Over The Line

Guest columnist Mark Salois wonders how the effects of one fan's inexcusable behavior can spill over into an entire fan base's reputation and more.

How does fan behavior affect a professional football franchise?

Of course we've all heard the stories when the Philly fans peppered Santa with snowballs. Almost all of us have seen the footage of Sam Wyche chastising the Bengal fans in a 1989 game against the Seahawks.

During a game in December 1989 against Seattle, Bengals fans -- unhappy with the officials -- started throwing snowballs and beer bottles onto the field. Wyche took the public address microphone and admonished them, saying memorably, "You don't live in Cleveland, you live in Cincinnati!"

That was the scene 20 years ago.

The event has slid into the annals of forgotten football lore. If those comments were made against a media darling like the Cowboys or Redskins the footage would be played almost daily on the ESPN media machine.

Over the past 20 years, we've heard horror stories about fan behavior in certain stadiums around the league. Oakland is infamous. Philadelphia has had to install a courthouse in the basement of Lincoln financial field to quickly attend to overzealous fans.

The topic of bad fan behavior has been discussed ad nauseum as of late (as proven by the latest mandate from NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell). Everyone understands that there are certain bad elements in every fan base. The nature of every NFL fan is to engage in heavy ribbing against an opposing fan, but it is a rare occurrence when those altercations become physical.

More often than not, when there is an altercation in a stadium where home team fans are against a visiting fan, level headed locals step in to stop any perceived physical threat.

You may be wondering why this is suddenly a topic for discussion. After all, there have been no reports of noteworthy violent fan behavior so far in this young NFL season.

In this age of Instant Internet Gratification, it is easy to type out your thoughts in real-time and to engage in mostly friendly "smack talk" with fans of the current week's opponent. Most of the time all of this talk is taken and responded to in jest.

An event last week may have changed the scope of so called "smack talk" forever.

The internet was buzzed last week when a person who claimed to be a Seahawk fan took it upon himself to try to fire up the Seahawk fan base by poking fun of the New York Giant fan base by referring to 9/11.

I will not link to those incredibly tasteless comments, as most of you have probably read them already. If you have not read them, don't go look. It would be a waste of your time. And it will make you very upset.

I have had some interaction with Giant fans over the past few days since those sick comments have been posted for the world to see. I'd like to state for the record that I've developed the utmost respect for their fan base as they understand that one sick person can never speak for the legion of fans that were sickened by those despicable, disgusting words.

Every fan base can provide a fine example of knuckle-headedness, but to post it online for the world to see like this particular Seahawk fan did is beyond forgiveness.

On behalf of the entire Seattle Seahawk family, I'd like to offer my sincerest apologies to everyone that had the misfortune to read what one wayward fan wrote.

Back to the original question....

How does fan behavior affect a professional football franchise?

Individually, it has little to no effect whatsoever. It is not news worthy when single fans who have had too much to drink get kicked out of the stadium. That happens in every single NFL stadium every single Sunday.

Collectively though, a fan base can make a huge difference on the short and long term fortunes of a franchise.

67,000 screaming fans on a Sunday in Seattle have proven that time and time again.

Let's ignore the bigotry, racism, sexism, and general ineptitude of single individuals that choose to root for a particular team. We all know that the vast majority of all NFL fans are good and decent people who would rather lend a helping hand than to make fun of those who suffer.

I do know this.

9/11 and pro football should never, ever be discussed in the same sentence ever again. On that day.... we were all fans of New York.


Mark Salois is known to NET Nation as acer1240. If you would like to drop Mark an email, you can do so at: saloisd@mtintouch.net

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