Big Lead Sports Bar


Football Fans are Obnoxious

I love football. LOVE it. But this past week made me realize all the things wrong with my favorite game.
The Steelers, reigning Super Bowl champions, lost a tough 9-0 game in Jacksonville. Jacksonville was a 12-4 team last year and a franchise that has traditionally given the Steelers fits. A loss should not have surprised anyone. Yet spoiled Steeler fans screamed like babies in the days afterwards, blaming the usual suspects: Quarterback, Coach, and Running Back.
I hear all the time about how smart Steeler fans are. So why are some of them already suggesting Najeh Davenport start in place of Willie Parker? Why are they saying Charlie Batch should have started, or at least came in as a reliever? Why are they blaming the coach? Because they aren't all smart fans.
Anyone with a modicum of football knowledge knows that the Steelers offensive line was being blown off the ball. Parker had nowhere to run; he was ducking tackles in the backfield. You can take Duce out of his sweats, you can pull Najeh from the dorm closet, you can ask Jerome to step out of the NBC booth, heck, you can call in Jim Brown from Cleveland's sidelines...but neither one would have had any more luck than Parker had on Monday.
Roethlisberger had little if any time to throw. The weak line play set up many 3rd-and-longs, when the defense knew the pass was coming. He has spent precious little time with the offense in game situations in the pre-season; an offense, keep in mind, that has several new contributors (Holmes, Washington, etc) that Ben has not yet meshed with. With all that in mind, as well as the fact that he did have some type of fever and he was just a short time removed from an appendectomy, his performance should not be much of a surprise. What if Cowher puts Batch in and the Steelers still lose? You have the same record and a still-rusty Roethlisberger going into a huge division game on Sunday. If the Steelers win? Cowher would then be asked when to bring Ben into the fold, since Batch would be 2-0 and the hot hand. Cowher had no choice; as long as Roethlisberger felt up to playing, he had to be in the game. You win with Ben, you lose with Ben. And as his 27-5 career record would indicate, you win with Ben most of the time.
The Steelers line was unable to block; they couldn't run, and they couldn't set up the pass. Sure, I was disappointed, as well as every other Steeler fan. But it was one game. GET OVER IT. There are 14 more to be played. This is a team that was 7-5 and on the edge of elimination last season and still won the Super Bowl. I don't think one loss to a quality opponent on their home field is anything that should cause the panic button to be pushed as frantically as it has this week.
When it comes to the voice of the fan, Steeler supporters are no better or worse than any other team's following. Denver, who went to the AFC Championship with Jake Plummer, wanted to bench him after week one. Dallas, who some picked to go to the Super Bowl with Drew Bledsoe, also had calls to bench him after week one. Football fans and patience are no longer a happy marriage. In fact, it's a divorce: football fans have no patience.
College fans are equally as impatient, if not worse. Larry Coker's career record with the Miami Hurricanes is 54-11. He was coach of the National Champions in 2001. He is on the hot seat. Phil Fulmer's career record at Tennessee is 130-38, winning the National Championship in 1998. He is on the hot seat. Lloyd Carr's career record at Michigan is 105-35, with a title in 1997. He is on the hot seat. Charlie Weis's record at Notre Dame is 11-4, the same as his predecessor, Tyrone Willingham, who was run out of town after just three seasons. Willingham was basically playing with previous coach Bob Davie's players. Which I find funny, because the players Weis has been winning with, including Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija , and Tom Zbikowski, were all Willingham recruits.
Even the patriarch of college football himself, Joe Paterno, was on the hot seat, as witnessed by such sites as I assume all the loyal Penn State faithful have backed off the coach with a career mark of 358-118-3 after their 2005 season.
The ugliest part of football has been the downright scary nature of devoted "fans". Ohio State fans are allegedly some of the most loyal in sports. If that's the case, why would they taunt their own tight end with death threats last year after he dropped a touchdown pass against Texas?
As soon as the media identified the woman that hit Big Ben on his motorcycle, I correctly predicted that she would receive death threats from Steeler fans. Probably the same group of sickos that would find out Tommy Maddox's home address and litter it with trash. Let's just say our own fans hold their own with the crazies of the football world.
Most recently, the behavior of Oklahoma and their fans in the wake of their controversial loss at Oregon was equally appalling. For those of you who don't follow college football, all the replays for a huge onside kick call seemed to favor Oklahoma. The problem was that the official and the replay official were both from the PAC-10, Oregon's home conference. Oregon got the call, and Oklahoma got the "L". Totally unfair, but let us not forget a playoff game last season when a replay failed to produce the correct call on a Polamalu interception. Sometimes these things happen.
In the aftermath of the loss, Oklahoma was quite outspoken with their thoughts on the game. The President of OU, David Boren, the Governor of Oklahoma from 1975-79 and a U.S. Senator from 1979-94, called for the game to be struck from the record books. This is coming from a man who expressed public regret for his voting of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. So you would think he knows that mistakes do happen.
Oklahoma has threatened to not play a scheduled game against Washington in 2008. And shortly thereafter, yep, you guessed it...the death threat of referee Gordon Riese from Oklahoma fans. It seems like death threats are so predictable in moments like these, you can set your watch to them.
This is not a Pittsburgh thing, this is not an Oklahoma thing, this is not a Columbus thing. This is a United States thing. In a country where football is presented as the be all and end all for most of our society, these things will continue to happen. Kids will continue to be harrassed by their teachers for wearing jerseys of opposing players; more death threats will be called in to players and referees; and the media will be right there with their Power Rankings, getting football fans' collective panties in a bunch when their team is ranked too low after week two.


Anonymous said...

Well, as the NFL gets more and more like professional wrestling (and college follows in its fashion), it sort of stands to reason that the fans will follow. I love the game of football, but I hate just about everything that surrounds it. I'm sure a certain amount of hyper-macho pyrotechnic bullshit is necessary to inspire football players to be at their best, but the high-pitched overkill that the NFL has devolved into is excruciating to watch except between kickoff and the final gun.

I think there is a problem with Steeler fans -- that group of them that is obnoxious, that is -- insofar as the prevalence of football is such that a whole bunch of people have played it. So they know just enough to use the right terminology, which makes them past masters of the game.

Another problem, though, is that squeaky wheels get the grease. You've got a pretty boring call-in show if you have a bunch of callers who note that the Steelers were uncharacteristically deficient in their main skill areas and therefore we can expect a progression rather than a regression to the mean where the deisred and expected outcome is 11-5. There's any number of things you can foam at the mouth about.

But football in general is overexposed, overhyped, taken way too seriously, takes itself way too seriously. Clownishly so. I miss the days when it was just a game. As I recall, Joe Montana's 49ers were pretty fucking dynamic, with or without all the bells and whistles.

Anonymous said...

In response to this and today's game I say...




Anonymous said...

I was pretty much going to post what kpatrick said. So I'll just summarize:

I like football just swell. It's a fine game.

I don't like football players.

I don't like football coaches.

I don't like football broadcasters.

And most of all, I don't like football fans.

But football? Football's OK.

Not better than baseball, though. Not by a long shot:

Anonymous said...

Well, that was an attempt to link to Thomas Boswell's "The First 99 Reasons Baseball is Better Than Football" but I'm not sure the link took. You might have to Google it instead.