You are who you root for. Let’s be honest: from August to January, most Americans really don’t care what you do for a living or what political party you support. All we really care about is what jersey you wear on Sundays, and which TV you'll be sitting in front of at the local bar with Sunday Ticket.
Because while some fanbases are pretty unobjectionable -- and, therefore, people you could actually see yourself being friends with -- others you make a point to avoid from Saturday night until Monday morning. And a good rule of thumb: the better the team, the more unpleasant the fans.
So, who are the folks we might invite over to our tailgate, and who are the ones we pray don’t sit next to us on an airplane? Our crack team broke ‘em all down, from the NFL's most pleasantly irrelevant fans to the league's most obnoxious.
32. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jags' fanbase is to the NFL what the G-spot is to many men: they know it exists somewhere, but it’s so tiny and hard to find that after a while they just give up. They're the NFL's least obnoxious fans in large part because they BARELY exist. And while you'd think a group of people who are Gator fans on Saturday would be completely intolerable, Jags supporters get all of their annoyingness out during college games; by Sunday, they're content to just come out and enjoy the nice weather, regardless of which former Florida college star is throwing INTs that week.
31. Carolina Panthers
Three NFC title games and a Super Bowl in just 20 years? Congrats, you’re the Marlins of the NFL! Except people actually show up to your games. Usually. Considering how insufferable you should be having tasted success without paying any dues, you're surprisingly not that bad. Probably because the number of teal seats you see on television is directly proportional to the number of wins the Panthers have that season. So, while the crowd this year might look like a rowdy group of die-hards, it's early -- and there's NASCAR.
30. Tennessee Titans
You poor bastards almost won a championship your first season. But let's face it, those memories are as fleeting as Mike Munchak's tenure as head coach. Now, your lone claim to fame is “selling out” your stadium by dumping thousands of tickets on StubHub. And because most of you also wear Creamsicle orange on Saturday, America kinda feels bad for you. But thank you for not taking your disappointment out on us.
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
How do you know football is king in Florida? Because a team known for orange pants and futility has an infinitely better following than a team with two Stanley Cups in the past 11 years. When you suffer for years through game-day temps in the 90s and Vinny Testaverde QB ratings in the 70s, it breeds loyalty. And that's what Bucs fans are: loyal. Never mind the team hasn't made a good draft pick since... okay, ever. Even after those three seasons when they were good, you never got big heads about it. Probably because you recognize that everyone still knows you as the team with orange pants.
28. Arizona Cardinals
If you thought of 10 things in the world that would make you sit outside for four hours in 110-degree temperatures, none of them would be “watching Neil Lomax.” But kudos to Cards fans, you spent 18 years getting cooked on Sundays in Sun Devil Stadium as your team earned a whopping one playoff appearance. Sure, you’re a city of transplants or locals (who grew up rooting for the Cowboys), but you’ve flocked to this perpetually mediocre franchise like it’s an AMC 24 in August. Your new domed stadium is one of the loudest in football, probably because every single one of your fans is AT THE GAME. Seriously, has anybody outside Arizona ever met an actual Cardinals fan?
27. Houston Texans
You know that King of the Hill episode where Hank and the gang kinda grudgingly go watch the Texans practice, because it’s a lot closer than the Cowboys and they figure, hey, it’s football? There’s your fanbase. No, they’re not America’s Team. No, they’re not Texas’ team -- that one wears burnt orange. Hell, they’re not even Houston’s team, since THAT team plays in Nashville. But, hey, it’s a big city, and it's football, and it’s an excuse to go grill something on a Sunday, so why not? And since you're all just kind of Texans fans by default, nobody gets too worked up about things.
26. Detroit Lions
Telling someone you’re a Lions fan is basically an extension of telling someone you’re from Detroit. And the response is generally the same: people just feel kind of bad for you and want to tell you that everything’s going to be okay, even though they know they can’t say that with any confidence. Until Calvin Johnson came along, the only player's jersey you saw Lions fans wear at home games was... Barry Sanders (even on kids born after Sanders retired). Let’s just say the Joey Harrington jersey era was short lived. Even when the on-field squad has had their occasional adversarial personality (looking at you, Suh), it’s hard for a fanbase that so thoroughly knows nothing but bad things to muster up much in the way of offensiveness.
