team know that the fans have its back.
Well, at least most of the time.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Pittsburgh Steelers have built one of the best pro football traditions in the NFL, and an argument could be made that it deserves the top spot on this list.
The Steelers are the only team in the league to have won as many as six Super Bowls, and the fans always love and support their team. They never take it for granted.
Many of today's Steelers fans were not around for the Chuck Noll era in the 1970s when the Steelers started winning championships, but the stories have been told by their parents and grandparents. Prior to Noll coming aboard in 1969, the Pittsburgh Steelers were at the bottom of the barrel.
They had never won so much as a playoff game and had only played in one since they started competing in 1933. So when the team turned around in 1972, the fans appreciated it.
Legendary broadcaster Myron Cope would try to rally the Steelers from his broadcast booth by waving a yellow towel. He called it his "Terrible Towel," and a Steelers tradition was born in 1975.
Fans continue to wave their towels at all Steelers home games to show their support.
2. Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers have gotten remarkable support from their fans for years, and they have been rewarded with some of the greatest teams in the history of the NFL.
Fans in Green Bay became legendary during the team's performance in the 1967 Ice Bowl. Despite temperatures that reached minus-14 degrees Fahrenheit and felt even colder with the wind chill, Packers fans came out en masse and stayed for the entire NFL Championship Game against the Dallas Cowboys.
The game became a classic and is known for Bart Starr's last-second touchdown as he followed the block of Jerry Kramer, but the unsung heroes were the roaring fans who survived bone-numbing temperatures to support their team.
The Packers added to their legend by embracing the "cheesehead" label. Wisconsin is known for its cheese, and fans have taken to wearing plastic wedges of cheese on their heads to show their loyalty. The video in the link shows they start Packers fans at the earliest age.
Then there's the Lambeau Leap. Packers players will run through the end zone and take a running jump so they can sit with the fans for a few seconds to celebrate their touchdowns and successes.
It's a brilliant and much-appreciated move.
1. Washington Redskins
When it comes to supporting their team, the Redskins' fans are at the top of the list.
While they may not be as intimidating as the Oakland Raiders' fans, you have to give big, strong men who dress up as Hogettes points for creativity.
And then there's the song. "Hail to the Redskins" may be the most well-known song in professional football. It is representative of the passion Redskins fans feel for their team.
When George Allen's Redskins were charging at the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s, that song was heard throughout RFK Stadium.
They still sing it at FedEx Field, and they clearly are supporting their team even though the Redskins have been to the playoffs just three times in this millennium and have just one playoff victory in that time frame.