Tomorrow night, the Pittsburgh Steelers come to town for the final pre-season game – and I couldn’t be filled with any more bitterness. Since the Carolina Panthers came into existence, I have been attending their home games, and during that time I have grown to strongly dislike certain fan bases. Whether you call it disdain, jealousy, or just a down-right loathing, these teams’ fans find a way to make the game day experience miserable. Of course, any visiting fan is a sour note, but these five fan bases find a way to be a special kind of thorn in your side, when they come to Carolina.
5. Buffalo Bills. Most of you probably look at this one and think, “really, the Bills? They are terrible! Why would you pick them?” You would be right – they are terrible. But this isn’t about who marches the best team down here – it’s about who brings the worst fans. The Bills aren’t a team that has come to visit too often, but when they do, they circle the wagons around Bank of America Stadium. The last time they were here was two years ago in the 2009 season. I remember being shocked at the number of fans who turned out wearing the red and blue jerseys. One particular fan (with his wife and two kids, mind you) decided he wanted to rip up the program into small pieces of confetti. He then decided to shower it down onto all the Panthers fans in front of him every time the Bills made a good play. This happened for about a quarter before some of the fans informed him that our southern hospitality only extends so far. The other thing about the Bills fans is that they seem to have a knack for ignoring the facts. No matter how bad their team is doing, they have a way of blocking that out like a juror in the Casey Anthony trial. They are loyal, I will give them that. If you would like to test this theory, head over to Tavern on the Tracks one Sunday or any time during hockey season and you will see exactly what I am talking about.
4. Green Bay Packers. Unlike the Bills fans, these guys do have something to be proud of. Coming off a Super Bowl winning season last year, I expect nothing more than a monster crowd here for week two when Aaron Rodgers and company come to town. The Cheese-heads don’t just show up in jerseys – they go all-out with faces painted, fake aluminum-foil Lombardi trophies, and those swiss-cheese-looking styrofoam hats. One time I even saw a guy dressed up in a yellow-and-green pope outfit. Packers fans aren’t afraid to let you know how good of a season they just had or are having at the time, and if you are bored with the game, be sure to ask them about the history and tradition of Green Bay. Five minutes into the ensuing one-sided, two-hour discussion, the fan’s voice will resemble the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons – “wahh, wah wah wahh.” While there may just be a lot of Packers fans living in Charlotte, my personal theory is that living in Green Bay is so bad that whenever the Packers aren’t playing at home, the entire city travels to escape hypothermia and boredom.
3. Atlanta Falcons. Of course, our AFC South brothers just down the road on I-85 are on this list. The Dirty Birds never miss a chance to come up here and show their true colors. With a rivalry that dates back to our NFC West days, there is no love lost between Panthers and Falcons fans. Simply put, we can’t stand each other. This is one of those throw-the-records-out, throw-the-manners-out types of rivalries. From beating us in our very first game ever, to the days of chasing Michael Vick around, to the new Matty Ice era, the Falcons have consistently been a nuisance. Their fans are no different. If you happen to miss any action during the game, don’t worry – there is always plenty going on in the stands. I have seen more punches thrown and landed at Atlanta games than I have seen in professional boxing in the past six years. I can’t really blame the Falcons fans since it is a rivalry, but it doesn’t make me like them any more, either.
2. Dallas Cowboys. You had to know this one was coming. Cowboys fans are like poison ivy – if you ignore it, it keeps itching and itching, but if you scratch it, it gets worse and worse. Despite the fact that the Cowboys have only won one playoff game in the past decade, they still seem to think of themselves as an elite team. I have tried to let them know differently, but it’s no use. They always seem to want to talk about their history, like the days of Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith, but they refuse to acknowledge the fact that both times they have played the Panthers in the playoffs (1997 and 2004) they have lost. Cowboys fans are always easy to spot. Actually, you’ll usually hear them before you see them. Despite what is actually going on during the game, whether they are winning or losing, Cowboys fans always have something to say. The other thing that gives them away is their shoes, since they are usually scuffed up and worn out from jumping on and off that band wagon for the past 15 years. The ones that are still on the band wagon are about as fun to sit beside at a game as a root canal, but the ones that jumped off for some reason have migrated to the next team on the list…
1. Pittsburgh Steelers. That’s right, I’m talking to you, black and yellow. In the pantheon of obnoxious fans, you seem to take the cake. For as long as I can remember, the Panthers and Steelers have played each other in the pre-season, due to some type of relationship between the Rooney family and Jerry Richardson. And, for as long as I can remember, the Steelers fans have been the most intolerable. This game always brings the Steelers fans out of the woodwork, and many of them are clearly confused between the fourth pre-season game and the Super Bowl. Sure, it’s nice to get a win – but it’s the PRE-SEASON. Between those stupid Terrible Towels and their fans illogical support, Steelers fans have overtaken the Cowgirls as the worst fan base. Here is a fun experiment for Thursday night – ask one of the Steeler Nation, “why are cheering for the Steelers? Are you from Pittsburgh?” Eighty-five percent will answer no, and the only reason they can give is, “cause it’s the Steelers, man.” Another thing that puzzles me is all the women wearing the Ben Roethlisberger jerseys. Are they somehow not aware of his past? That would be like McGruff the Crime Dog wearing a Michael Vick jersey, if you think about it. I am sure they will be out in full-force tomorrow and extra saucy, since the only trophy they brought back to Heinz Field last season was from Dancing with the Stars.
If you are a fan of one of the above teams, don’t feel too bad – it’s almost a compliment that you guys are so supportive of your teams. This season Panthers fans want to see a different team on the field –one with more energy – and I agree. I also want to see a new Panthers regime in the stands. Make these teams hate to come to Carolina, and make those fans think twice about treating Charlotte like their home away from home.
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