Whose fans are the worst?

We all have a team we love to despise.

It can be your favorite squad’s archrival, a fellow conference foe or just one that for some reason rubs you the wrong way. For some of us, the source of that annoyance comes simply from that team’s fans, who can range from slightly irksome to insanely frustrating.

That got me thinking the other day. What fans do I dislike the most and why? So I came up with a list of the country’s worst fanbases and the champion might come as a surprise.

Seeing as I’m a native Minnesotan and a big Vikings fan, I’m guessing some of you are thinking I’d say that Packers fans claim the top spot. C’mon, give me a little credit. Sometimes, I find the Green Bay faithful a bit much with their need to repeatedly declare that they own part of a franchise, but mostly, I think they’re entertaining. Following Packers fans on social media, or reading the comment sections on websites is a lot of fun because they put the craziest stuff on there. My favorite is that quarterback Aaron Rodgers is overrated, which is flat-out laughable. So no, it’s not the Cheeseheads, although those yellow wedge hats have worn out their welcome.

I’m sure other teams that come to mind are mainstream teams with massive followings like the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys or Los Angeles Lakers. True, these fans are annoying because a good chunk of them are bandwagon fans- simply choosing a team based on their previous success, national exposure or just because everyone else likes them. Rather than thinking they’re terrible though, I find these fans kind of sad. All of those teams have been mediocre the last few years although Dallas is apparently going through a rebirth period according to some people. I’ll believe it when I see it. So sorry, the famous fanbases don’t make the cut.

Based on a recent column I did, you might think the winner is a team from Boston and it’s pretty clear which one that would be. The New England Patriots have rapidly become the most despised NFL franchise and there are a lot of reasons why. They’ve had tons of recent success as they dominate the AFC East and have won five Super Bowls since the turn of the century. New England also has a head coach in Bill Belichick, who has the demeanor of an angry schoolmarm and the personality of a doorstop. The Pats also have a quarterback in Tom Brady, who is ridiculously good looking, has a supermodel wife, has a holier-than-though attitude and had considered taking his four-game suspension to the Supreme Court last season. In addition to all of that, they’ve been caught cheating twice. Who wouldn’t hate a team like that?

As maddening as all of that is, it’s the fans who bother me the most about that squad. If you were to say that you hate Brady or Belichick to any Patriot fan, some would say that you’re just jealous of their success even though both are unlikeable people. If you point out the weakness of the Patriots’ division, they disregard you saying you don’t understand how hard that is. When you have a future Hall of Famer lining up under center and you play in the same division as Buffalo and the New York Jets, it’s actually quite easy to win eight divisional titles in a row and 14 of the last 16. However, most frustratingly, it’s their belief that cheating isn’t that big of a deal and you just hate them because they always win. All of these things make me reluctant to ever go to Boston because I might just snap and dive into the Charles River.

However, even the Patriots faithful can’t finish first on my list. I’m guessing you’re thinking ‘Geez Ryan, who can top that?’ It’s one that is just as agonizing to deal with, but unlike the Patriots, this fanbase is one that I’ve dealt with directly and on an everyday basis. I’m talking about the St. Louis Cardinals.

Before I came to the U.P., I worked a paper down in southern Illinois. When I first moved there, I thought that because I was in Illinois, that this would be Chicago Cubs territory. There were some fans, but they were heavily outnumbered by Cardinal Nation. The southern part of the state loves the Cards. LOVES them. In the case of some fans I know, a restraining order should be considered.

Just like Patriots fans, some Cards fans will vocally find a way to justify negative behavior such as Mark McGwire taking steroids or scouting director Chris Correa hacking the Houston Astros’ database. They like telling you about Stan Musial for playing poker with black baseball players, but forget about famous racist Enos Slaughter and dislike you for pointing that out. St. Louis fans also HATE players that leave town. When Albert Pujols left to play for the Los Angeles Angels, fans were outraged. ‘How could he leave?! He betrayed us!’ they screamed online. Never mind that he helped the Cards win two World Series and became their most marketable star. They also flipped out at Jason Heyward for going elsewhere. Part of that might have been because he went to the Cubs, but the hate toward him choosing a better situation was disturbing.

Cardinals fans also have a reputation for having some issues with minorities. During the Ferguson protests in 2014, some members of the St. Louis faithful yelled insults at protestors. They’ve also taunted foreign players on Twitter on a regular basis. Boston is also notorious for doing this, but St. Louis differs in the fact that they get indignant when you tell them about it. Bostonians tend to acknowledge the city’s racial issues whereas St. Louisans tend to disregard it. Homophobia is also frequently on display with slurs thrown around in casual fashion, both on social media and in direct conversation. If I had a nickel for every time I heard that stuff living down there, I could start a great retirement fund. Those unpleasant expressions were on display most recently when the Cards decided to host Pride Night to support the area’s LGBT community at a game in August, but that idea only came after announcing that former Cardinal and well-known anti-LGBT protestor Lance Berkman as a guest speaker for a different game scheduled later this month. The backlash toward Pride Night was swift from a large group of St. Louis fans and even though they are simply playing lip service to LGBT fans, I give the Cardinals credit for keeping the event on the calendar.

Above all of that though, is the label that Cardinal fans firmly embrace. “The Best Fans in Baseball.” Doesn’t that make you want to vomit? Despite all the things I’ve listed, Cards fans talk about how “classy” they are and how the team does things the “right way.” What does that even mean? Also, no other fanbase will patronize you, or has mastered the art of the humblebrag like this one. Some of my favorites ones when I lived down there were ‘I bought this great new championship T-shirt. I can’t wear it too much though because people might get jealous of me’ and ‘You guys are fun to watch, but give it some time and you’ll be like us.’ One time, I got so fed up with this stuff, I called out some fans and they were shocked that I didn’t like their team. ‘I don’t get why people hate us’ they say. If they look deep inside themselves, they’ll see why, but I’ve yet to see one that will.

So there you go. The Cardinals are the only team whose fans can top Patriots followers in sheer intolerability, which is funny when you think about it. Berkman once said that “tolerance is the virtue that is killing this country.” However, other fans have to tolerate St. Louis followers every season and each time they do, the hate for the Cardinals grows across the country.

We all have reasons to detest different franchises, but how about all join up for this one? If we have to endure the misery of being around The Best Fans in Baseball, we may as well do it together.

By doing so, it’ll make tolerating them a little easier.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.