12th Man -- is it right for fans to try to affect the opponents?I'm wondering if other people feel as I do about the crowd noise at professional football games. The fans are encouraged to make as...

12th Man -- is it right for fans to try to affect the opponents?

I'm wondering if other people feel as I do about the crowd noise at professional football games. The fans are encouraged to make as much noise as possible when the visiting team has the ball. This, of course, makes it difficult or impossible for the quarterback to call plays. It also rattles the visitiing players and causes fumbles and interceptions. Some stadiums pride themselves as being the noisiest in the country. The one in Seattle has a big sign reading HOME OF THE 12TH MAN. Ironically, the fans don't root for their own team but do all the rooting or hooting when the visiting team has the ball.

To me this is disgraceful. It is not just poor sportsmanship but dirty sportsmanship. The owners and coaches may rationalize that they have a right to encourage their fans to make a racket because the other team's fans will do the same thing when their team plays at the other stadium. They may also say that it is impossible to control the behavior of the fans. But at least they could get together and agree not to do anything to prompt the fans or encourage the fans to behave like hooligans.

The coaching staff and the players should be forbidden to make gestures signaling the fans to make noise. There should be no signs allowed calling for NOISE in giant letters, and there should be no suggestions made that the fans are needed to help defeat the visiting team--no suggestions that the fans are the "12th Man."




Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not suggesting that the referees or anybody else should try to prevent fans from making noise to frustrate the visiting team. That only antagonizes the fans and is probably ineffective. What I am suggesting is that there should be no encouragement by home-team players, the home-team coaching staff, or the home-team stadium to make noise. I watch pro football during the season and often see huge electric signs reading NOISE and MORE NOISE. I also see players giving that familiar signal to the fans to make more noise when the visiting team has the ball. The signal consists of holding both arms out to the sides with palms up and lifting the arms up and down like orchestra conductor. These actions could be controlled easily. They do this especially during crucial plays, such as when it is fourth down and the visiting team needs to make one yard for a chance at scoring. If NOISE didn't matter in football, there would not be so much encouragement for the home-team fans to make noise and more noise. The noise would diminish greatly if only the owners would mutually agree to a truce. The home team could be penalized if one of the players made overt or covert signals to the fans to make noise.

Also, it seems obvious that this extreme noise is injuring people's ears, including the ears of little children who are taken to these games. Here is a small excerpt from an article titled "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Fans Risk Hearing Loss," which you may read by referring to the reference link below.


The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, warns that without proper protection, exposure to 85 decibels for more than eight hours could lead to permanent hearing loss. Each time the noise level increases by three decibels, the recommended exposure time is cut in half.

That's why it's even more disconcerting to hearing experts that cheering fans can push levels well into the hundreds. At these levels, it only takes between 1 and 15 minutes for the sound to damage your ears.

However, there are many, many other articles on the same subject, with the same warning, accessible on Google. Sooner or later this noise problem will have to be addressed. It isn't true that nothing can be done about it.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don’t have any real problem with this in football.  I do think it’s bad in college basketball when people find out personal stuff about the players and taunt them with it.  But football is way more impersonal and the noise that’s made is just random noise. 

Now, I realize that you dislike the idea of the noise and the fact that it is used to hurt the opposing team, not to cheer for the home team.  I think, though, that you’re overstating the issue.  Teams have plenty of ways to fight the issue of crowd noise.  They can call more than one play in the huddle and then use hand signals to change from one play to the other.  They use silent snap counts all the time.  The noise may cause a few false start penalties, but I really doubt that the noise ever caused a fumble or an interception.  If players are actually “rattled” by the noise, they’re in the wrong business. 

I remember back in the ‘90s, possibly late ‘80s when the NFL tried to have this thing where the QB could ask the ref to stop the play clock until the crowd noise subsided.  It was kind of a zoo and it didn’t really seem to help.  I think that the good teams figure out ways around the noise.

Finally, I forget if it was Freakonomics or another similar book that was only about sports called Scorecasting, but I read that studies have shown that players perform about the same at home or on the road.  If there is any advantage to the home team, it appears to be a minor one in which the refs subconsciously want to please the crowd.

