Friday, April 15th, 2011, 1:31 am
In an effort to get back to writing on my damned blog I’m trying to write about subjects I’m either passionate about or that I can at least fake passion for. Those of you who know me that I love my sports teams–to the world I present a calm and patient exterior, but put me in front of a TV with a big game on the line and I become a shrieking, cursing, raging lunatic. And like most sports fans I embrace my inner psycho, it adds a zesty tang to the long march we call life.
Temporary insanity among sports fans has been much in the news lately, what with a San Francisco Giants fan named Bryan Stow being beaten into a coma after a Dodgers game in L.A. and then a former Pittsburgh sports anchor named John Steigerwald publishing a moronic piece where he said that the victim of that assault should’ve acted like an adult and not worn a Giants jersey to Dodger Stadium. Steigerwald was justly pilloried for implying that Stow helped instigate that vicious assault, and his point that mature adults shouldn’t wear team jerseys because it makes them look childish didn’t wash with me either. He think sthat folks wear team gear because they think it makes them part of the team; I think fans wear jerseys and wave Terrible Towels and whatnot because it’s another way to show support for the team. What, should fans refrain from cheering and booing? That makes you look a bit childish as well, and it doesn’t really affect the players or the game. I find the logic flawed, and if you ever read Steigerwald’s blog (not even gonna link to it) you’d find all kinds of flawed logic on display. The guy is a kook.
It’s still interesting to consider how 60,000 people, packed into a small space and wearing “uniforms”, might devolve into an enraged mob if someone wearing enemy colors appears in their midst. Especially when you introduce everyone’s best friend, alcohol, to the party. But I’m still not buying that people wearing team jerseys is responsible for some great uptick of violence in the stands.
I have some anecdotal evidence–I went to the Steelers-Browns playoff game back in 2003 and there was a small group of Browns fans a few rows over. The Browns raced out to a big lead and those fans were VERY vocal about it, but while there was some shouting back and forth and muttered comments about how maybe we should pitch them over the top of the upper deck (that might’ve been me) there was never any physical confrontation, not even close.
I have friends in Baltimore who have gone to several Ravens-Steelers game and while there was some taunting and insults and whatnot, it never came to blows. That wasn’t the case in the 1970s, when some guys my dad worked with used to go to old Memorial Stadium to see the Browns-Steelers games. They returned with stories about all the fracas in the stands, and I remembered thinking that attending a road game was akin to invading a hostile country.
As I tried to find actual statistical evidence to either support or destroy my thesis I came across an article titled “NFL Working to End Fan Violence”. The article talks about how the Patriots dealt with an outbreak of fights during a Monday night game, how the Eagles fans pelted the sidelines with snowballs, and a time when Jets fans built a bonfire in the Meadowlands. Crazy stuff indeed…but the thing is, that article was written in 1990. These aren’t new problems.
And chances are those problems aren’t going away, not so long as 60,000 people get together to watch sporting events. And especially if they keep selling beer at games, as it’s alcohol that’s almost certainly the driving force when it comes to fan violence. It’s likely that sporting venues are better at cutting off visible drunk patrons and ejecting unruly fans before matters spin out of control (though a recent tasering/billyclubbing at PNC Park is getting a lot of local attention).
Tomorrow (today) I’ll be going to Game 2 of the Penguins-Lightning game, and I’ll be wearing my white #71 Malkin jersey. I’ll definitely have a couple of beers before the game, maybe a couple more during. I will be very loud, I will lustily root for my beloved Pens, I will question the existence of a just God every time the Lightning get a power play. I will not be acting in an especially grown-up manner. I also won’t be beating the crap out of any Tampa fans or joining in any mass violence. The line between passionate team support and unhinged assholery is not a fine one.
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