With the 2015 NFL season quickly approaching, there's no better time than now to take a moment to look at some basic points of fan etiquette. Football is a great sport with one of the most intense fanbases in the sporting world. The fans are one of the many things that make following football such a great experience. However, with such a high-profile setting, it is often easy to forget that there is a deeply personal side to football as well. Players are people too. So are fans of opposing teams. Even fans of divisional rivals. They have families, feelings, and quite often mouths to feed. That being said, here are some basic points of fan etiquette to keep in mind when attending games or watching on tv.
Players are people too. It is never ok to cheer when a player gets injured (unless you're cheering when a player gets up and walks off the field). Unless a player personally harmed YOU (and causing your favorite team to lose a game or you to lose a fantasy matchup does not count as harm), you have no reason to cheer for an injury. For players, an injury can be a career-defining or career-ending moment. Injuries keep players off the field. This gives the players behind them on the depth chart an opportunity to start (and a potential opportunity to permanently take the injured player's job). Injuries do place players' jobs in jeopardy in a very real sense. A career-ending injury immediately causes a drastic cut in a player's income. If a player gets cut, he is also losing income. This is no different than getting laid off or put on disability in the workplace. These players count on a salary to support themselves, and without that salary, they can face extremely tough financial situations. This is especially true for backups and late-round draft picks on a rookie pay-scale. The next time you want to cheer for a player getting hurt, I want you to picture yourself cheering for somebody taking food away from a child, because an injury can cause tough times for players and their families. Cheering for an injury doesn't seem so hot now, does it?
Speaking of players and job security, while it's ok to have players that you like and dislike on your favorite team, try to show a little bit of respect. Yes, you may want a player or two to get cut or traded, but it's classless to turn to twitter or facebook and mindlessly spout hate towards a player and his family. NEVER write something on facebook or twitter that you wouldn't say to a player in person. You never know who might see a tweet. It's ok to be critical, but be constructively critical rather than resorting to mindless personal attacks. Yes, sports writers, this goes for you too.
Speaking of the internet and social media, players DO NOT care about your fantasy team! The only teams that they care about are their team and the team that they are preparing to face. The only championship that players are chasing is a Superbowl championship. If Peyton Manning didn't throw for 600 yards and 5 touchdowns to help your fantasy team win, but the Broncos still won, guess what? Peyton Manning did his job. Your fantasy football team is entirely insignificant to NFL players. Why? Because football is a job, and their ultimate goal is to win championships, not to win for your fantasy team. Before you think about sending a player hate mail because his performance didn't help you win a matchup, think about that for a moment.
If you meet a player in person, also remember that they are people too. If you run across a player after a loss or when he is out to dinner with his family, keep in mind his personal situation. If you approach him asking for an autograph, he might not be as friendly as he would be in some other situations. Always consider a player's situation in mind when approaching. If he doesn't have much time to talk to you, be gracious rather than pushy. How would you feel if somebody interrupted you every single time you went out to dinner with your family? How would you feel if people constantly came up to you and asked for things after a bad day at work? Yes, players are celebrities, but they are people just like you. If they're having a bad day or appear to be busy, cut them some slack. Even if they aren't busy, treat them just like you would expect to be treated by a random person. It's all about respect.
Speaking of respect, let's try to show respect for other fans. Yes, you might not like another team, but try to be reasonable when talking smack with their fans. It can be a lot of fun to talk smack with other fans, but try to keep it clean and respectful. DO have fun debating with fans of other teams. DON'T make personal attacks against a person or their family. If children are around, watch your language. Don't say things around other people's kids that you wouldn't want said around your own. Finally, football is a game. It might be a game that we love, but it is just a game. It's never ok to resort to physical violence or threats of violence against other fans. When you think about becoming violent, consider how ridiculous the following situation sounds. Timmy had a bad showing in World of Warcraft today. You've never met Timmy, but he seems like a cool kid, so you're going to physically attack the person who outperformed Timmy (or someone who says that he did well). Sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn't it? It's stupid to resort to physical violence or direct personal attacks over a game. Don't be stupid.
The 2015 NFL season is finally here. Let's keep these things in mind, go out, and enjoy some football! Here's to a fun and exciting year! --Mike B.
Sports give us as the human race something to cheer for and support and give hope to all of us.