At any rate, I don’t see much difference between crowd noise and any other part of the game.  These guys are big boys.  They can deal with the trash talk from opposing players.  They can deal with the other team hitting them as hard as possible in an attempt to intimidate them.  They can deal with crowd noise too.

belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I don't really pay attention to sports, but this is an interesting idea; if the crowd has a chance to affect the outcome of a football game -- or any other sports game -- to the advantage of their favorites, why shouldn't they take it? It's participatory, and allows the fans to feel as if they are helping their guys out, regardless of the actual effect. Besides, I don't think there's any realistic way to prevent crowd noise short of stopping plays and clearing parts of the stadium, and that would snowball into fans not attending at all, causing games to lose money. I do think that crowd noise should be more organic instead of planned, but I'm not in charge of anyone. Still, if it becomes a verifiable problem, something that can be proven through statistics and data, maybe the Football Authorities should convene to address the issue. On the other hand, it looks like the 12th Man can actually cause earthquakes, as seen in the link below.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Seeing as I hail from Texas, home to some of the most avid football fans in the country, I can deeply understand, respect, and appreciate the value of the 'Twelfth Man.'  In terms of high school and college football, and especially in Texas, having a powerful and dedicated fan base is key to success, because it's guaranteed that your opponent will.  An excited fan base can bring your team a strong advantage.  Fans bring excitement to the game, and I have been to games where positive crowd response to key plays have helped change the momentum of the game for their team. 

Are there obnoxious fans out there?  Of course there are-- just like there is a fair share of obnoxious people you meet in daily life.  But as a cheerleader coach, and wife to a high school football coach, I've seen my fair share of good and bad football games.  The good moments of crowd and fan participation undoubtedly outweigh the few bad moments.

Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think it is great for fans to get involved in a dignified, respectful, passionate way concerning their favorite sports teams. However, I do agree that obnoxious, loutish behavior designed to denigrate a visiting team and their accompanying fans is totally inappropriate and juvenile.

It seems today that there is not quite the decorum at sporting events as there was in past eras. No era was ever perfect and all did have their share of unseemly incidents and such of poor sportsmanship and poor home crowd behavior. It just seems that in contemporary society's ultra-hyped sports atmosphere that these incidents are happening more and more. It is great for a team to have that twelfth man- their home crowd as a whole. But, this twelfth man must respect their opponents while still cheering passionately for their favorite team and players.

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I live in Washington State, and when the Seattle Seahawks play at Century Link Field in Seattle, the "12th Man", a popular euphemism for the crowd noise at that stadium, is one important reason why the team went undefeated at home this season.  As others have stated, I believe there is nothing wrong with fans cheering, or waving towels and flags so as to make it more difficult for the visiting team to effectively run plays.

At some stadiums, fans take this to unsafe and unsportsmanlike extremes, with laser pointers, noisemakers and debris that gets thrown on to the field.  There's nothing fair or right about such activities that fall outside the realm of normal fan participation.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I apologize for my misuse of the word "hale" above, as I obviously meant "hail".  I was in the room with my husband trying to affect the Texas Tech vs. Minnesota bowl game from our living room and must have been a bit distracted. 

I asked him about this topic, since he has been a varsity football coach and his response was that so long as fans aren't directly interfering with the game it is cool in his book.  Football is an emotional and entertaining game whose sole focus at the highest level is to make money.  More money will be made with more fan involvement and buy in, as witnessed by the growth of the NFL since the inception of Fantasy Football.  

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A lot of the fun of going to a professional game is cheering LOUDLY for your team. For the players, there is something special about having tens of thousands of people encouraging you and urging you on. The players themselves attest that it makes a difference in their performance.

In a football game, home fans can directly influence the outcome of a game by making so much noise that the visiting team cannot hear their quarterback calling audibles at the line of scrimmage.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Graduating from a college (University of Florida) with one of the nation's strongest 12th man advantages in both football and basketball, it's hard for me to suggest that rabid fans be less rabid. As long as fans stay within the rules--and the refs are pretty quick to issue technical fouls against home field fans in basketball when necessary--the 12th man is a positive aspect that helps fire up its players and produces victories, the bottom line for nearly all sports programs.

e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Taunting and personal verbal attacks are unacceptable, as suggested above, but crowd noise seems fine to me. The "game", whether it's football or basketball or soccer, is something larger than what happens on the field. At least, that's how I look at it. So crowd noise, in my mind, is part of the game, not a distraction from it or a disruption of it. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In past eras people rooted for the home team. Now at pro football games the fans are quiet when their team has the ball and do all the rooting when the opponents get it. But the rooting is just the opposite of cheering. It is jeering, to put it mildly.

thewanderlust878 | Student

I think that the 12th man has been apart of American culture since the beginning of football. In basically every sport there is a "12th man". The fans of every sports team love to show their support of their team, and also try to mess up the other team to help bring their team to victory. 

Also, speaking from experience, it is easy to get caught up in the game when you are there live, and I believe that's a huge part of why fans yell and cheer almost every second of the entire game. With the music, the announcer, seeing your favorite professional sports team, it is very exhilarating. 

To me, I do not see a huge problem with the "12th man" in football. Many of the players are used to it, and the fans usually are only obnoxious because they can be. 

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