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Football Game Etiquette

It’s THE season! Fun, food and football! What more could we want? Well, good manners and courtesy toward our fellow fans would be a nice addition, don’t you think? So, what are the proper game day rules of good behavior? And what defines bad manners? There are rules on the field, shouldn’t there be some form of football etiquette off the field? To borrow Woodrow Call’s line from Lonesome Dove, “I hate rude behavior in a fan! Won’t tolerate it!”


Now, I’m not a violent person. I wouldn’t want to beat a person to a pulp like Woodrow had just done in this video because of a few minor etiquette infractions. But!  I certainly wouldn’t mind dropping a few flags in the stadium to penalize rude fans! For instance: How do you claim your seat if someone is accidentally sitting in it? How do you handle a person standing up in front of you during the whole game? How would you stop a fan sitting behind you from kicking you in the back? I mean we are all on the same team, right?

Football and Field

Let’s take a hint from the fouls on the field.

Here’s the list and penalties from Football for Dummies:

  • Encroachment: When a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage and makes contact with an opponent before the ball is snapped. Encroachment is a 5-yard penalty.

Let’s all take a pocketful of yellow flags with us and as you approach someone sitting in your seat, instead of hollering, “get out of my seat,” just politely drop a flag in their lap. Surely Emily Post would approve.

  •  False start: When an interior lineman on the offensive team moves prior to the snap of the ball, or when any offensive player makes a quick, abrupt movement prior to the snap of the ball. This is a 5-yard penalty.

If someone stands up for a lengthy period of time when there is not a big play in motion…. drop a flag for a 5 yard penalty toward the gate they entered.

  • Holding (defensive): When a defensive player tackles or holds an offensive player other than the ball carrier. The penalty is 5 yards and an automatic first down.
  • Holding (offensive): When an offensive player uses his hands, arms, or other parts of his body to prevent a defensive player from tackling the ball carrier. The penalty is 10 yards.

When a fan uses any body part that belongs to them or an offspring sitting on their shoulders to inconsiderately prevent other fans from seeing the ball carrier – flag! 10 yards toward the exit.

  • Offside: When any part of a player’s body is beyond the line of scrimmage or free kick line when the ball is put into play. Offside is a 5-yard penalty.

If someone brings more people than can fit in the seats they are allotted with their ticket purchase – throw them a flag! 5 yards for each offender toward the gate they entered.

  • Pass interference: A judgment call made by an official who sees a defensive player make contact with the intended receiver before the ball arrives, thus restricting his opportunity to catch the forward pass. Pass interference is a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

When the t-shirt cannon is blasting a shirt toward me and a guy reaches from 2 rows behind me to catch it…  Don’t you agree that it’s interference?  Flag and 15 yards toward the gate they entered!

  • Personal foul: An illegal, flagrant foul considered risky to the health of another player. A personal foul is a 15-yard penalty.

I love this one. Any fan who continuously kicks another in the back – flag! And a free 15 yard kick toward the gate they entered.

  • Roughing the kicker: When a defensive player makes any contact with the punter, provided the defensive player hasn’t touched the kicked ball before contact. This is a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

  • Roughing the passer: When a defensive player makes direct contact with the quarterback after the quarterback has released the ball. This is a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first down.

And ladies, I apologize, but this one is for us. If you “rough” any fan with your swinging handbag as you step over legs or feet to get to your seat…. Flag! A 15 yard penalty toward the gate and an automatic down of your handbag to the person you hit in the head with it. I mean really, let’s use our southern belle manners!

These are just a few of my ideas… and who knows perhaps we would penalize the rude behavior right out of the gate! What are your ideas on how to handle rude behavior in a fan? Be polite or you just may get one of these….

Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

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