NFL Games Not a Family-Friendly Experience

Thomas Barnett took his son to Soldier Field to watch last night’s game between the Bears and his beloved Packers. Not surprisingly, his team lost a close one. He was, however, surprised about the atmosphere: the two spent the night being verbally abused by drunken buffoons who questioned their sexuality and threatened them with physical violence for having the temerity to sport Packers logowear.

What depressed me most about the situation (and about which I apologized repeatedly to Kev–born and largely raised in the East in military-dominated communities), was realizing this was the fabled Midwest I brought my family back to live among: on full, bullying, drunken, homophobic display (hardly unique to my native region, I realize). I kept waiting for the adult voices to emerge that I typically hear in Green Bay when such moments begin (awfully rarely) at Lambeau, but all I found was gleeful hard stares from older fans (again, I remember the one older gentleman in the suite section for his consideration), and that ashamed me most of all as a native Midwesterner (because that was the kind of behavior that, in my little town growing up in the late 60s/early 70s, would get you a firm talking to or a slap upside the head from any number of adult males if they caught you-whether you were their kid or not).

I know Chicago is cool and ascendant with Obama and all, but I swear to God, I will go out of my way for the rest of my life to avoid spending another dime or minute in this town (believe me, I edited this sentence down repeatedly to delete the various expletives).

I’ve only attended a handful of NFL games in person, including three at FedEx Field (Washington Redskins – Landover, Maryland), one at LP Field (Tennessee Titans – Nashville) and one at Texas Stadium (Dallas Cowboys – Irving). The only truly pleasant experience of was in Nashville. It was Vince Young’s debut as a starter and my Cowboys won handily. Everyone behaved quite decently, however, despite their team losing and my rooting for the visitor.

The Texas Stadium experience (at last season’s beatdown against the Patriots) was generally pleasant, except for the drunken idiots in front of us who were variously cursing between themselves and going back and forth to procure additional alcohol, despite having smuggled in various bottles of hard liquor.

Two of the three games I saw at FedEx were ones where I had no rooting interest; the third, last season’s closer, featured a Cowboys team who had already won 13 games and secured home field throughout the playoffs and didn’t show up. For the most part, Redskins fans are decent, actually, even towards people in Cowboys gear. But there are still way too many drunken idiots to walk through between the ridiculously distant parking lots and the stadium.

The League announced a crackdown before this season, saying they would throw out drunkards and those foul language. But it’s mighty tough to police tens of thousands of people in close contact, especially when a significant number of them are intoxicated. The fact that the stadium is making money hand over fist selling beers at $8 a pop doesn’t exactly create a great incentive structure, either.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Sports, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. In all honesty while I see the appeal of seeing players live (which is a unique experience), the truth of the matter is that my comfy chair and HDTV no doubt provide a better actual viewing experience of the game (and the beer is cheaper and better).

  2. Dantheman says:

    “the truth of the matter is that my comfy chair and HDTV no doubt provide a better actual viewing experience of the game (and the beer is cheaper and better).”

    The seats are better padded and warmer at home than my experiences watching the Iggles in person. The line for the bathroom is shorter, too. On the other hand, I am less likely to have my kids demand to be read to, or to change the channel onto something they want to watch when at the stadium.

  3. Franklin says:

    One of the most borderline traumatic incidents that I remember from childhood was at an NFL game in Detroit. And no, it wasn’t just traumatic because of the Lions.

    A couple of young men ended up threatening to beat up my dad for no apparent reason while they squeezed across in front of us, heading up to get another beer. As an 8-year-old, I couldn’t stand to watch my dad (135 lbs wet) get roughed up, so I went off for a potty break until they would’ve returned to their seats. Well luckily I think they decided to split, perhaps fearful that we would have contacted security.

    Anyway, I can only agree with Joyner’s analysis. There’s little point in changing things if they can make more money selling beer than worrying about families staying home due to the unwelcome atmosphere. There’s always college football, which I enjoy more anyway. It’s generally more family-friendly as long as you stay away from the student section.

  4. Triumph says:

    This guy is just pissed that the Packers choked big time last night.

    Furthermore, to equate a city of 3 million inhabitants to a few people in a 61,000-seat football stadium is stupid.

    Typical cheesehead.

  5. Triumph says:

    In all honesty while I see the appeal of seeing players live (which is a unique experience), the truth of the matter is that my comfy chair and HDTV no doubt provide a better actual viewing experience of the game (and the beer is cheaper and better).

    Steven has a point–however, you can only get a limited view of how plays develop on the tube. The nice thing about being at the game is that you can focus on one matchup–I’m a big fan of middle linebacker play. To watch a good middle linebacker read a play, blitz, etc. in person is one of the things that makes the game fascinating to me.

    While we’re on the subject of TV sports–can we call for a moratorium on graphic clutter? For an NFL game, all you need to show is the score and the clock: not some swath of color, the NFL logo, and all the other crap. Furthermore, you should only show that stuff between plays–unless its like the last second of the game and you need to know that time is about to expire.

    When its 2nd and 12 with 11:46 left in the 2nd quarter, you don’t need to have that stuff on the screen when the play is being run. Put it up while they are in the huddle.

    Don’t even get me started with baseball and hockey…..

  6. tom p says:

    When it comes to drunks at a football game, I find them rather unsteady on their feet… especially in stadium seating.

    But if you want to go to a game just to enjoy a game, go High School. It is real football, played by real players, on a real field.

  7. Drew says:

    I’m a bit dubious that other venues are models of gentlemanly behavior. Mix too much booze and just about any venue and you will have trouble.

    That said, I often ask if this is a sign of a coarsening society. Maybe, maybe not. But as one example, did the Jerry Springer shows exist in the sixties and seventies? Did the “Ive got my rights” “in your face” everyday attitudes prevail in yesteryear’s?

    Football imitates life? Perhaps?

  8. James M. says:

    I think college games are the way to go. I worked security in that particular venue and honestly you had a little trouble out of the student section but, we had a no tolerance alcohol policy unlike NFL games which helped to subside any major problems.

  9. Bandit says:

    I didn’t know you owned the Cowboys.

    If they threw out all the drunks the stands would be maybe half full.