Sports are nothing without the fans. Dick Young, one of America’s pioneering sportswriters of the 20th century, said it best: “Fans are the only ones who really care. There are no free-agent fans.” Of course, some fans care more than others, which is why you’ll never see the Florida Marlins, for example, mentioned among the teams with the most ardent support in baseball. These American (and one Canadian, or Canadien) teams — college and pro — have the most loyal and unruly followings, each of which demonstrates its love by singing, chanting, screaming and cursing its team to victory on a regular basis.
Modest in size compared to Rupp Arena or the Carrier Dome, Cameron Indoor Stadium only seats the best and the brightest of college basketball fans. Their chants through the years have been legendary stuff — for example, in the early ’80s, the Cameron Crazies chanted “Freeze! Police!” as recently arrested Adrian Branch of the Maryland Terrapins attempted free throws. They can get pretty offensive too, but Coach K typically does an okay job of keeping them in check.
Fair or unfair, Raiders fans are perceived as a group of ex cons and rabble-rousers who attend games to release their inner demons, in some cases resulting in fights with opposing fans or worse, with each other. The infamous Black Hole is a scary, scary place consisting of costumed madmen especially hostile to Chiefs, Broncos and Chargers fans. Outsiders aren’t advised to venture in — the consequences can be dark.
Eagles fans (and for that matter, all Philly fans) define unruly. Games at Lincoln Financial Field are never mundane. As you probably already know, they’ve booed Santa Claus and cheered when Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending neck injury. Their hatred for their own players sometimes surpasses their hatred for opposing players. You won’t find a more emotionally invested fanbase in sports.
The coining of “Red Sox Nation,” its numerous members who’ve never even been to Boston, and the making of Fever Pitchserve as proof that the glorification of Boston’s fanbase is a tad out of control. Nevertheless, can you imagine any group of fans being more jubilant after a championship than Sox fans were after merely winning the ALCS in 2004?
Saturday Night in Death (Deaf) Valley is one of college football’s most unique traditions. After a day of liquoring up while partaking in the best tailgating in the land, fans pack Tiger Stadium, expending the rest of their day’s energy on screaming at the opposing team. During the LSU-Auburn game in 1988, the crowd’s reaction to LSU’s game-winning touchdown was detected by the seismograph at the campus’s geosciences building, one of the rare occasions in which Louisiana has felt the earth move.
A yearly East-West matchup in the SEC, the Florida-LSU rivalry has emerged as one of college football’s most captivating in recent years, as the teams have routinely ranked at the top of the conference, especially in the noise department. The Swamp’s enclosed field and steep stands create perhaps college football’s most intimidating environment. Whether you’re LSU or FSU, wins are hard to come by for opposing teams in Gainesville.
There were doubts as to whether Oklahoma City was major league-ready when the Sonics, a team that already had a great fanbase in Seattle, moved south. Not only has it proven that it deserves the Thunder, but it unquestionably has the most enthusiastic fans in the NBA. When they’re not decked out in blue while standing at the Ford Center, they’re meeting and greeting their team at the airport. In just a few short years, Thunder basketball has become engrained in the culture of a city residing in a football-infatuated state.
It’s essentially an SEC environment, just farther north. Nittany Lions fans’ true passion is football, which is evidenced by the abundant tailgating, whiteouts and general rowdiness of the S-Zone. Beaver Stadium is at its best when Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400 is blaring through the loudspeakers after a big play, prompting fans to jump around and scream proudly: “WE ARE PENN STATE.”
No team moves the meter in New York like the Yankees. Notoriously arrogant — much like former boss George Steinbrenner — fans expect a World Series title every year, and anything less is a massive disappointment. Few stadiums house more knowledgeable fans, which makes Brian Cashman’s job incredibly difficult.
Packers fans, or cheeseheads, actually own the team, and thus truly live and die with the results on Sunday afternoons. But, during good times or bad, they stick by the green and gold — the Packers have sold out every game since 1960, and have a waiting list that’s larger than the capacity of Lambeau, meaning that if you apply now, you’d have to wait centuries before having the privilege of embracing a Lambeau leap.
With a name and color combination the represents the area’s distinct French Canadian culture, the Canadiens are a source of regional pride for their fans. In a nation that’s a hockey hotbed — see Canucks’ fans reactions after losing the Cup — Montreal has consistently stood out the most. Even though they’re accustomed to watching winners, their next Stanley Cup victory could spell the end of their fine city.
12. Utah Jazz
Utahans are some of the friendliest people on Earth, except when they congregate at EnergySolutions Arena. Aside from producing unbearably loud noise akin to jump jet taking off, they’ve been known to hurl projectiles onto the court during playoff games, and most infamously, they mercilessly and tastelessly taunted former Jazz point guard Derek Fisher for rejoining the Lakers so his daughter could receive appropriate treatment in Los Angeles for retinoblastoma. They make opposing players miserable.
Lambeau Field and Arrowhead Stadium both feature college-like atmospheres. But, perhaps because of their location in flyover country, their market’s ranking as the sixth smallest in the NFL, or their lack of recent success, the Chiefs don’t receive enough credit for their fanatical fans. From 1996 to 2006, for example, only the Washington Redskins, which reside in a much larger market, drew more fans.
Only the lesser known Dee Glen Smith Spectrum rivals Cameron Indoor Stadium when it comes to elite college basketball atmospheres. Their knack for singling out a player from an opposing team and taunting him throughout the game gives the Aggies a distinct advantage over their opponents. Last season, 27-year-old, 300-pound senior Bill Sproat, also known as Wild Bill, gained notoriety for his bizarre costumes and behavior, a standard to which Aggies fans now aspire.
One of the Original Six NHL teams, Blackhawks fandom goes back generations for the average Chicagoan. Before the 2010 Stanley Cup title, they somewhat resembled Red Sox fans prior to 2004 — loyal yet lovable losers, though the 49-year drought wasn’t quite comparable to the 86-year drought. The city’s devotion manifested after the conclusion of Game 6, when a mass celebration ensued.
* The San Francisco 49ers just missed the cut.
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