25. Cleveland Browns
You know all those jokes people make about Ohio? You ARE those jokes. And it's hard to be bothered by a group of people dedicated to an awful franchise that, three years after moving and changing their name to the Ravens, somehow managed to win a Super Bowl. Sure, you might toss the occasional dog biscuit/snowball/glass bottle on the field, but next to Cubs fans, you're America's lovable losers -- just more adorably delusional. You really thought [Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Seneca Wallace, Trent Dilfer, Tim Couch, Jake Delhomme, Brian Hoyer, Colt McCoy, Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey] were legitimate starting quarterbacks?
24. Buffalo Bills
Bills fans should be much sadder. The Super Bowl quadfecta. The ABSOLUTE FORWARD PASS in the playoffs in Tennessee in 2000. The quarterbacks named Manuel and Edwards and Brohm and Holcomb and Thad Lewis and one-s-short-of-perfect Losman. The snow. And yet, you remain an industrially jovial, generally adorable bunch full of Labatt Blue and misbehavior, but never hate. Witness the Ridiculous Bills Fan Video cottage industry Deadspin’s been nurturing all season, which includes you shoving hands in girlfriends’ butts, slap-fighting in the most viciously friendly manner conceivable, launching yourselves onto tables from high places, using friendly fire to slam Pats fans through other ones, dizzy-batting your heads into the front of buses, and doing coke. Or who knows, maybe Adderall! Point is, football is supposed to be fun, and you lovable, thick-torsoed goons know how to have it. It was totally a forward pass.
23. Minnesota Vikings
Also known as: “That fanbase currently going through the mental gymnastics of convincing yourselves it’s alright to root for Adrian Peterson after learning about his parenting style." Oh, and also after this. For a franchise that’s endured a stunning amount of heartbreak and futility on its journey to never winning a Super Bowl, you don’t get nearly the amount of misery hype as, say, a Cleveland or a Buffalo. But your overcompensation for that makes you slightly more obnoxious than those fans, playing the victim card extra hard and going WAY over the top with superfan bravado. But you're still nice Midwesterners, which means you have even fewer issues giving up and jumping on the Packers bandwagon.
22. Atlanta Falcons
And speaking of mental gymnastics/cognitive dissonance: it's okay to still love dogs and Michael Vick, right? 'Cause there'll always be a place for Vick in your hearts, and you know it’s true. But not Bobby Petrino -- that dude can burn in hell. No, seriously. By far the least fair-weather of Atlanta's pro sports fans (don’t buy into the lazy generalization that alllll ATL fans are apathetic), the dome gets packed, and it gets LOUD. And despite a relatively futile past dotted with greatness (Steve Bartkowski. Gerald Riggs. Deion Sanders. 2 Legit 2 Quit. The Dirty Birds. Arthur Blank's mustache.) you’re still savvy enough fans to recognize there’s not a whole lot (thanks for nothing, Eugene Robinson) in your 50-year history to get up in people’s faces about. Unless it’s a Saints fan. In which case, there’s ALWAYS something.
21. Cincinnati Bengals
Talking to Bengals fans these days is perplexing: after a few straight Andy Dalton-led playoff appearances, they carry themselves like they're on the verge of something. They expect big things. But deep down, you know (everyone knows) that it will all come crumbling down in a cascade of backbreaking miscues. For now, though, everyone is content to keep up the charade and nobody's getting too worked up enough to annoy anyone else. Except... when you start yelling “Who Dey." Look, whether it started with the Saints or Bengals, no one cares -- it’s dumb either way.
20. St. Louis Rams
Rams fans are basically people from St. Louis with nothing to do when the Cardinals aren’t playing. Either that or you just enjoy watching football in a Costco. Minus the noise and energy. You’d think a Downtown stadium would encourage tailgates that are more than mild-mannered people making mild-mannered burgers in the gravel lot of a vacant building, but it doesn't. Which makes you not-all-that-intolerable, even if you're still a little too bitter-angry after enduring the worst five-year stretch of any team in NFL history after the success of the late 1990s/early 2000s. But there is good news: your Bond villain of an owner is going to put you out of your misery soon and move the team to Los Angeles.
19. San Diego Chargers
You can partially blame the Whale’s Private Parts' glorious weather for diluting the fanbase, as the area now mostly consists of Jets and Pats and Eagles fans right out of college in PB along the beach, and Jets and Pats and Eagles fans right out of the workforce in the golf course communities in North County. But inland, right around El Cajon and La Mesa, you might find actual Chargers fans, some of whom even remember the Stan Humphries era when he and Natrone Means led SD to a horrible drubbing in Super Bowl XXIX at the hands of the Niners. Even objective Wikipedia chimes in on the lack of Charger fan enthusiasm, noting, “Despite... the fact that San Diego did not have as much national appeal nor a relatively large core fan base, the telecast of the game on ABC still had a Nielsen rating of 41.3.” Yay?
