Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

21 Nov 2005

Rowdy Fans Spoiling the Fun

This Washington Post article on Redskins fans' increasingly boorish behavior at home games could just as easily have been written about any other team in the league. Well, except for Arizona. There's a pretty good chance you can get a whole section to yourself at a Cardinals game without fear of getting beer dumped on you or having to avoid a few wayward punches from belligerent fans.

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 21 Nov 2005

36 comments, Last at 23 Nov 2005, 1:15am by kleph


by charles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 10:08am

The argument is valid, that fans are getting too hammered and causing damage to themselves and other people, but the timing is questionable. The post hates the redskins and now they are throwing redskins fans and staff under the bus just because they hate snyder.

by elhondo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 10:30am

I think the timing has more to do with the Redskins being competitive later in the year this season. Normally at this time of year, the stadium (although technically still sold out) starts to have a lot more of the away team's fans, and a lot of empty seats.

At any rate, I think if it were an attack piece by the post, it would have been written earlier in the year.

by kleph (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 11:08am

i can't get my copy of it but i believe Bill James's Baseball Prospectus talks about similar problems (and solutions) baseball went through during the mid-century.

by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 12:10pm

I'd love to hear what Bill James had to say.

I do think this is a serious problem. Ultimately, though, I think lawsuits are the only thing that will make teams wake up to it. Right now, the teams make more money off the drunks than they do off the others, so they want to cater to the drunks. If they lose lawsuits because of the drunks, they'll change their tune.

by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 12:55pm

If they had a non-drinking section of the stadium I'd buy my tickets there.

You should also look at measures taken by soccer stadiums in europe, the incidents they've had there are far worse than anything here. They won't let fans of different teams into the same areas of the stadium, not even adjuacent sections (that one incident w/ Manchester back in the 80s was blamed in part "only" having a chain link fence between rival fans in the stands...

by Harry (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 12:59pm

Gilette Stadium has non-drinking section.

I don't know if there is a correlation, but the behavior of Patriots fans has become shockingly well behaved compared to the behavior we used to see in the old Schaefer Stadium. Maybe consistent winning mellows fans out.

I was at the Dolphins-Pats game last week-end - I saw no rowdy behavior. Lots of Pats fans were there and everyone seemed to mix together fairly peaceably. Certainly much much better behaved than Red Sox or Yankee fans.

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:01pm

On the other end of the spectrum i've had people sitting behind me at Steelers games ask me to sit down on a 3rd and long play late in the game (despite the fact everyone else in the stadium is standing as well) because "the seat is for sitting."

It sort of reminded me of that one Simpsons Scene where Otto was at a U2 Concernt and everyone in the arena was standing and he was sitting down yelling "SIT DOWN! SIT DOWN! YOU'RE RUINING IT FOR THE REST OF US!"

I'm not saying drunken behavior is acceptable, but, when you're dealing with an environment like a competitive sporting event emotions are going to run high and eventually stupidity will reign supreme regardless of whether or not booze is involved. You telling me there isn't rowdy behavior and fist fights at College sporting events? Or high school sporting events? Or how about Pee-Wee Hockey games? You can eliminate the booze but you're never going to eliminate the rowdy behavior.

Again, i'm not advocating fist fights but when i'm at a Steelers game I want the crowd to be a little "festive." In fact, I hate what Heinz Field has become in compared to old Three Rivers. I'm waiting for the day when the NFL turns into the PGA tour and we have to sit on our hands when the other team has the ball.

In short: Luxury boxes and PSL's have ruined the sporting event experience.

I don't know what that has to do with anything, I just don't like it. I kid you not, Sunday Night after the game someone came out of the suite level at Heinz Field and asked me what the final score was. Not because he was three sheets to the wind drunk. But because he openly admitted he didn't really watch the game.

How does this happen?

I don't really know where i'm going with this so i'll just stop now.

My main point here is: I don't think the alcohol has all that much to do with it and if you don't want to deal with the rowdies you should probably just avoid going to live sporting events at any level.

by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:03pm

When I lived in SoCal I went to a lot of Anaheim Angels games, and the no-alcohol, no-profanity family section always sold out even though the rest of the stadium didn't. The logical question is, why wouldn't they expand that section? And the answer is that they don't want to make too much of the stadium alcohol free, lest they lose money on concessions. (This was when Disney owned the team.)

by peachy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:13pm

I wonder if there's a correlation between DVOA and stadium alcohol consumption (inverse, I would assume)... maybe something for PFP 2006?

