How to Watch the NFL Even When Your Team Stinks: A Guide for the Struggling Fan

“This is gonna be our year.”

The start of football season is a lot like Christmas, with pads and helmets replacing red velour and boots.

For many fans, the prospects for next season are swimming in their heads before the dust has even settled on the Super Bowl. Hopes are high, new merch is purchased, plans already made. Team loyalty and blind optimism are favored over conventional wisdom and common sense. We’re all guilty of it.

With the excitement, there is also the dread of what the season will bring. Much like on Christmas Day, you wonder if your squad will be basking in championship glory or be given the proverbial socks? This rings particularly true for those of us who are not used to having the smoothest ride during the season. As a Minnesota Vikings fan this is a feeling I know all too well.

Yes, your team may miss opportunities, they might let you down from time to time, “success” may not consistently be something associated with them, but there is always hope and there are plenty of things you can do to ease the pain.

Doing our part to help with the sorrow, we present to you our tips for not only getting through a tough season, but actually enjoying it. We say forget the anguish and embrace the journey. Bring it on!

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1. Watch With a Group
One of the best ways to watch your games is out with like-minded friends and family. Voicing your concern over bad calls or poor plays is so much better with a group of fans who are in the same boat, as opposed to venting alone. After all you can only yell “COME ON REF!” or “but our RB is the best in the league” so many times to yourself.

Misery is better shared and there are many fine establishments happy to play multiple games on the day. Some places are even dedicated specifically to certain teams. So have a look around your local area. You could just find your new football family.

2. Start a Game Day Ritual
Nothing makes the frustration of a rough game go down easier than tasty snacks and cold beverages. While it may be easier said than done for some of us, if you’re having fun you’re less likely to get caught up in every missed opportunity happening on the field.

Tailgating is a great choice, as you can hangout at the stadium and take in the atmosphere of game day with your home team brethren before heading in. Staying in good spirits before game time is always a good idea.

Starting a weekly get-together at home can also be a fun and stress-free way to watch the game. You and your friends can decide on who will bring what snacks, and you can even alternate locations each week. It’ll be like you’re playing your own game.

3. Get Suited Up In Your Favorite Gear
Rep your team the right way on game day, by rocking your favorite gear wherever you are.

As football fans, we’re all familiar with wearing our hearts on our sleeves, but why not rep your team on your head with a cap or beanie? You can celebrate your team while keeping your noggin warm, especially on those cold winter days.

Another way to say goodbye to those game day chills is by grabbing your favorite hoodie. It’ll help you with the weather, especially if you’re outside or commuting to the game, and can sooth you with a warm embrace even as the game isn’t going according to plan.

It doesn’t even need to be game day to wear your gear. Any day is a good day to show your pride. Even though rocking your team gear at the office may not always be the best idea, you can do so without anyone knowing by sporting your team socks.

4. Always Look on the Bright Side
Depending on what team you rep, finding the bright side may be like trying to recover a fumble. No matter what side you’re on though, there are always positives to be found. The old standby of “well at least…” can be your friend, as long as you don’t overuse it.

While your record might be a little inconsistent you can look at the good your squad has done, such as a promising debut season for a new prospect (Teddy Bridgewater of the Vikings) or an impressive string of consecutive wins (Carolina’s four-week streak last year).

If you’re struggling to find some motivation, you can always call on one of your friends. We all have that buddy with an encyclopedic knowledge of every stat and every player. Maybe they can help you put a positive spin on your team’s prospects.

5. Don’t Forget to Sing Your Team Anthem!
Next to wearing your gear, singing the team anthem will always get any fan in a good mood. The words are ingrained in us from an early age and in some cases are treated like gospel, so let it out.

Traditionally it can be frowned upon to sing at any time other than for a touchdown. However, if times are tough we don’t see anything wrong with belting out your anthem for a single field goal or first down. Every play counts and sometimes the small victories can be just as important.

Sing those words with gusto and show your team colors!

Follow Andrew on Twitter at @andrewghickey