18. Indianapolis Colts
There are basically three kinds of Colts fans: die-hards who thought building the Hoosier Dome before you had an actual team was a stroke of GENIUS; Peyton Manning fans who dropped $200 on an authentic jersey in 2005 and don’t much feel like switching; and people who know nothing about football and are just attracted by the smell of frying pork. Your revisionist history of Adam Vinatieri’s career aside, you’re actually a pretty innocuous group, mostly because anyone can shut you up just by yelling “OMAHA!” (Peyton trained you right, didn’t he?) And although none of you actually LIKE being associated with the (AFC) South, it makes getting to the playoffs infinitely easier. So, hey, carry on with your jerseys-and-jeans Fridays.
17. Denver Broncos
Broncos fans for some reason think they’re “America’s Team,” failing to realize that: a) the Dallas Cowboys beat you in a Super Bowl for the right to self-invent that nickname, and b) most people in America can only name one player on your team. And half of them still think he plays for the Colts! Nevertheless, this was the ONLY professional team in Colorado for years -- so even in a city teeming with transplants, the fanbase is pretty solid. The only people who really believe we're letting Broncos fans off easy at 17 root for the Raiders and Chiefs.
16. New Orleans Saints
Obviously, after Hurricane Katrina everybody in America fell in love with the Saints. You couldn't say a bad thing about 'em, even in Atlanta! But as a result, you now have two groups of fans: pre- and post-Katrina. One spent almost 30 years suffering with a team that rarely broke .500 (the “Aints!”) and was helmed by the likes of Aaron Brooks and Billy Joe Tolliver, while the other only knows the Super Bowl success of the Sean Payton era. You're both “all in” when it comes fandom -- which is great for jersey and ticket sales -- but it’s clear which group can handle a 1-4 start and which one keeps annoying everybody at the bar by yelling “Who Dat?” every two minutes. Throw in the massive “Bounty Gate” chip on your collective shoulder and a 16 ranking feels about right. Either way, you’re pretty much one Drew Brees retirement away from a return to fan normalcy and a drop waaaay back down this list.
15. Miami Dolphins
Listen, there, Al Bundy of NFL fanbases, at some point you have to stop responding to trash talk from fans from NY/NJ (who take up half your stadium) with “17-0!” That was FORTY-THREE YEARS AGO. And, yes, you’re the only fanbase in South Florida that’s not one losing season away from complete apathy, but most of your old-school fans are middle-aged guys who moved up to Lighthouse Point and Jupiter sometime in the 1990s -- and they're not so obnoxious. But you know who is? Your "new" fans who can’t name two players on the defense and come to Sun Life to take selfies at LIV. So basically, in half a generation, you'll be the same as Heat fans, and move up a solid eight spots on this list, regardless of whether you ever win another playoff game.
14. Kansas City Chiefs
It’s a little embarrassing that the biggest rivalry you have going right now doesn’t involve the team on the field, but whether you can make more noise than the fans in Seattle. And since they’ve got that nifty metal overhang, you're never gonna get the edge. Congratulations. But... since people born AFTER your last playoff victory can legally drink (read that again, AFTER), you might want to cool it a little. If only your top brass didn’t think every 49ers castoff was the second coming of Joe Montana. That said, we are sincerely sorry about Jamaal Charles. Love. That. Dude.
13. Baltimore Ravens
Essentially, you put purple makeup on a pig that grew up in Cleveland and renamed it after a poem. And you brag about it. Not that your average Ravens fans could tell Edgar Allan Poe from Edgar Martinez, but the purple-shaded glasses through which you see the world could make even an SEC superfan seem rational. Newsflash: all the Natty Boh in the world won’t make Joe Flacco an elite quarterback, even if he won the Super Bowl and gets paid ALMOST as much as Ryan Tannehill. The fact that somehow you thought cheering was an appropriate response for the homecoming of a dude accused of domestic violence honestly should put you at the TOP of this list. What is wrong with you? You seem to forget that despite two Super Bowls, you’re still basically rooting for the Browns. THE BROWNS. But, hey, at least you’ve got great crab cakes.
12. Chicago Bears
Many fanbases are insufferable -- but how many of them inspired a catchphrase-laden recurring comedy sketch about their insufferableness that would eventually become insufferable in its own right (and then somehow become part of an auto insurance ad campaign)? You Bears fans like to fancy yourselves as one of America’s proudest sporting traditions, but the cold reality is the only thing separating you from Cubs fans is one glorious lightning-in-a-bottle year in 1985 that you still cling to with adorable desperateness. Your most feared team in recent memory was helmed by the immortal Rex Grossman. Talk to any Bears fan and you’ll get a sense of thoroughly undeserved self-importance mixed with Italian beef and a few expletives about Jay Cutler.