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:18pm

Yet another peice of prohibitionist nonsense.

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:21pm

At first I thought prohibition was a good thing. People were drinking more and having fun. But with Alcohol gone, prohibition just doesn't work.

I'll catch you beer baron....

No you won't.

Oh yes I will.


I'd like to appologize in advance for turning this into a Simpsons qoute thread but sometimes I just can't help myself.

by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:26pm

Raging drunks are a problem at NFL games but the next time someone questions someone statements here I'd bet money it will be more to the tune of "What are you smoking?" than "What are you, some idiot that only watches games after drinking 18 beers in the parking lot?"

"I don’t think the alcohol has all that much to do with it..."

What are you, drunk?

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:28pm

How can I be drunk? I'm not at a football game.

by GKW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:32pm

Re: Disney Field.

I've never been, but was the section actually labeled "no-profanity" as well as "no-alcohol?" Because I would assume profanity is actually prohibited at all sporting events, it's just a rule teams never enforce. I mean, wouldn't be great to sit in a "mandatory" profanity and alcohol section, where all of the fans, including those underage, were required to consume mass quantities of alcohol and then let loose with profanity-laced tirades about a player's sexuality, his genitalia, or his tendency to engage in incestual behavior. Oh wait, I guess that does happen when at most NFL and/or college games.

by Adam (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:35pm

And if you stay home to watch the games, then what? Alcohol is more readily available in the home than it is at the game. It's Cheaper. Theres no cutoff at when they stop selling it or supplying it to you. And then what? I mean, yeah you can say you're guaranteed nothing like that will happen but The point is, how do you know the Guarantee Fairy isn't a crazy glue sniffer? "Build a model airplane," she says. Well I'm not buying it. Next thing you know, there's money missing off the dresser and your daughter's knocked up. I've seen it a hundred times.

by NFC Central Freak (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 1:53pm

Regarding baseball, Major League Baseball undertook a "No Tolerance" policy toward vulgar language, public drunkeness, and unruly behavior in the mid-80's. It wasn't announced to the masses. They just did it. The trigger event supposedly is a series between the Brewers and Tigers in the early 80's where centerfielder Gorman Thomas of the Brewers was treated to several days of constant verbal abuse and the intermittent beer bottle from the bleacher crowd.

While baseball has still had its security breaches (the KC coach assaulted in Chicago) the policy has done a solid job of creating a fan-friendly environment. Baseball cuts of beer sales at the 7th inning and limits the number of beers that can be purchased. Some teams have even slashed the size of the beers. Fenway Park is (in)famous for charging $6 for what is about three sips of beer.

But this issue cannot be dropped just at the feet of beer sales.

As the articles discusses, you have a very violent sport, where the most violent of acts are cheered, the crowd is primarily male, and the "host" (the team) wants to create a "hostile" environment. So music, etc. is used to whip the crowd into a frenzy. So THEN you add the booze and folks are SURPRISED things get out of control??

Oakland had made its reputation on being more violent in the stands than it is on the field. Been that way for 30 years.

The NFL might want to visit stadiums where the crowd is fanatical while still honoring some elements of courtesy: Green Bay, Kansas City to name two.

And don't tell me those drunken farmers in Green Bay don't pack away the Miller. Or the Leinenkugels!

by peachy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 2:04pm

"Where'd you pinch the hooch? Is some blind tiger jerking suds on the side?"

by Francisco (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 2:10pm

"My main point here is: I don’t think the alcohol has all that much to do with it and if you don’t want to deal with the rowdies you should probably just avoid going to live sporting events at any level."

Yeah. And if you didn't want to get raped, why were you wearing that dress?

I've been to quite a few NFL games, and _all_ of the fights that I've seen there have involved at least one drunk. There seems to be this unspoken idea here that no alcohol=fans sitting on their hands, but what about college basketball? Plenty of arenas (Cameron indoor, Assembly Hall in Bloomington, the Pit in Albuquerque) are alcohol-free, and yet are some of the rowdiest and most intimidating stadiums to play in.

