Sports fandom is a religion for some people. The collective identity that people get from supporting their specific club or organization takes on a level of zeal that is hard to match. Celebrating victories of a favorite sports team sometimes descends into mass hysteria. The level of devotion that sport inspires has been analyzed from every angle you can think of. Psychologists suggest that it provides a common goal for groups of people to cheer for. There are theories that in our modern society where violence is against that law, that sports provide an outlet for elements of our more brutal primal tendencies.
There is also evidence of deep psychological ties to sports teams. It has been suggested that people can get so wrapped up in a team’s successes and failures that it actually affects their hormonal balances. This ties into a person’s self esteem and how they feel about things on a personal basis. So when that favorite team gets knocked out of the playoffs, people’s moods are genuinely affected and they can slide into emotional funks. It has also been theorized by psychologists that sports fandom has its ties to when our tribal ancestors would battle other small tribes. The better warriors were idolized and cheered for, which is an easy idea to transition onto the playing field.
Most cities and fan bases would like to claim that they are the most passionate and most committed to their teams and franchises. But some of these super fans clearly stand out about above the rest. We take a look at some of the most ardent supporters of their teams and the sometimes-extreme measures they go to in making their love and excitement heard on the world stage.
10. LA Lakers
Tinseltown, Hollywood, Malibu, Compton, and Venice Beach. L.A.’s famous mix with hardcore basketball fans when they come to Laker games. The L.A. Lakers are one of the most influential sports franchises of all time. They have won more NBA championships than other any team except the Boston Celtics. They’ve had some of the most exciting players ever including Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson, and Kobe Bryant. Their home games are continually populated by Hollywood celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg, and of course, Jack Nicholson. Nicholson has famously sat courtside since the 1980’s. The mix of hardcore basketball fanatics who are used to winning on a regular basis and Hollywood Royalty makes the L.A. Lakers one of the most interesting fan experiences you could ever possibly have.
9. Montreal Canadiens
The Montreal Canadiens, or “Habs” as they like to be called, are one of the most storied franchises on the planet. The city lives and breathes hockey. It is the oldest team in the NHL, as they have existed as a club since 1909. They have the most Stanley Cup titles of any NHL team and their fan base is known to be the most loyal and passionate in the league. There have been riots when the team has made a playoff exit since their last Stanley Cup win in 1993. These fans don’t like to lose and they take it out on their lovely city once in a while.
8. Barcelona FC
Barcelona FC has been part of La Liga since its inception on 1929, considered by many to be the most competitive and best football league in the world. In the last two decades they have had some of the most popular players in the world, including Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi. The fans that consider themselves the most hardcore are the “soci” or “club-members,” who actually donate and have a say in club matters. Low-level Barcelona fans call themselves “Culers.” The fans have experienced a great deal of success over the last decade with the team La Liga and the Champions league multiple times.
7. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox fans or “Red Sox Nation” as they liked to be called are some of the most passionate fans in the world. They are consistently among the top teams in road attendance and home-game sellouts. They went through a rough patch of 86 years before finally winning their sixth championship in 2004. During those dark days they were described as being the most “manic depressive” franchise in sports. They have since returned to their winning ways and have won championships in 2007 and last year in 2013.
6. Green Bay Packers
Together, the Green Bay Packer fans are referred to as “The Cheeseheads.” The Packers are a unique franchise in that they are the only “community owned” team in the league. Meaning, that residents of Green Bay have some ownership stake in the team and the entire franchise is essentially non-profit because it is not privately owned. This gives the Green Bay community extremely strong ties to the team. Green Bay is a very small town and they bleed green and yellow. Green Bay Packers fans even have their own dating website in which they can meet and flirt with other “like minded” individuals.
5. Manchester United FC
Manchester United is said to be the most popular football franchise in the world and the club records the highest international fan base of any team. It is one of the most valued sports clubs in the world. The Manchester United Supporters Club (MUSC) has over 200 separate “fan branches” in over 24 countries in the world. The team goes on extensive “summer tours” around the world to take advantage of all the people who want to see the team live and up close.
4. Oakland Raiders
The NFL’s Oakland Raiders are commonly referred to as “Raider Nation,” and if you encounter one of them, they’ll likely remind you that they are the only nation in sports. They’re probably the “scariest” fan base around because of their silver and black attire and their willingness to dress up as pirates and other eccentric characters. They get their bad boy image from being in Oakland, the more working-class city compared to the richer San Francisco. The Oakland fans have always taken pride in their image as the “thugs” of the league and they can always be seen dressing up in outrageous and unique costumes on game day, no matter how bad the team might be.
3. Real Madrid
Almost all the seats to their home games are occupied by season ticket holders, which gives the club a certain privileged aura. The upper-class status of the fans have given them a reputation as elitist and snobby. Their hardcore supporters are known as the “Ultra Sur.” They have been described as ultra right-wing and are seen associating with various right-wing groups. They have been investigated for racially abusing other players and discriminating in their hiring of certain ethnicities. They have been formally investigated by UEFA for some of these controversial practices.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers
In 2008, they were cited as having the best and most dedicated fan base with 299 straight sellouts. In their heyday, during the 70’s, they won multiple championships, they became internationally popular and still have a large audience worldwide. Steelers fans are famously loud and their “terrible towel” helps distinguish its fans from any other fan base on the planet. The site of thousands and thousands of poeple waving these towels throughout the stadium give the Steelers fans an original way to show their love for their team. The terrible towel has been described as “arguably the best-known fan symbol of any major pro sports team”.
1. Boca Juniors
The most intense fan base in professional sports is not really in question. There are large fences around the playing field to protect the players in case the fans get too crazy and charge the field. The Boca Juniors have a long history of violence associated with their team’s wins and losses. In Argentina, everything is about football and the Boca Juniors represent the working class portion of their population. This goes against the more upper-class fan base of their rivals, River Plate. This rivalry is generally considered to be one of the most intense in all of sports. The stadium in which they play has been know to literally shake from all the jumping and song-singing that comes with one of their games.