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Football Fanatics and Freaks

Rabid Football Fandom

Football fanatics and freaks are what makes sports in general, and NFL and NCAA football in particular, such cultural phenomena.

Football homers and rabid fans maintain interest levels and drive ticket sales, especially when times are tough for a team.

Those crazy football fans provide much of the color and “identity” of the team, maintaining huge buzz when things are going good, spark huge backlash when things go badly, and otherwise provide the support that any football franchise needs to stay alive.

NFL Football Fans – NCAA Football Backers

Of course, “football fan” is just short for “football fanatic”. Local and national television broadcasts, weekly radio shows, sports radio programming in general, Sunday and Monday night ratings, and the sports memorabilia industries are driven by the fanatical football fans out there. Sure, you need you casual sports fan to fill up the seats of the stadium, and owners and entrepreneurs need your bandwagon fans to take financial advantage of a deep playoff run, a BCS bowl bid, or a Superbowl appearance, but those same owners and business people need hardcore fans to freak out over the games on a weekly basis.

NFL Draft and Football Fans

For instance, one of the most-hyped and highest-rated ESPN programs of the spring is the yearly NFL Draft in late-April. Mind you, nothing really happens at the NFL Draft. A handful of the college players drafted show up and give interviews, though most of the players stay at home or in some anonymous spot around the country.

Meanwhile, NFL front offices make decisions on who they want to draft onto their team as future prospects, as the ESPN on-air personalities try to fill up 10 minutes of dead air between each selection. Many NFL fanatics complain the NFL Draft is boring, yet they continue to tune in year-in, year-out to these broadcasts. New York Jets fans, New York Giants fans, and even Philadelphia Eagles fanatics show up to Radio City Music Hall, where the NFL Draft is held live every year, to cheer, jeer, and (often) boo the picks being made by their teams and other NFL franchises.

This speaks to the deep well of NFL fan feeling, as the NFL fandom makes such a big deal over a non-event.

That’s because the NFL Draft is the only meaningful event over a 6 month period of the year. From the beginning of February to the end of July every year, there’s not a whole lot that goes on in the National Football League. Sure, there’s free agent signings, retirements, OTAs, injury news, contract controversies, suspensions, and workout programs, but truly meaningful news items are few and far-between.

The NFL Draft, though it’s hardly exciting, does hold promise to NFL clubs both good and bad, and the fans sense that something important is happening, though we might not know whether it’s good important or bad important for years to come. No other major sports league draft gets such attention, perhaps because the NFL is the highest-rated TV sport in America, or perhaps because the contributions of the players being drafted are usually only a few months away, while most Major League Baseball, NHL, and NBA stars have to improve for years to come.

Though no games break out on the floor of Radio City Music Hall, the NFL Draft is a pivotal event in many teams’ histories, as they add the star players who fans are going to cheer for or against for the next 5 to 10 years. As they say, Superbowls are won during the NFL Draft.

Football Freak Fest

The opening week of the NFL is an NFL freak fest, as fans finally get to see what their favorite NFL team’s offseason has produced. With six weeks of mind-numbing training camp and 4 games of NFL preseason games, everyone is ready for something important to happen.

Perhaps the start-and-stop nature of football plays into this. Perhaps the violent, explosive nature of the game is why football attracts so many fanatics. Or perhaps it’s the idea that most football fans played the game at one time (even if just in the backyard), and they know the elation of winning, the dejection of losing, and the pain on both sides which occurs when playing football. Football is a tough, physical game, and that brings out the fanaticism of football lovers everywhere. When they know their players are laying it on the line, they get excited.

College Football Fanatics

I’ve talked a lot about the NFL so far, but the college football scene may have more true-blue, rabid fans than NFL football. This fandom is spread out across well over 100 Division I schools, so it might not be as evident as the National Football League following. But with so many students the same age as the players, when the big football schools get involved, you can expect all kinds of strange traditions, often 100,000+ fan events, and high energy from the football crowd.

To give an idea of some of the rabid football fandom found in college (NCAA) football, here are a couple of old articles on this site about college football fight songs and the wacky university mascots you might not have every heard about. Get ready for some really freaky football culture.

I’ve failed to mention the football fanaticism which comes with sports gambling on a college football game. Watch a football gambler in the 4th quarter when he bet on the Texas Longhorns to beat Louisiana Tech by 45-or-more points, and UT only has a 41-point lead with two minutes to go. You’ll know what a sports freak is. Or better yet, ask a fan of the Boise State Broncos or the TCU Horned Frogs what they think about the BCS rankings, and see what kind of wild-eyed response you get on the subject. (I tend to agree with them, though.)

Fantasy Football Fanatics

Even weirder for the non-fan is the fantasy football owner. (I’m one of them, but I’m not denying we act like complete freaks when our goofy weekly contests are on the line.) Fantasy football is a hobby that involves a game-within-a-game, as regular guys form “fantasy football leagues” which decide contests and league championships based on the stats accumulated by individual players. So a person might draft Eli Manning of the New York Giants onto their team, but also DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles.

In this scenario, imagine that the Giants and Eagles, bitter football rivals, are on a tv in the room. When Eli Manning is on the field, that fantasy football owner appears to be cheering for Giants. When DeSean Jackson is on the field, that same owner appears to be cheering for the Eagles. This can be quite confusing for anyone else in the room, as the ff owner appears to be pulling for both sides – which he is, in a way. He wants Eli Manning to have good statistics, but also wants DeSean Jackson to build up big stats.

Making it more complicated, that same fantasy football freak might be playing an opponent who is starting Hakeem Nicks off the Giants and Michael Vick off the Eagles. So he wants Eli Manning to throw touchdowns, but not to Hakeem Nicks. Also, he wants DeSean Jackson to catch TDs, but would be happier if Vick somehow got replaced by Kevin Kolb and these touchdowns came from Kolb. In a point-per-reception league, he might be pulling for Jackson to get a lot of receptions, but get no touchdowns, since that means Vick is scoring a touchdown.

No wonder people sometimes thing fantasy football fans are freaks. To read more about this eccentric hobby, look at this article on Fantasy Football Team Names.

Football Homers

Most of the time, you’ll see your regular run-of-the-mill football fanatics and freaks. Most “homers” won’t listen to any reason about their teams, switching between blind devotion and blind rage (usually about the coach or quarterback), depending on the score of the game, or sometimes just based on down-&-distance.

Read a little more about football fans and the teams they love on these two Football Babble articles about Celebrity Football Fans and NFL Teams – National Football League Teams. This should give you an idea of the scope and variety of fans, and why they care so much about the teams they cheer for.

Football Fans and Freaks

The football audience is full of all sorts of fans, from reasonable, even-handed team partisans who call it like it is, to those rabid football freaks and NFL fans who can’t see three feet in front of them, due to rage, elation, or just one too many celebratory beers. One thing to remember, when watching an NFL game live: if you’re going to be among rabid NFL fans up in the stands, try to blend in. The last thing you want, especially up in the northeast, is to be wearing a Cowboys jersey in a sea of Eagles, Giants, or Redskins fans. That’s when the fanaticism might go a little too far.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, October 14th, 2010 at 8:55 pmand is filed under College Football, Football, NFL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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