To be clear: I don't care if people drink and I wouldn't ban alcohol sales. But I'm sick of having my game experience marred by some abusive drunk jerk yelling at/striking/throwing up on or around the fans around him. An MLB-style solution would be welcome.

by Stiller Fan in Cle (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 2:20pm

I agree with Adam...Heinz Field's atmosphere is lacking when considered with Three Rivers (I want to destroy the ketchup bottles, but that's another story)...

But to respond to the family section thing, I'd almost think that families buy more concessions. The kid who needs a dog, a pretzel, and a couple drinks should at least come somewhat close to the guy who has 2 beers...

I'm glad that family sections are small because they always insist on doing the wave, which is evil.

by Mikey (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 2:37pm

The problem, in my opinion, isn't alcohol availability, it's weak stadium security.

Take the Colorado example from the Post article. Why were the men in question allowed to stay in the stadium even after dumping beer on another customer?? Kick their asses out and hand them a citation for drunk and disorderly as a parting gift.

Beer limits and cutoffs are worthless. They only encourage harder drinking in the parking lot. The idea of serving low-alcohol beer is moronic. Only a "lawyer and public health expert" could possibly come up with something so stupid. Ideas that shift drinking to the parking lot - where the booze is cheaper and harder than in the stadium - will only add to the problem.

Personally, I love to knock back more than a few at the game, and I get annoyed that I have to adhere to a beer cutoff because a handful of idiots can't behave with courtesy. I do have to say, however, that I think pro sports are becoming an increasingly hostile environment for parents, and if policies aren't changed than something special is going to be lost.

by Michael David Smith :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 2:43pm

My understanding in Anaheim was that the no-profanity rule would be strictly enforced in the family section. So if I'm in the non-family section and an usher hears me swear, presumably he'll either ignore it or quietly ask me to knock it off. But if I'm in the family section and an usher hears me swear, I'll be removed.

by Bassett (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 3:16pm

I have always said:

This is what happens when you let people from Fredricksburg outside their own town...

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 3:26pm

Jacksonville also has a "family fun" section. No alcohol, no profanity. Worst seats in the house, too. I always buy tickets there, because where else can you buy tickets to an NFL game for $20 apiece?

by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 3:52pm

Re: 20

Exactly. Stadium security(or, even better, the real cops) should be taking care of these things. People always try and come at these problems from the supply side, which will never work because then people will just drink in the parking lot or bootleg something in. You need to reduce the DEMAND for booze by kicking people out. If people start consistently getting kicked out and arrested for being drunk and disorderly, it'll take a little while, but people will get the idea soon enough and will go to a bar or stay at home if they just want to get trashed.

Also, "family" sections are a great idea.

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 4:30pm

As far as the Patriots fans' mellowness goes, I would attribute that more to ownership firmness/intimidation than to any sort of "winner's high." As I recall, the ownership has started to pull the season tickets of fans who get nailed for uncouth behavior. In addition, you lose your season tickets, without refund, if someone you gave the tickets to acts like an ass.

Remember kids: Yell at the enormous, violent men far away from you. Do not yell at the enormous, violent man who can reach you!

by Sara (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 5:35pm

#20 - exactly. If you want an object lesson on how to create a safe, but fun fan environment, spend some time in Charlotte in the fall. On one hand you've got Bank of America stadium, where the security guys are plentiful and actually really friendly. It's a fun, exciting place to be, but you never feel like you're in danger of getting attacked by some drunk. Then just up the road in Concord, there's Lowe's Motor Speedway, an absolute free-for-all hellhole of a sports venue. Ridiculously lax security. Absolutely the worst sports-watching experience of my life.

My point is, it's not so much the alcohol that's the problem. As long as fans are clear on what behavior is and isn't tolerated (and they know the stadium can back it up), you'll very rarely have problems.

by BK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 5:55pm

Re: #25

Yeah, the Pats have been clamping down hard on boorish fan behavior by taking away season tickets. But the team can afford to do that, since they've been straight sold out since Parcells arrival in 1994, and the season ticket wait list is 5 years long. I don't think all teams can match the Pats in their enforecement level.

by Kimble (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 6:25pm

#3, #4: Bill James mentions it in his essay on the 1980s in the New Historical Baseball Abstract (and possibly the original one as well, but I don't have it) -- pages 302-305 in the hardback version. He said MLB fixed it with a "subtle and diverse program" -- although it seems like most of the measures mentioned are standard at NFL stadiums these days. James also mentioned an incident with Cesar Cedeno charging a fan in Houston as a turning point.

by Flux (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 7:28pm

Well worth a read just for the story of the beer-spilling drunk getting a beat down in Colorado. Oh how I laughed. I might almost become a Rockies fan just based on that one.

