We all know that football is king. The NFL grosses gajillion dollars a year (give or take a billion or two) and it is by far the most popular sport in America. So much so that college football can now be classified as the second most popular sport in America because those of us who love the game can’t just wait till Sunday to watch. But there are some things that are threatening the game for those of us diehards. I’m not going to be dramatic and predict the death of football all together but I’ve compiled a list of things that are gradually ruining the NFL experience for those of us fans, who are often overlooked, the diehard fans. The diehard NFL fan is often disregarded because we’re already hooked; we’re going to watch regardless of lockouts, replacement refs, bounty scandals, or evil commissioners. Admit it; you’re just as hooked as I am. But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to sit back and just take it any longer. There are some things that need to improve and there’s no reason why us diehard fans shouldn’t be catered to a little bit. Over the next few posts I’m going to discuss some things that I feel are ruining the NFL and some possible solutions to those problems.
The first issue threatening the fanship of the most loyal NFL fans is the fan-on-fan violence that has become all too prevalent at NFL stadiums these days. It used to be the biggest worry involved in going to an NFL game was parking or how to properly time out the bathroom breaks but now it’s very realistic to fear for your own personal safety when entering any of the 31 NFL stadiums across the league. What used to be harmless badgering of the visiting teams’ fans has now turned into brutal beatings, stabbings, and shootings at some stadiums. What this creates is not only a potentially dangerous experience for the rest of us who enjoy attending games, but as the NFL responds with increased security measures; those of us who enjoy the stadium experience will have to forgo some privileges and luxuries in order to maintain a safe environment to watch the games. Basically, the Jagoffs are going to ruin it for the rest of us.
In 2011 two Oakland Raiders fans were shot in the parking lot outside of Candlestick Park following a preseason game between the Raiders and 49ers. A preseason game. Another visiting fan was severely beaten in one of the stadium bathrooms. In response, the NFL cancelled future preseason meetings between the two Bay Area teams. In October of 2012 a fan was stabbed on his way to Candlestick Park prior to the 49ers game against the New York Giants. In another incident eerily involving San Francisco just this year during the playoffs an Atlanta Falcons fan was stabbed in the neck during an altercation outside the Georgia Dome after the NFC Championship game. Ironically, just this week during the Ravens victory parade three teenagers were stabbed, one fatally. Just a simple Google search will show countless fights caught on camera in NFL stadiums and parking lots. The violence isn’t exclusive to just fans either. This past season Washington Redskins LB London Fletcher had his relatives attend their game in Cleveland, which is his hometown. Following the game four of Fletcher’s relatives were arrested and Fletcher blamed the stadium security stating that his family was “harassed from the moment they got out of their car.”
We diehard fans know where the animosity comes from, we develop such strong feelings of pride in our own team and it manifests hatred towards our rivals. It’s taking that extra step to violence that separates us from the Jagoffs. Those of us who know how to act appropriately in public know the difference between saying you hate another team and pulling a knife on a fan of said team. I’ve seen the majority of my Steelers games in visiting stadiums and the one thing that always pissed me off when being harassed by the few home team fans (Steeler fans were always the predominant fan base for every game I’ve been to) was just the idea that I somehow wasn’t entitled to sit and enjoy the game just because I was wearing a jersey of the visiting team. The fact that those particular Jagoffs that bring violence into the mix are the reason why we have to get frisked and have our bags searched when entering the games. If the fan violence increases and escalates more, you can be sure more invasive security measures will be taken.
I don’t know what makes a person turn a football game into a bar room brawl but it doesn’t take a detective to know that alcohol plays a huge part in it. The idea of banning alcohol at NFL games is not anywhere close to being a reality considering how beer companies battle each year to be the “Official Beer of the NFL.” The stadiums already have alcohol sales cut off at either the beginning or end of the 3rd quarter, depending on the stadium. The next course of action most likely would be to limit or restrict tailgating before and after games. I’ve been known to enjoy a frosty brew or three during a football game and in my younger years I might have been known to over indulge a time or two, but then again I’m not a violent drunk. I’m a happy drunk and pretty much get louder and more hilarious the more alcohol I consume.
The NFL has already acknowledged the problems with the fact that the experience of going to NFL games is becoming increasingly undesirable considering the always rising ticket costs, advancements in high definition televisions, NFL game packages, and the allure of a private bathroom. The NFL can’t exactly have less and less people attending games no matter how much of their revenue comes from the TV contracts over the ticket sales. The league set up a fan code of conduct in 2008 but it’s up to each team how they enforce it and deal with the worst behaving fans. Most stadiums have a number that fans can text to report a menacing fan in their section and have them removed. This shouldn’t be a “snitches get stitches” kind of issue here, if you’re enjoying an NFL game and there’s jagoffery occurring in your section don’t hesitate to report it. The diehard fans are the ones that most fill the stadiums on a consistent basis, we’re the ones who plan vacations around games and will show up whether it’s 1,000 degrees in Florida or 25 degrees in Pittsburgh. I can’t think of any other solution but to keep kicking those jagoffs out of the game when they’re teetering on belligerent and before they turn violent, it’s not always easy to predict what could or could not happen but the fans who don’t understand that the action is taking place on the field and not in the stands are the ones who need to stay home.
What are your thoughts, Steeler Nation? Have you witnessed violence at an NFL game? Did you report it, ignore it, or participate in it?