The city of Jacksonville has something unique that only a handful of cities in the U.S. have, which is an NFL franchise. Not only do they possess an NFL franchise, but we’re one of the few cities that has the first generation of fans who’ve grown up with the team. For me, being 32, it makes going to the games special. I remember when we didn’t have a team. I remember when we got a team. The difference in my football fandom was night and day.

Over the past 20 or so years of being a Jaguars fan, I’ve learned quite a bit about being a fan in general. When I was asked to write about how to be a better fan, to be honest at first I was kind of stumped. My first thought was, “I don’t know … Don’t be an ass I guess.”

So, instead of telling you how to be a good fan, I decided I’d just discuss some things I’ve learned while attending the majority of Jaguars home games.

Tailgate. Always.

If you have other obligations, fine.  But if you don’t, tailgate. Always. It’s an essential part of the game day experience and overall, it makes the game more fun and it makes you a better fan. You get the interaction with the other fans. You get pumped for the game, not to mention all the drinks and good eats prior. It really sets the tone before you get to your seats.

But always remember, contribute to the tailgate. Don’t just show up looking for handouts. That’s a good way to get the bad fan label. Bring some drinks, snacks, some food to throw on the grill. Just bring something.

Don’t Be a Jerk

You would think this goes without saying, but a lot of people don’t realize what they’re doing is ultimately obnoxious. My simple rule of thumb is that if what I’m doing is bothering someone, I tone it down. There are limits, though. I’ve been told I’m too loud before, which is ridiculous. Make noise. I’ve been told to sit down, which is an age-old sports debate.

My thought process here is, if there are kids or older adults, I ask if my standing bothers them. If it does, I either slide over or make do. I don’t want to be that person who ruins the enjoyment for a kid who might be at their first ever game or for someone who’s older and can’t hang like they used to.

I also try to keep my language in check somewhat. I can have some loose lips at a game, especially after  a few adult beverages at the tailgate, but if there are kids around I try to keep myself in check. It’s a sporting event and they’re going to hear some bad words, but as a dad I understand why parents get upset about it. A quick scan of the rows around you before the National Anthem is usually what I do to gauge the situation.

Have Fun

Ultimately, the most important part of being a good fan is just having fun. That’s what the game is all about, entertainment. Sure, the team might be bad, but you can still have a good time. Last season, even though the Jaguars went 3-13, it was one of the most fun seasons I’ve had going to the games. I just went to enjoy football. I went to the tailgate, I met a lot of great people and I wasn’t a jerk to the people around me. Being a good fan ultimately comes down to being self-aware.

By Alfie Crow | Contributor

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