Feature photo courtesy of Brian McDermott.
By Gillian Vesely
Without fierce rivalries, sports would sorely lack the same level of competition and intensity that they possess today. Rivalries breathe life into dying teams, give devoted fans a reason to love their city and heighten the effort and performance of the athletes, no matter the sport.
Employing intimidation tactics and psychological distractions are absolutely necessary to keep rivalries alive, but some techniques are certainly more effective than others. In an age when robotic vacuums roam around houses and cars park themselves, finding new ways to push the buttons of the opposition is challenging. The general rule of thumb says that the more unique the method is, the more likely it is to throw off a rival (see: college sports fans). A recent trend in the NFL, flying planes with banners displaying provocative jeers over rivals’ training camps, is an exception to this rule.
On Thursday, a banner – reportedly sent from some sort of New York Jets-related fan organization – flew over the New England Patriots’ training camp with a message that read “Cheaters Look Up.” As of Saturday, a Philadelphia Eagles fan base page titled “The ‘We Got DeMarco’ project” had already raised nearly $2,000 on an online fundraising platform for a banner with that message to fly over Dallas Cowboys training camp. Not to be outdone, Cowboys fans (and player Greg Hardy) have chipped in for a banner of their own to fly over the Eagles’ camp.
— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) July 30, 2015
But before any more fans think about investing in this form of aerial taunting, someone needs to stop the pattern in its tracks. Rooting against a rival is one thing. Using the same method as a guy proposing to his girlfriend on the beach or a company that wants to advertise a two-for-one sale is a completely different thing. While creative at first, the banner schtick has already gotten old. It is no longer effective, and has instead become rather childish. After all, Patriots coach Bill Belichick claims he did not even see the plane that flew over Patriots camp.
There is a time and a place for fan bases to wear down the opposition; a thunderous home crowd can really make or break a team, in-your-face celebrations after big plays are fun and even those giant cardboard heads seem to be catching on. But fans, until the NFL season starts, please focus on your own team. Instead of gearing your energy towards dragging a banner across the sky, work towards helping your team raise one reading “Champions” instead.