Friday, October 3, 2014

Proper Etiquette for Watching Live Football

Of course we brought the one Bucs fan in our section...
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

I've been fortunate enough to attend a number of live football games in my day, ranging from half-full Miami Dolphins games to a night at Oregon's Autzen Stadium where my ears were still ringing from the crowd noise the next morning… And I was sitting in the press box.

I've also noticed that at (most) of these games, arguments seem to break out about what someone should or should not do at a live football game. There are some differences by region and level of play (fans in Green Bay are different than fans in Jacksonville, and college fans are surely different than pro fans), but here is the basic etiquette of football game day at the stadium.

Do: Enjoy a Few Adult Beverages (If You're Of Age)

Look, it's a football game, so you're obviously going to want to tailgate/pre-game. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, I would encourage you to try the local brews/drinks of your team or the region it is from. For instance, when I was in Pittsburgh last week, we enjoyed some Iron City beer. Never mind the fact that it tastes horrible, it makes you feel like a part of the team!

If you enjoy these drinks responsibly, it will make the game's weather (which will probably stink) more bearable, and allow you to use a stadium bathroom without wanting to vomit, which, by the way, someone already has on the bathroom floor.

It will also allow you to work up completely unrealistic expectations for your team, and really, that's what football is all about.

Do Not: Get Wasted and Endanger Yourself or Others

But if you go too far, things can get ugly. You could end up like these guys, or this lady. Remember, you've been drinking, and in all likelihood, everyone around you has as well. That can lead to some explosive situations in the stands. We'll touch on that a bit more later, but the most important thing is not to drive home.

I know, I know. You had your first beer at 8 am, so you should be totally sober by game's end! Well, I hate to tell you, but you probably also drank through kickoff and, if this is an NFL game, I can almost guarantee that you were guzzling Bud Light until the end of the third quarter when they did last call. Take a cab, get a hotel near the stadium, have a designated driver. Do whatever you need to do to avoid driving and fighting game day traffic while intoxicated.

Do: Engage in Some Smack Talk

We all love to show off our fandom at live sporting events, and football games can feature some awesome smack talk. That guy sitting next to you in the Buffalo Bills jersey- Remind him how his team lost four consecutive Super Bowls in the early 90s, then ceased to be relevant at all. He'll probably come back with some line about how great Buffalo's fans are compared to you Johnny-come-lately Patriots fans, who didn't know the NFL existed before 2001, and I'm sure you guys will be taking lovely pot shots at each other all game.

Just remember to keep it about the teams and not make it personal.

Do Not: Act Like a Psychopath

But you had to do it, didn't you, you had to tell that female Steelers fan that everyone from Pittsburgh is fat and that all their women are ugly, herself included. Dammit dude, you could've just made fun of Ben Roethlisberger or James Harrison's checkered past, or said they cheated to win Super Bowl XL, why did you have to make it about her?

This happens in stadiums across the country, and is at its worst in NFL rivalry games between cities that consider themselves "tough" and "blue collar." Examples include Steelers-Ravens games, either New York team-New England games, any game in the NFC North and Philadelphia against anybody.

I've also seen it happen a ton in the Big Ten games I used to frequent, and let's just say the Midwest is still totally down with homophobic slurs. Let's keep those to a minimum Buckeye fans, even if you think everyone from Michigan is a (redacted).

Oh yeah, and don't talk smack to kids. You may think you're being funny and just playing around, but they're already overwhelmed with 90,000 drunk idiots around them. They don't need you adding to their anxiety. Only that kid's parent, or crazy drunk uncle, should be giving them any grief, and that grief comes with love. You're just a scary drunk person that stumbled upon them that smells like sausage and Captain Morgan.

Do: Stand Up and Cheer for Your Team (When it is Appropriate)

Let me first say that, if you are in the student section at a college game, you should be standing the whole time. If you've never been in the student section at a college game, it kills the atmosphere of almost any other sporting event. NFL games are cocktail parties, while college games are frat parties, and the student section is the basement where everybody is doing keg stands and dancing to the crappy campus band.
Even at Purdue games everybody stands in the student section. Also, check out how awesome my hair used to be.
If you happen to be sitting outside the student section, or you're at an NFL game, there are some rules for standing up. Generally speaking, you can be on your feet cheering if your team has forced the opposition into a third down, or any type of critical play is coming up. Obviously, you get up and cheer when your team scores. When in doubt, take a look at the people around you. If most of them are sitting, especially the people in front of you, you should probably remain seated.

It's a dumb rule, but the people in the front of the section kind of set the precedent for when to sit or stand, because their movements cause a chain reaction throughout the rest of the section. If you have fun people in front, you're probably going to have an exciting section that gets up and cheers frequently.

Do Not: Chastise People for Standing and/or Being Excited

However, if someone does get excited and stands up in front of you when you don't deem it to be appropriate, don't be that guy that calls them out on it. This usually happens with an out-of-town fan, who gets up and cheers for his team while the other 300 people in his section quietly plot his slow and painful demise. Or, and I hate to stereotype, when younger fans get up and cheer, while the geriatric behind them, who has been coming to these games for 40 years and now secretly hates them, throws a hissy fit about how he doesn't like to stand.

Remember, they paid (probably way too much) for a ticket too, and they should be able to experience some joy when their team scores. This is a football game, after all, and the point of coming is to have fun (I think). If you're one of those people that sits the entire time and constantly yells "down in front!" then you should probably stay home. HD television has made the home viewing experience far superior to the stadium's anyway, plus you'll save a ton of money/time, and I doubt anyone will stand between your couch and the TV.

Do: Check Scores that Affect Your Team

I get it. You're a Broncos fan, and your team is waxing yet another divisional opponent, so you may want to check the Bengals score on your phone to see how that whole "home field advantage throughout the playoffs" thing is going. That's perfectly acceptable, as is high-fiving your neighbor when an out-of-town score works out in your favor.

You should still be mostly occupied with the game you're at, but glancing at other scores that affect your team is completely acceptable.

Do Not: Pay More Attention to You Fantasy Team than Your Reality Team

At the same time, you probably shouldn't be checking your fantasy team constantly and/or live Tweeting the game you're at. You know, the one everyone is watching on their TV, and probably seeing better than you? Yeah, they don't need your update from section 477 that DeMarco Murray is limping on the sideline, or is that Dez Bryant? Or Tony Romo? Dammit, I'm so far back I have no idea who that is!

Trust me, there's a close up on the guy for those watching at home, so you're not going to break any news from the nose bleeds. Just remember that you came to watch the game live, so watch the game live. Don't worry about your fantasy team for a few hours, and limit your picture taking/social media-ing to a few Tweets/selfies per game.

Do: Arrive Early and Stay Late

As a fan it is your duty to get to the stadium/parking lot early, have a few beers, eat a few brats, play some touch football, then walk into the game at least some time before the first quarter ends.

If you've got kid with you, the touch football part is essential, and arriving early to the game is preferable, since most teams allow you to head down to the lower sections for pre-game warmups, and most players will toss gloves and whatnot to kids in the stands. Some will even sign a few autographs.

I did this with my nephews before the AFC championship game in Pittsburgh a few years back, and it was awesome.

Do Not: Try to Beat Traffic

Come on bro, you know you're not going to beat it anyway. Leaving in the third quarter, unless your team is getting pummeled by 40, is frowned upon, and you're still probably going to fight 5,000 other people out of the parking lot and sit in endless traffic on your drive home.

Just stay there, enjoy the game, then hang out a bit afterward, maybe having dinner or just talking around the stadium, until all the other cars have filed out. It's a less stressful way to exit a game.

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