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When the Arena Football League was created in 1987, several ideas were implemented to differentiate it from the NFL -- for instance, the half-size field allowed for higher scores and faster action, and the tiny arenas were a great cover for how little the public gave a shit. Also, there was no "out of bounds" area -- the fans were right up against the field, separated from the players only by a low wall:
This is what we call "foreshadowing."
You'll notice that it's like that all the way around the field, including the end zone. So if you're a player near the edge of the field, you're within arm's reach of a fan. This means it was really just a matter of time before something like this happened:
On August 8, 2011, C.J. Johnson of the Georgia Force was ready to receive a kick from the Sharks when he backed into the wall separating the crowd from the action. A front-row Sharks fan decided that whole ball-catching thing was unacceptable, so he reached out, wrapped his arms around Johnson, and slammed him against the wall several times over. He even attempted to rip his helmet off, because of ... shit, who knows? Maybe he thought there was creamy nougat underneath.
Admit it: You'd watch Arena Football if this were legal.
Now, if you tried this crap at an NFL game, several very not good things would happen. Security would pounce immediately and throw your ass out of the game. Several fans might throw their shitty $9 draft beers at you, because the alternative would be to actually drink them, and who wants that? Also, you would not get on camera, and the announcers would barely even mention you. All in all, it sounds exceedingly pointless.
Of course, this is Arena Football, so none of this happened. The fan got to stay, he got ample camera time, and the announcers treated it like the funniest thing they'd ever seen. Several of the Sharks players even ran over to the guy and took turns high-fiving him.
Because nothing teaches a moron that what he's doing is wrong more than being high-fived by his idols.
The only remotely legit part here is that the Sharks were penalized for what turned out to be beyond-blatant interference. The ball was given to the Force on the 20-yard line, which, on a 50-yard field, is a pretty big deal. However, the fan clearly got into the Force's head, and they ultimately lost 64-55.
Ha, that's Arena Football for you! What a silly little bush league operation! There's no way that kind of garbage could happen in the NFL, right? Well ...
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It's not that rare for crazy fans to run onto the field during football games. It's never a big deal -- the players stand around in mild annoyance for a few minutes while security tackles the drunken fan and drags him away. If a fan ever ran onto the field during a play, the refs would just blow it dead and maybe penalize the home team.
That's why the story we're about to tell you will likely never, ever happen again, even if professional football is being played 200 years from now. What this fan did is one of the most singular accomplishments in the history of professional sports, although we're assuming the guy was far too inebriated to remember any of it later.
You mean a guy with a mustache like that is starved for attention? Naawww.
The Boston Patriots of the 1960s were like Charlie Sheen's Cleveland Indians of the NFL: a gaggle of misfits and lovable losers who resembled a circus more than a professional sports team. They would start snowball fights mid-game, share their sideline with the opposition (because their stadium had no extra space), and grab former players from the crowd because they didn't have enough men on the field.
But perhaps the most unforgettable incident of them all occurred on November 3, 1961, when a fan ran onto the field, directly inserted himself into the game ... and won the damn thing.
In the final seconds of this game, the Patriots were winning by one touchdown, 28-21. The visiting Dallas Texans had the ball, however, and were on the 5-yard line. One pass into the end zone would tie it up. If they missed, fans were waiting on the sidelines to charge the field in celebration. But one of these fans (who many believe was Patriots owner Billy Sullivan, an accusation he never actually denied) felt that waiting in the background while insulting the Texans' mothers was overrated and useless. So, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
Yep, he's actually doing that cartoonish sneak walk.
This guy not only ran onto the field, but assumed position -- he literally went back there and positioned himself like another safety. And no one noticed.
Texans quarterback Cotton Davidson snapped the ball. He read the play and made a pass to wide receiver Chris Burford for a seemingly easy touchdown ... at which point this random guy literally leaped into action. He batted down the ball, making the pass incomplete and securing victory for the Patriots.
"Should that guy be here? He must have forgotten his pads and helmet at home. Happens to the best of us."
Amazingly, nobody noticed this as it was happening -- it was only when footage was studied the next day that anyone spotted the rogue spectator. By then, obviously, it was too late to protest.
And here's the thing: If you don't know much about football, you have to understand that of the 12 players on that defense, only one of them correctly read the play, saw the receiver's route, and got into the right position to defend the pass: the drunken guy in a windbreaker.
It was going to be a touchdown otherwise -- the quarterback had the other 11 guys fooled. Only the fan had it right. So where other drunken spectators stumble out and try to hug the QB or get an autograph, this guy did the equivalent of stealing a baseball and then striking out the hitter. Hank Stram, head coach of the Texans, jokingly called it "the best defensive play [they'd] seen all year long." Hell, we think it's one of the best plays ever.
Jamie will gladly accept any champagne donations and can be found at his blog here, where he can help you quit your job and go crazy. You can make fun of Patrick on Twitter or send him hate mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more insane spectator behavior, check out 6 Pieces of Fan Art That Are Better Than the Original and The 4 Most Unexpected Fan Bases in Pop Culture.