In light of the approaching Super Bowl LII, I wanted to take a psychological look at the best and worst fans of the NFL. I explore the similarities and differences in these groups of people, as well as how the fans of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots rank up to these findings.
In full self-disclosure, I am a huge sports fan.
I have my teams in the sports I care about and am interested in. Following the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” motto, I follow the Oklahoma Sooners since it’s my wife’s team. I also follow Chelsea FC in the world’s game of football (it pains me to call it soccer sometimes), the Carolina Panthers, and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
I could focus on the many aspects of fandom, but with the Super Bowl coming up this weekend, I wanted to take a look at the two fan bases of the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. I was certainly hoping for a different matchup, like the Vikings versus the Jaguars, but I got neither team.
Alas, now we have two fan bases that are arguably either the most passionate or the most obnoxious. I would hate to be in the city of the losing team after this weekend, and possibly even in Minnesota (the site of the Super Bowl this year). One of more of those cities may burn down to the ground.
Passionate vs. Obnoxious
According to Webster, passionate is defined as “easily aroused by anger, filled with anger, and capable of expressing intense feeling.” Furthermore, Webster states that “passionate implies great vehemence and often violence and wasteful diffusion of emotions.” Is it surprising to you that the word passionate has a negative undertone? You may have thought otherwise. On the other hand, obnoxious is defined as “exposed to something unpleasant or harmful, deserving of censure, highly offensive and unpleasant in a way that makes people feel offended, annoyed or disgusted.”
What does the research say about the “best” and “worst” fans of each team in the NFL? According to Mike Lewis, a professor at Emory’s business school, he uses three metrics, which are “Fan Equity,” “Social Media Equity,” and “Road Equity.”
Fan Equity looks at “home box office revenues.” Social Media Equity looks at “fans willingness to engage as part of a team’s community” on social media platforms (think to Keep Pounding for the Carolina Panthers). Road Equity looks at “how teams draw on the road after adjusting for team performance”. According to the findings, the top 5 teams are the Cowboys, Patriots, Eagles, Giants, and Steelers, taking into consideration all three metrics.
So, the Patriots and the Eagles are both ranked in the top 5. But is this accurate over a lifetime. I would argue that Patriots fans are more bandwagon fans (more obnoxious) while Eagles fans are more fans for life (more passionate and action taking). With respect to the Patriots, the last 15 years have been filled with consistent winning, thanks in large part to Tom Brady. Prior to that, were there really any Patriot fans? The Boston area was focused on the Celtics, the Bruins, the Red Sox or even all the major college hockey teams.
The Patriots were even considering a move to another city because of the lack of support. I mean the Patriot home stadium is located in Foxborough, MA, 28 miles away from downtown Boston. And then we have the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the years, Philly fans have been known to get into fights at their kids sporting events. They seem to enjoy hatred for the sake of being hateful. There is a history of the Eagles fan base booing Santa Claus, cheering whenever an opposing team player was injured (think of Michael Irvin and his career-ending neck injury in 1999), throwing batteries at the Easter Bunny or throwing full cans of beer at opposing team fans.
Furthermore, the old Veterans stadium even had a courtroom and jail on the lower level due to the rowdiness of the fans.
Super Bowl LII
So, what does this Super Bowl potentially hold for all of us viewers?
If you are a Philly or a Patriots fan, you will definitely be watching the game. For the rest of us, we may be watching for the commercials, the half-time show or even for any rowdiness between fans that may be shown on the big screen. If history has anything to say about it, I’ll be watching fan behavior. I secretly hope for another fan like the 2014 Sugar Bowl where an Alabama fan quite literally “came in like a wrecking ball” towards an Oklahoma Sooners fan (BOOMER!)