It’s okay to “hate” the New England Patriots NFL team. Lots of people do. In fact, a poll earlier this year revealed that of 12 sports dynasties in the past 40 years, the only one that posted a negative favorability score was the Patriots.
Sports dynasties, whether professional or major college programs, engender strong emotions in fans. Those emotions can be either positive or negative and generate positive or negative behaviors.
In a 2008 study, researchers at the University of Quebec identified passion as the main element in the emotional experiences of fans. When enjoyable activities (like watching sports) are internalized, they become part of a fan’s identity, a passion, so cheering for a team indirectly includes cheering for the self. It’s possible to be a “harmonious” fan whether your team wins or loses or to be an “obsessive” fan who needs a team to win in order to be fulfilled.
A 2018 article in Psychology Today sums up the difference: “Obsessive fans were more likely to experience maladaptive emotions such as hate for the opposing team, and they also mocked fans of opposing teams. Harmonious fans were more likely to have high levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction, and more likely to show their feelings in positive fan behaviors, such as celebrating their team’s victories in the streets.”
For fans of winning teams, then, victories generate celebrations. For fans of losing teams, celebrations may be obnoxious displays of arrogance.
So being a fan can be enjoyable or annoying (or worse). In a poll that asked the fan bases of four U.S. professional sports (NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL) and college football and basketball teams to name other teams’ fans that they just can’t stand, pest control firm Insight Pest Solutions identified the fans that “bugged” other team fans the most.
It should be no surprise that teams that win consistently generate the highest levels of annoyance among fans of other teams. The least-liked fans garnered right around a third of all votes in every sport except NHL hockey and college football, where about a fifth of other fans can’t stand the top vote-getters. The size of the fan base doesn’t seem to have anything to do with how popular a team is. In fact, plenty of generally very well-liked teams are struggling in that department — these are the sports teams running out of fans.
National Football League (NFL)
New England Patriots fans were named the NFL’s most annoying by 34.66% of all respondents. Second place went to fans of the Dallas Cowboys (13.34%), and Philadelphia Eagles fans (9.02%) came in third.
National Basketball Association (NBA)
Fans of the Los Angeles Lakers were the most annoying (33.79%) to fans of other NBA teams, followed by Golden State Warriors fans (23.81%) and Boston Celtics fans (12.16%).
Major League Baseball (MLB)
If there’s a perennial leader among most-disliked pro sports teams, it has to be the New York Yankees. The team’s fans were named the most annoying by 32.75% of survey respondents, well ahead of Boston Red Sox fans, who were named most annoying by 20.77%, and Chicago Cubs fans, who finished third with 10.74% of the votes.
National Hockey League (NHL)
With 19.74% of the votes, Boston Bruins fans are the most annoying of pro hockey fans, putting Boston’s four pro sports teams in the top three in every major league sport. The Pittsburgh Penguins (14.09%) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (10.93%) finished second and third, respectively.
The college football team with the most annoying fans is Alabama, which garnered 21.9% of the votes. Ohio State finished second (15.75%) and Michigan (9.04%) finished third.
It’s not even close here. Duke, with 35.34% of the votes, has by far the most annoying fans of any college basketball team, even beating out Patriots fans for the overall title of the most annoying fans in any big-time U.S. sport. Kentucky fans finished second (8.96%) and North Carolina fans came in third (6.59%).
Insight Pest Solutions also has constructed a matrix showing the most annoying fans in all six categories based on a favorite NFL team. For example, Chicago Bears fans (sigh) find fans of the following teams the most annoying: Green Bay Packers (NFL), LA Lakers (NBA), Chicago Cubs (MLB), St. Louis Blues (NHL), Alabama (college football) and Duke (college basketball). Overall, Bears fans find Packers fans the worst of all.
One final insight from the survey: in terms of team fans who also found their own team’s fan base to be the most annoying, the Patriots (8.88%) and the Duke Blue Devils (8.43%) topped the voting. But the fans remain loyal. This is not the fate of many professional teams — these are 25 hardest teams to root for.