Nathan Hards is The Rookie Fan, a newbie to the NFL. RealSport will be following Nathan as he makes the most difficult decision any rookie NFL fan has to make – which team to support! To see how he made his decision, follow the journey here – AFC: East, North, West, South NFC: East, South, North, West AFC Championship NFC Championship It’s finally here, after weeks of deliberation – and upsetting some friends along the way – we’ve reached the last stage. Superbowl. This is it, the final of finals, the best of the NFC against the best of the AFC. We’ve whittled it down from 32 teams down to the last two, and this is where we make the last call. The winner of this direct head to head is going to be the team that I support from here on out – and I just want to make this clear – neither of these teams were in my initial guesses. I’m actually pretty nervous about this, and as I’m writing this intro, I genuinely have no idea who I’m going to end up with. The gloves are off, lets drop straight onto the grass, and get this competition going.
The legacy of the Steelers is undeniable. Looking back at the NFL hall of fame, players like Joe Greene and Jack Lambert fall under the Pittsburgh name. These players really made an impact at Heinz field, and helped the Steelers achieve the records that they have. The Steelers fans are often seen waving the ‘terrible towel’ a fantastic little piece of fan bait that gets the whole crowd involved and engaged in an activity, and the little yellow piece of cloth makes a contribution to charity with every one purchased. Pittsburgh really feels the contribution of the Steelers to the community, and this team is engaged fully with local community on several levels, as well as national movements. With the level of social penetration that the NFL has, it’s vital that it is used as a platform to spread messages of hope out to people, and promote positive activity within the communities that support them. Six Superbowls out of a total of eight is nothing to be sniffed at. The Steelers are a real force to be reckoned with on the field, and have been able to make that force felt year on year. You can’t ignore the fact that there are probably more fans of Pittsburgh outside of the city than there are inside. This is mainly to do with social movement, and industry slumps, most of these people are out there looking for work. Unfortunately for the other franchises, that means that no matter where you go, you can’t get away from those damned towels. Most Steelers fans stand as an island, waving that towel in a sea of the local colours, backing their boys no matter their location. This has gained them a reputation for being obnoxious, and although it’s far from the worst reputation to have as a fanbase, it’s still negative. We can’t cover the Steelers without discussing the elephant in the room. The player’s actions off of the field, particularly “Big” Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers arrest record read like a pretty standard thug’s gallery. Drugs, alcohol, DUI, and domestic abuse. This is a problem with most teams, but the Steelers get a lot of focus. Big Ben was the most recent, and biggest. Accusations of sexual assault that led to an NFL sanctioned ban from play have followed Roethlisberger to this day. This is not the sort of thing that can be ignored, and most other team’s fans are more than happy to bring this up.
New York Giants
The Giants are no strangers to the Hall of fame, boasting a substantial amount of players and coaches that have been inaugurated over the years. Big names that have made a lot of noise in the league over the years, with some major records being held whilst they were with the Giants. Social involvement is a big thing for the Giants. When you’re attached to New York, you can’t ignore the community, because they will make or break you. The Giants embrace local community actions, and players and coaches alike are often seen getting hands on with local charity events. Working with students and the elderly in the community in and around New York and New Jersey. Some of the biggest names in the game are playing for the Giants at the moment. They might not be the best, but these guys know how to use the media to generate interest. The modern player understands the value of their brand, and the Giants players are some of the best there are at using this to their advantage. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are crawling with these guys, Youtube features plays and practice drills day in and day out. You can practically watch some of these players 24 hours a day. This is the modern game, you’re living in their pockets. The Giants are seen as crass, obnoxious, and short in memory. For a team with such a long record in the game, you’d expect a less wishy-washy fanbase. This season is a classic example. 5-6 with three games left, where are the fans? They’ve all given up on the team already, this in turn makes the team give up on themselves. You’re looking at potential for WC playoffs, and they’re looking at next year’s draft. Having that kind of an attitude pales in comparison to some of the other fanbases, who back their team all the way to last place. Sharing a ground, really? This is the NFL, and you’re sharing a ground? You’re one of the biggest franchises in existence, and you’re sharing a ground? I appreciate that New York hasn’t got a lot of spare space, but you’re playing in New Jersey. There’s plenty of room for another Stadium somewhere else in New York state. The Buffalos can do it, why can’t you? Stadium sharing is something that you expect teams to do on temporary basis, whilst they have their new one built, or you expect it at the lowest level of the game. The Jets are the younger team, and so they get away with it. Are they afraid that if they move out of town, that they’ll lose some fans? Refs decisions are where a lot of calls get made. Every year, the NFL need to clarify and adjust the game, as people find loopholes and problems with the wording or particular rules. The Giants are one of the best teams at finding and exploiting those grammatical obfuscations. Use of the word ‘cheaters’ gets thrown around a lot in the NFL, but the Giants are always on the edge. Did the ball cross the line? Was the ball under control? How far does the ball have to travel before it is considered a pass? Every year these questions get asked, and it’s usually the Giants at the centre of the conversation. No more procrastination. This is the last call. What team’s colours am I going to be wearing from now on? Will I be rocking the Black and Yellow, or Blue and Red? This is agony. I really am torn. Each team ticks all the boxes that I want, and there are some ugly truths that I will have to swallow if I’m going to sign up for either of these teams. Each stage has been progressively harder, and I have dropped teams that I assumed I would select. These two teams, are – in my opinion – the best teams there are, based on the criteria that I look for in teams. Both teams have massive levels of local and national community involvement. Both teams have stuck around, and not moved towns. Both teams have history back to the dawn of the game, and trophies to show how far they have come. In the end, I’ve got to go with…
the New York Giants.
The Steelers were a shoe-in for me, but that criminal record issue isn’t something I can walk from. The Giants have similar issues, but less than half the amount that the Steelers do, and that whole stigma surrounding Big Ben is going to stay around for a long time. The biggest thing for the Giants is that one of their D-Line is missing a finger through mucking around with Fireworks. This genuinely was the dividing line for me, and I expect to get a lot of hassle for making this call, but it is something that I need to do. So there we go. Eli Manning, Jason-Pierre Paul, Odell Beckham Jnr. The Giants pull the win at the last minute, and I’m backing them from here on out. No changing teams, no switching states. Time to go order my Jersey, and prepare for the onslaught of hassle. Might invest in some fingerless gloves…..