The Home Team: Dumb things football fans do in the stands
Two months ago, my family traveled to London to see — among other things — a Jets vs. Dolphins NFL football game. (Yes, the Jets beat the Dolphins. Convincingly. As they did last Sunday in New York. Just sayin’ ...)
The game was played in London’s storied Wembley Stadium, and the locals, even though they’re far more accustomed to soccer and rugby matches, got right into the swing of things. They wore Tom Brady jerseys (Patriots) and Tony Romo jerseys (Cowboys) and Adrian Peterson jerseys (Vikings) and Odell Beckham Jr. jerseys (Giants) and J.J. Watt jerseys (Texans) and Aaron Rodgers jerseys (Packers).
What amused my little group about this is that none of these teams was playing — but this mattered not a whit to the Londoners. They were having a blast! (That they had no idea who they were rooting for was evidenced the night before at a local bar, where a guy walked by me wearing a Jets No.24 jersey. “Hey, Revis!” I called out. No reaction. Clearly this “fan” hadn’t a clue about the player whose jersey he wore.)
The random jersey-wearing wasn’t the funniest thing the London crowd did, though. In the third quarter, when the game had turned into a rout (did I already mention the Jets beat the Dolphins like a rug?), the crowd in the upper deck kept themselves entertained with a continuous, extremely well-choreographed wave. Section after section rose, arms to the sky, then fell back into their seats. Endlessly. In spite of the American fans laughing and yelling at them, “WE DON’T DO THAT ANYMORE!”
But we still do some pret-ty stupid things . . .
Fireman Ed: This is the insane guy you might have seen in a New York firefighter’s helmet and a green No. 42 jersey who’s been standing up on his brother’s shoulders and leading the Jets fans in their "J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!" chant from his seat in section 134 since 1986. Fireman Ed “retired” in 2012 (though, remarkably, we were graced with a one-time-only reappearance at the London game!), but his spirit lives on in the person of ...
The self-appointed tough-guy cheerleader: Yup, you know who I mean. (Actually — and unfortunately — there are tons of these characters.) He’s usually bare-chested, although it’s 24 and snowing. He stands up in his chair, faces you — even though the game he purportedly cares so much about is taking place behind him — and with a threatening, belligerent countenance, raises his arms in a you-better-get-up-and-cheer-like-me-or-else exhortation, while you ask yourself the following questions: 1. Exactly who appointed this idiot? 2. How many bottles of Bud has he already pounded? 3. What will it take to convince him to move and become the leader of a different section?
The tomahawk chop: This rhythmic extension and contraction of the forearm, to mimic a chopping motion — sometimes using a foam tomahawk for verisimilitude — had been around, believe it or not, since the early 1980s. Too long. First used by the Florida State Seminoles, the gesture is accompanied by a repetitive, ultra-annoying tune that should probably be banned, along with water-boarding. Though the tomahawk chop is said to be offensive to some Native American tribes, I have to confess I truly began to hate it when it was taken up by Atlanta Braves fans in the early ’90s, back when the Braves made a habit of constantly beating up on my Mets.
The “Fight On” hand signal: When our youngest son decided to attend the University of Southern California, I was ecstatic. Finally, someone in our family would be going to a school with a big-time football program! I had visions of marching with the rest of Trojan Nation into the Los Angeles Coliseum to cheer for our heroes in cardinal and gold. Until I caught sight of the downward-thrusting “V” sign displayed by the fans on every important play. Whether the V is for Victory, or whether it’s based on the ancient Trojan practice of cutting off the index and middle fingers of their conquered foes, it’s nonetheless a lame-looking, decidedly un-macho gesture that kind of takes the sizzle out of being a USC fan.
All of these practices taken together tell our London brethren that, when it comes to doing dumb things at football games, you ain’t got nothing on us.
“The Home Team” appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank’s adventures on his blog, “Beagle Man,” on the Westport News website, http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman. To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.