(Attitude towards drunks at sporting events highly-shaped by working more than a decade as a vendor in San Diego.)

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Mon, 11/21/2005 - 7:49pm

Re: #25, #27, etc.

First, the waiting list is (sigh) a lot longer than 5 years. It's somewhere around 65,000 these days.

And yeah, while Pats fans used to be hellions, they have mellowed. I agree with and extend upon what people have already said:
* The Pats, if I recall, have some of highest ticket prices in the NFL. A nosebleed seat between the minus-15 yard lines is $75. The rest of the nosebleed seats are $59 First level seats between the minus-10 yeard lines are $125. The rest of the first level seats are $89. Normal second level seats (as opposed to the $6000+ each club seats) are outside the minus-10 yeard line and are $89. And parking is $35-$40. So just to be able to go to the game in the first place you have to be somewhat serious about it.
* Because Gillette has been a World Cup venue, the Krafts were required to put in spy cams all over the place. Security can very quickly spot disturbances and note seat numbers, which leads to...
* If a season ticket holder or anyone has he sold/given his ticket to gets in trouble, the seats get revoked.

Here's something I really don't understand (seriously) -- why do a significant number of people spend $75 for a seat, $35 to park, and then miss at least half the actual game standing in beer lines and bathroom lines to take in and excrete out Bud Lite at $7.50 per bottle?

If you're not going to bother to watch the game, why not just stay home, watch on TV, and drink way better beer for way cheaper?

by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/22/2005 - 2:03am

Surprise! A study recommending an indirect solution that misses the point and results in a general increase in control by authorities over a segment of the population was done by people in Marin. Geez, deal directly with the individuals involved. Stop serving them if they're obnoxious and wasted and have security throw them out if they misbehave in the stands. Take their season tickets if it's a recurring problem.

by Glenn (not verified) :: Tue, 11/22/2005 - 2:05am

re: Pats fans

I'll simply add that not only has management done a major clamp down on unruly fans, but Gillette is now also regarded, I believe, as one of the quietest venues to watch a game. The Pats vaunted home-field advantage has zero to do with the noise level, just the weather. I've heard that the stadium design has something to do with that, but its hard not to draw the conclusion that a shutdown of overall boorish behavior also teands to shut down fan enthusiasm.

Oh yeah, winning 3 out of 4 Super Bowls might have something to do with making fans a tad complacent, too.

by Joe (not verified) :: Tue, 11/22/2005 - 3:43am

Re: #30
Here’s something I really don’t understand (seriously) — why do a significant number of people spend $75 for a seat, $35 to park, and then miss at least half the actual game standing in beer lines and bathroom lines to take in and excrete out Bud Lite at $7.50 per bottle?

If you’re not going to bother to watch the game, why not just stay home, watch on TV, and drink way better beer for way cheaper?

Because my wife and kids are at home.

by Jerry Garcia (not verified) :: Tue, 11/22/2005 - 10:11am

You need to send the wife and kids to the park, or to her family for a couple hours.

& if you want to rectify this whole alcohol/stadium issue -- simple. Have the fans openly use heroin. This should cut down on a lot of the mayhem and fighting, it might even be a rather mellow event.

by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/22/2005 - 12:29pm

Re: #32

A major part of the quiet crowd is, IMHO, the fact that the primo, best situated seats for noise (2nd tier, from goal line to goal line) are club seats, and people have the option of watching the game from behind glass instead of sitting in their seats. When you go to a game, you'll see large swathes of those seats are empty, since their would-be inhabitants are indoors.

So thousands of fans are out of the noise mix.

by kleph (not verified) :: Wed, 11/23/2005 - 1:15am

well, i knew it was in james' book somewhere - i was just a few decades off. i lived in socal for a few years and was forced to anaheim in order to watch my beloved rangers and other AL teams i cared to see play. i actually enjoyed the family section but only when you sat right next to it but not actually in it. 1) you could be sure albert belle heard you yelling at him and 2) nobody seemed to know there was that lone beer stand at the end of the concourse so there was never a line.