As football season rapidly approaches, fans are getting pumped up and ready to enjoy America’s favorite sport, cheer on their favorite teams, and root against their most loathed rivals. Football season brings out a passion and fury in many people that other sports rarely seem to match. Maybe it’s because there are fewer games than in baseball, basketball, or hockey that pushes football fans to unleash their passion or even aggression in brief, fleeting spurts of rowdy group mania.
Almost all of us sports lovers get a bit loud and crazy in our own homes while watching the big game, but the most dedicated, excitable fans typically bring their rowdiness to the stadium. All American football teams’ fans are very vocally enthusiastic, but the following ten teams have the most notoriously unruly fans – from supporters who have even broken records with their noisy support, to football lovers who have taken their support to aggressive extremes.
10. New England Patriots
The Patriots are generally perceived as having one of the best fan bases in the NFL. It may have something to do with them winning all the time. It seems Boston is just a winning town: With the history of the Red Sox, the recent Stanley Cup title of the Bruins, and the nearly-unstoppable Patriots, these fans have a lot to cheer about.
Things rapidly get rowdy at Gillette Stadium. After The Patriots’ Super Bowl win in 2004, celebration turned tragic when the son of a state police captain was killed by a drunk driver who drove an SUV into a crowd. In 2010, the Attleboro Sun Chronicle noted that 117 Patriots fans were arrested following a Monday night football win over the New York Jets. The Foxboro Police Chief said that constituted the greatest number of arrests ever related to a single game, attributing the spike in arrests to alcohol. And of course there’s player Tom Brady, who in 2011 encouraged these displays by telling fans: “Start drinking early” to get “lubed up.”
9. New Orleans Saints
After doing so terribly for so many years, New Orleans welcomed Drew Brees in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and he quickly became the king of the town. He sparked a reinvigoration to the Saints’ fan base, putting a fire back in their belly, and they’re now one of the most loyal fanbases in American Football.
But the ‘Who Dat?’ spectacle also comes with a few problems. After fans threw half-empty beer cups at officials for a perceived bad call in a game a few years back, the NFL commission penned stricter penalties against rowdy fans, calling fan violence a growing problem. At that same game, 15 people were arrested in the Superdome for disturbing the peace, public drunkenness, and battery. It seems with great fans comes great responsibility
8. Buffalo Bills
In 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Bills can hardly contain some of the worst-behaving fans in all professional sports: Buffalo doesn’t have the budget that Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Denver have to try and curb crazy fan antics by upping safety and security precautions.
Maybe it’s the cold weather, the years of not quite making it, and the booze – the latter certainly plays a part. One football fan and reporter, Sean MacDonald, went to every stadium in the league during one season and then wrote a book about his experience. The drunkest fans he encountered were from his own city: The Bills. Assaults are common. In 2012, one person was ejected from the game and later found dead in a creek, and another was struck by a car and killed after the game. At the first Monday Night Football game following a 13 year ban due to behavior, 60 people were arrested, over 100 thrown out, and 40 were turned away at the gate for being too drunk.
7. New York Jets
The New York Jets might have first faced notoriety for their fanbase in 1992, when a Jets fan slugged a female Patriots fan and ended up doing time. Since then, their rabid reputation hasn’t gotten much better.
The infamous Gate D is a ritual of harassment towards opposing fans during halftime. It once stood for “drunk and disgusting,” and attracted the attention of senators and state police. Fans would chant flurries of catcalls at passing females and would hurl plastic beer bottles if the women refused to join in. Another lawsuit in 2009 accused Jets fans of assaulting a female Patriots fan, throwing her over a row of seats, and pouring beer on the victim’s child for wearing a New England jersey.
6. Seattle Seahawks
CenturyLink Field is the loudest place to play in the NFL, and probably the world, after the stadium hit 137.6 decibels last year in a game against the Saints. That dbA level broke the Guinness World Record for loudest sporting event, so it’s safe to say that Hawk fans are a rambunctious bunch. Even more so, after clinching their first Super Bowl win that same year.
Still, that doesn’t excuse some of their fans’ ungovernable behavior. The “12th Man,” as the Seahawks fans are called, regularly get into fights outside of the stadium with opposing team’s fans, and in January this year one fan was called out for throwing food at an injured 49er as he was being carted off of the field.
5. Cleveland Browns
The Browns have always been known to have a rowdy group of fans, and there are a few infamous examples of fan behaviour that highlight why the media and nation are wary of Browns’ fanbase. The ‘Dawg Pound’ is one of the more formidable stadium sections around the country, with some of the rowdiest fans in the NFL. They sparked “Bottlegate”, an incident in 2001 where fans threw plastic bottles at Jaguar players and referees. This led to enforcement of open container rules during tailgating.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers fans are relentless, and they’re everywhere. Easily the most traveled fanbase, it seems that they have a following stronger than the Grateful Dead when it comes to following their team to a city and invading the bleachers. They’re known to be argumentative, and enjoy liquid refreshments at their games. With their millions of Terrible Towers flickering in the wind, you might feel like you’re at a Pittsburgh home game no matter where they’re playing.
After their 2006 Super Bowl victory, fans took to the streets in one of the worst celebration riots in sports history. The fans celebrated by flipping cars, climbing statues and telephone poles, lighting fires, and throwing street signs and mailboxes.
3. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have had a rowdy fanbase for quite some time now, but it seems to be getting worse. There are numerous verbal and physical assault complaints coming from visiting fans of other teams. There are regularly dozens of arrests after every home game for assault, battery, and even worse things.
In 2013, an Atlanta Falcons fan was stabbed in the neck outside of Georgia Dome after getting into an altercation with a 49ers fan. In 2011, two fans were shot and one was beaten severely after a 49ers-Raiders game. These severe incidents caused regulatory bodies to reevaluate security and safety, but so far the 49ers still remain one of the most savage fan bases in the NFL.
2. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles fans seem to be some of the most unruly fans in sports. Maybe it’s their year-in, year-out support of a team who don’t quite win as much as they’d like. First, there was the infamous incident when fans booed and pelted Santa Claus as he rode around the stadium at halftime. Then, there’s the fact that their stadium has a jail on the lower level, and Municipal Court judges have been assigned to the stadium during games to deal with unruly fans.
In one particularly painful show of bad sportsmanship, in 1999, fans jeered Cowboys receiver Michael Irvin as he lay on the field for 20 minutes having suffered a career-ending neck injury. Eagles supporters have even been known to throw batteries, snowballs, and drinks at opposing fans and refs…
1. Oakland Raiders
Raider Nation is home to the most infamous fans in football. They dress up like Satan’s minions and tend to intimidate opposing fans in what can only be considered a Halloween parade every home game. Some have called them “all talk,” but there are plenty of stories of pre- and post-game assaults and fights that paint another picture.
They do get points for being so loyal to a team that has struggled over the last 10 years, but it seems like many Raider fans enjoy the rivalry with opposing teams a little too much. Their behavior has even been the subject of documentary films. In 2000. a San Diego Chargers fan was stabbed, and in 2003 riots broke out after the team lost the Super Bowl. While Southern and Western clubs are considered to be tamer and more mellow than their Northeast counterparts, the Raiders are certainly a noteworthy exception.