Well, as you may have guessed, there are excuses to be made here. Monday was a travel day as I drove back from Phoenix with my brother Mark Sleighter and my good friend Jason Ruff. Along with my older brother David Sleighter, we attended the Seahawks/Cardinals game on Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale… where the first 10,000 fans in get a degree in criminal psychology.
I’ve been attending NFL games for a long time, but always in Seattle. I’ve never had the perspective of being an away-team fan in a hostile environment.
Going to an away game is a lot like being a heel in the WWE. Everyone is booing you and giving you a lot of cartoonish thumbs-downs. None of it seems real. Everyone is playing their part. And you start to embrace it a little. You strut around and hope to get booed. Hope to get noticed by a big group of people and have them erupt in dissatisfaction. That’s how it is 99 percent of the time.
Then, just like in professional wrestling, there’s a small group of people who think it’s real. And these people act in much the same way as everyone else, but for some reason, it’s not fun to walk by them in your Seahawks jersey. You’re hoping they don’t notice you. It’s something behind their eyes, a real anger.
The problem is, sometimes you don’t know the difference until it’s too late. Maybe you already started your friendly back and forth only to realize this man wants to murder you.
If you’re planning on going to see your favorite team, I’ve come up with a few things to look for in spotting the fans who “think it’s real.”
First, it may fly in the face of common sense, but the more team-gear a fan is wearing, the less you have to fear from them. The guy who stabs you isn’t going to be the one wearing the $100 replica jersey or be in spandex and full-body paint.
Nope, the guy who stabs you hardly shows any team affiliation at all. Maybe he’s wearing the mustard-stained jersey of a running back from two general managers ago. Or maybe it’s just a dusty hat of the local college team which is the closest thing he could find. Maybe he’s not wearing anything at all that suggests he’s a fan of the team. Or, worst case scenario, he’s wearing a Santa hat in October.
Second, while tailgating, always remember, no one is actually drinking Vitamin Water. You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by leaving a group of fans chugging Bud Light for a seemingly well-hydrated group enjoying Gatorades. But do so and risk the clear-alcohol fueled fury of the liquor-smuggling crowd.
And finally, fear the silence. When you’re being booed or cursed at, told to “go home” it’s almost comforting in a way because you know they’ve expressed their displeasure in about as strong as terms as they’re going to. When you see someone staring you down, not saying anything, walk in the other direction. All they’re doing is debating internally whether you’re worth the additional felony charge.
Oh, and if you’re not a Raiders fan, don’t go to Raiders games. All Raiders fans think it’s real.