Some people are fans of the fans of the National Football League. Many many more are not fans of the fans of the National Football League. This Defector NFL fan preview is for fans of the latter group. Read all 32 WYTS previews here, because Comrade Magary put a lot of time and work into those and frankly, we don’t need him and his lawyers sniffing around looking for a payday.
Your Team: You.
Your 2020 home record: 127-128-1, the worst record for home teams in the history of the National Football League. For games with fans allowed in the stands, 52-51. This is an important distinction because 14 teams had no fans at all, and their home record was 53-55-1, excluding three 49ers games played in Arizona because of COVID restrictions that shut down Santa Clara County. (They lost them all.)
This at least suggests that fans provide about a five percent boost to a home team, if you take the 56 percent home-field advantage (playoffs included) of the previous 15 years as a guide, and no, I wasn’t going to navigate the previous 87 years of NFL football for your amusement. How much research do you think Comrade Magary does for his annual 32-episode work dodge, for Christ’s sake?
But there are suggestions (like this from The Ringer’s Nora Princiotti) that crowds alone don’t make home field the advantage it used to be, so with the new schedule in which half the teams get nine home games and half only get eight, the question might be asked, “Is home-field advantage actually deserved or is it just some other arcane nitwit formula the lab coats at the NFL office concocted to mollify the networks, which after all is way more important to them than the actual football? And if so, why did Jacksonville get a ninth home game and Tampa Bay got eight?”
Even more to the point, we should ask if tailgating counts. Is Sean McDermott getting a tactical advantage because his fans don’t wear shirts in nine-degree weather and only avoid hypothermia by throwing each other through Samsonite products? Is Mark Davis celebrating the beginning of the end of his time as the Raiders’ principal owner by not having the tailgating experience he promised his fans? The most technology-addicted sports league in history has been handed a series of small conundrums, and the only way to run this experiment properly is to keep fans out for another year and make them watch from home, the drunken sociopaths.
And that might be the real takeaway here. Not that home teams with fans seem to have an inherent advantage over home teams without fans (that’s a thesis that needs a fuller examination that won’t ever be run because that means leaving money on the table and that’ll happen when you get glasses for your third eye), but that fans at the venue en masse aren’t all that necessary to the process except as ambulatory wallets. We’re just now learning that the concept of the fan is being redefined, and cramming everyone back to their assigned stations in Section 938 kind of ruins the experiment.
True, this all may fly in the face of Comrade Roth’s paean to college football crowds even though the adjoining photo literally looks like the business end of a microscope in a leper colony, but as NFL prices keep rising to keep up with the demands of the owners who missed last year’s sucker-based revenue streams and the at-home experience continues to kick the ass of the stadium-dweller experience.
So we could use another year to see if fans are actually bringing anything but money to the process of winning and losing. On the other hand, screw it. We’ve tried to tell you about the virus that makes more roster moves than the Jaguars for 18 months, and Ron DeSantis and Larry Elder still haven’t been shipped out to sea in leaky crates yet. You think you matter, and that’s so cute—just don’t come without your debit card.
Your coach: Your designated drivers.
Do you have a Guy on your coaching staff? There’s always one in every crowd, and let’s face it, to listen to us talk football like we know what we’re watching, we’re all Guys no matter our sex or gender, with all the STFU that implies.
Your quarterback: The backup, no matter what. The starter always sucks, and the backup will make it all better. See the 49ers and their fan base’s creepy/stalkery crush on Trey Lance for proof of this. They want the team to win, but they also want Jimmy Garoppolo to fail so they can see the pretty new toy, so they evidently don’t want the team to win all that much.
What’s new that sucks: Every announcer who will wet themselves over how much better games are with fans in them even though the suits all get whisked to and from their broadcast booths without ever coming in contact with any of them. You’re background noise to them, nothing more—background noise, and in bad weather, they’d be fine if you doubled as road salt so they don’t miss their flights home.
What has always sucked: The prices you desperately pay them to make you endure a lousy in-game experience when you could save thousands every year by just inviting your friends over for a more intimate superspreader event. Maybe you could assuage any guilt you might have by calling it a demispreader event.
What might not suck: Any game in which the owner’s box is not shown unless it catches fire.
HEAR IT FROM FANS: Nahhh, don’t bother. You’re standing 30-deep in a loo line and you’re so drunk you’ll probably just end up taking a slash in the sink. Go and have fun, if that’s what you call it. If it helps, the team you love so much barely knows you exist, and will win or lose based on nothing you’ve done or not done, and now players are agitating so you can be boo-shamed. Man, this fan thing sounds like the funnest time ever, except for everything else on earth.