11. San Francisco 49ers
Oh man. The Niners would actually be much higher on this list a couple of years ago, when you really started to bring back that '80s/'90s level of cockiness during the Harbaugh era, and all of you were Kaepernick-ing on your Tumblr pages and starting to debate whether he would overtake Joe Montana as the greatest QB in Niners history. And then Jed York happened. In one fell swoop, the best coach SF has had since Bill Walsh was forced out, replaced by a very genial yes-man former janitor, everyone on defense retired or moved teams, Kaepernick hit the midnight Cinderella clause and remembered that he is actually just a very good baseball pitcher pretending to be a quarterback, and -- oh yeah -- the team moved to SANTA CLARA, which is about as close to San Francisco as Sacramento.
Jed York now has a state-of-the-art stadium perfect for the terrible tech class, who go to the games for upscale chef-driven sandwiches and craft beers and the ability to charge your phone at different docking stations, and could give two shits about the product on the field because none of you are actually from San Francisco anyway. The actual Niners fans left behind in, you know, San Francisco have now softened their obnoxiousness, and mostly spend their days conflicted as to whether they should cheer on their squad or hope they actually lose all the rest of their games as a rebuke to their stupid owner, who OF COURSE went to Notre Dame.
10. Washington Redskins
For years, the trademark of being a Redskins fan was wearing a pig nose. We could probably stop there, since those have even less to do with your politically incorrect mascot than spiked shoulder pads do with the Raiders. But at least Raider fans have the damn sense to stay home when their owner makes decades-worth of bad decisions. Not you, Redskins fans! Dan Snyder can throw money at aging superstars until John McCain retires, and you’ll STILL show up to FedExField. Look, we get it, you used to be good. Three Super Bowl wins (four appearances in 10 years). That's exciting. It was also... TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO!!! Let's move it along, Kirk Cousins.
9. Green Bay Packers
Ah, Green Bay. The model franchise. Not owned by some money-grubbing autocrat but by THE PEOPLE, and you’ll gladly remind anybody and everybody of that as you break out your certificate that proves you, too, own a piece of the team! Never mind that those certificates are about as valuable as that “share of a gold mine” you got on a family trip to South Dakota. Packers fans like to present a welcoming aura of friendliness (tailgating at Lambeau pre-game is actually a fantastic time), but make no mistake, they will turn (on you or anything around you) in a HEARTBEAT if things go south for the Pack. Just look what happened to Brett Favre when he dared play for the Vikings. Which Green Bay now collectively pretends never happened.
8. New York Giants
Giants fans aren’t obnoxious at all! Sure, your players can blow their hands off on Fourth of July or shoot themselves in the foot at a nightclub, but they do it the “Giants” way! You’re an original NFL franchise, and unlike those classless Jets, you have sophistication! LT could [Editor's Note: literally do anything illegal] and you’d call him a true Giant, because no doubt he did it with class. And sure, the “New York Football Giants” have played outside New York only 20 years less than the baseball Giants, but none of that matters! Your team is better than any other team, just like your city is better than any other city!
7. Seattle Seahawks
Nothing brings out the dregs of your city like a successful NFL run. And, boy, are the “relevant-for-the-first-time” Seahawk fans finding this one out. Those longtime Seattlites who won’t shut up about how they used to watch Kelly Stouffer at the Kingdome are only slightly less infuriating than the Mensa convention of new fans who somehow think they’re the “loudest in football,” ignoring stuff like “innovative stadium construction” and “physics” while believing that people in Seattle are just really, really good at yelling. Fortunately, since they’re new to this whole “winning” thing, Seahawks fans haven’t figured out yet that even the best teams in history don’t go to the Super Bowl every year. The bandwagon should have plenty of room after this upcoming 10-6 season.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers
Despite winning the most Super Bowls of any team in league history, you still have a no-show problem at home games. Not because the team is subpar, but because your average season-ticket holder is 84 and stays home after dark or if there’s a 10% chance of rain. Your beloved “Steeler Nation” is mostly made up of transplants living in the Sun Belt who are “total die-hards” but haven’t been to a Steeler game in Pittsburgh since Three Rivers. That won’t stop you from busting out the Pittsburgh-ese at the local Steeler bar, though, like you didn’t skip town for the first warm-weather job that came around. And despite being five years late to the Michael Vick outrage party, the fact that you have the most Super Bowls helps shut down Cowboys, Giants, and Pats fans, so America is still grateful. Also, your fight song is by Styx.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Eagles fans are the people who get into fights at an 8-year-old girls’ T-ball game, possibly with an 8-year-old girl. They just enjoy spite and hatefulness for the sake of spite and hatefulness. Not to be all cliche (and, yes, we can see your eye-rolling now, Iggles fans), but you are a fanbase that booed Santa Claus, cheered when an opposing player got a career-ending neck injury, and threw batteries at the Easter Bunny. You can't deny that in the past, you have been HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE people. And really, what's changed? Definitely not your team's ability to win it all. But to be fair, having to watch games at Veterans Stadium would've hardened even the nicest of people -- there's a reason that place had a courtroom and jail cell on the bottom level. Must be something in the cheesesteaks.
