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8 Unique NFL Traditions to Catch This Fall

Some of the more memorable football moments happen off the field.

U.S. News & World Report

8 Unique NFL Traditions to Catch This Fall

American football fans among falling confetti

Get ready for game-day tailgating, cheers, chants, touchdowns and time-honored traditions at stadiums across the country.(Getty Images).

Tailgating, half-time spectacles and special cheers are football game staples. But some football teams and fans in the sport's most prestigious league go the extra yard. Whether donning head-turning headgear or celebrating touchdowns with an actual bang, here are standout National Football League customs to keep an eye out for in the stands this fall.

Green Bay's "Lambeau Leap"

Wisconsin's Green Bay Packers, the NFL's only fan-owned team and winner of the most league championships relishes rituals. LeRoy Butler's spontaneous, jubilant jump into the stands at Lambeau Field after a thrilling 1993 touchdown turned into a lasting ritual. After most touchdowns at home, a player vaults atop the wall separating fans from the field in the end zone. Most parts of the wall are 6 feet high. He's shown lots of love – hugs and pats on the back. The historic leap has been exempted from NFL restrictions on excessive celebration by players.

Fans do their part, too. Some sport triangular yellow foam hats resembling hunks of Swiss to show support for the dairy state team and pride in their "Cheesehead" nickname. Packer players are known for their close ties to the community, including riding young supporters' bikes to and from practice in preseason. The happy younsters carry their heroes' helmets and score autographs.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Pirate Ship and Cannon Firing

It's quite a sight to see a life-size, fully-rigged galleon flying the skull and crossbones in the north end of Raymond James Stadium at home games. Every time the Bucs score, cannons fire. Six shots for a touchdown, three for a field goal, one for an extra point and so on. The ship, produced by a team that creates props for Walt Disney World, features an animatronic parrot that squawks and talks to fans passing by. The vessel also blasts the swashbuckling song "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)."

The Denver Broncos Mascot Gallop and Salute

At home games, after each touchdown, a dappled white Arabian gelding called Thunder gallops down the field carrying a female rider wearing orange, navy blue and white team colors. Denver also is known for the "Mile High Salute" that some players make from the end zone, after a touchdown. The tradition was pioneered in the 1990s by Hall of Famer Terrell Davis, who described it as respect for military service personnel and his teammates.

The New England Patriots' Musket Fire

Garbed as Revolutionary War-era Minutemen, the "End Zone Militia" fire their muskets (shooting blanks, of course) after every touchdown. A home-game staple since 1996, these authentically dressed Revolution re-enactors are fan favorites.

The Pittsburgh Steelers' "Terrible Towel" Wave

According to Pittsburgh Steelers lore, the practice of waving a bright gold rectangle of terrycloth began in 1975, when late sports analyst Myron Cope brandished one from his radio booth to urge on the team. Fans picked up the practice, making the twirling towel a rallying symbol throughout Steeler games.

Off the field, towels are waved at weddings and even used by Steeler-loving parents to wrap newborns. The Terrible Towel also has turned up in exotic locales, from Mount Everest to the International Space Station.

The Oakland Raiders' Fan Face Painting

The Oakland Raiders have a reputation as one of the roughest teams in the NFL.That's fortified by the nickname of their stadium ("The Black Hole") and by fans who paint faces menacingly in the team colors of black and silver and dress in scary costumes that might include spikes, chains and studded armbands. At upcoming Raiders games, you can expect to see skeletons, vampires and even Darth Vaders.

The Seattle Seahawks 12s

After the Seattle franchise was founded in 1976, its notoriously loud and proud supporters were referred to as "the 12th man," urging on 11 Seahawks on the field. In 1984, the Seahawks retired the No. 12 jersey to honor fans. Today, at every home game, a 12th Man flag is raised by a sports icon or celebrity.

The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Dance Performances

The Dallas Cowboys' cheerleaders put sultry on the sidelines back in 1972, with provocative dance routines, white boots, hot pants and star-spangled, midriff-bearing tops with plunging necklines. That inspired other teams to put more sizzle in their squads. But no other football rooters have a popular network reality TV show ("The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team" on CMT), now in its 12th season.


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Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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