4. New York Jets
Jets fans are to the NFL what New Jersey is to the United States; you carry a chip on your shoulder (comprised of 10lbs of Italian sausage and other assorted spiced meats) and anybody who dares question the greatness of your team is met with an overcompensating “J-E-T-S” cheer and possibly a punch to the gut. For some reason you are convinced Joe Klecko should be in the hall of fame, and Joe Namath should be on Mount Rushmore. But those delusions aside, at least you remain appropriately pessimistic about your team’s chances, since the last time you even sniffed the Super Bowl was before Woodstock.
3. Dallas Cowboys
For most of the past two decades, the Cowboys' die-hards' belief that they're still living in the First World of Fandom has been laughable. But on occasion, it's been insufferable. Would the Cowboys have had a snowball's chance in Miami at winning the Super Bowl had Tony Romo not muffed that snap against Seattle? Apparently the answer is "yes!" Was that 2007 team loaded at every position? Sure! Is this FINALLY Tony Romo’s year? Absolutely! As long as you don’t get screwed by a BS call in the playoffs... AGAIN. Cowboys fans used to say Texas Stadium had a hole up top because God loved watching the Cowboys, but isn't declaring God a fan of YOUR team pretty much the pinnacle of obnoxious? I wonder how Jesus feels about benching Weeden for Cassel?
2. Oakland Raiders
Right now there are at least 50 people in San Quentin Prison for something they did after a Raiders game. Possibly 100. The official team of the California penal system is a far cry from the renegade outlaws that got them their sociopathic fanbase, but your average Raider fan isn’t really as concerned with “winning” as he is with “beating opposing fans with blunt objects.” No lie: I’ve literally seen guys in Broncos jerseys with police escorts walking through the parking lot at O.co. A stroll through the concourses is about as close to spending a night in the Alameda County Jail as anyone should ever get, though at least in jail there’s somebody making more than $12 an hour around to protect you. And as you wade through empty liquor bottles after another home loss, there is a better-than-average chance you won’t be able to get into your car because somebody is being beaten up behind it.
1. New England Patriots
You did it. You really did it. Never before in the history of sports fair-weather fandom has there been a group as obnoxious as the Pats' fans. I’d like to rewind to the year 1993, when everyone was convinced the Pats would move to St. Louis and become the Stallions, and most Boston people COULDN’T CARE LESS. The Patriots were, for so very long, the bottom of the barrel in terms of local fan enthusiasm. The Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, and all of the major college hockey teams in the Boston area all enjoyed more support than the Patriots. And then of course we know what happened. It became the year 2000 and Andover and Wesleyan graduate Billy Belichick started coaching, Drew Bledsoe got hurt, handsome Tom Brady stepped in, and the hapless Patriots started winning Super Bowls. And suddenly the fans came out of the Walden Pond woodwork.
Now everyone from Chelsea to Cochituate to Chatham claims that they’ve been die-hards forever, that they were huge fans during the Grogan and Tony Eason eras, that they know who Dick MacPherson is, and remember when fans used to hold up signs saying “Missing with Sisson” for kicker Scott Sisson. They shed accusations of cheating as if they are old John Hannah jerseys, even though everyone everywhere knows that Belichick is one of those guys who will cheat even while they’re winning just because it makes him feel clever. And so the calls of “P-A-T, Pats, Pats, Pats” ring out everywhere, and people still head to the town next to the town with the jail outside of Boston to watch their squad cooly go about the “Patriots Way” of mechanically winning games and refusing to sign beloved veterans because they would like to get paid more for bleeding for this team forever. But everyone knows you dyed-in-the-wool Pats fans are really just Bruins fans in Brady’s clothing. And deep down, you know it too.