WHEN FANS ATTACK!

Posted: April 27, 2011 in Sports just because

After reading multiple articles I felt it was time that we addressed a serious issue involving sports fans and their arch nemesis…other sports fans.

Now this post is inspired by the most recent act of stupidity and violence (most likely alcohol sponsored) by one fan towards another, this time inLos Angeles. However fan violence is nothing new and should not be taken lightly. Sporting events are one of the best things we have in our society today and should be enjoyed by all levels of fan, from the most hardcore (who have held their season’s seats over multiple decades without ever missing a game), to the little girl/boy who is making their very first trip to the stadium. Sporting events provide us with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows with everything in between and we can never get enough. This is an experience that we should all jump at the chance to experience when given the opportunity, unfortunately that unbridled enthusiasm to attend may be hindered because of a few stupid people.

Bryan Stow, the 42 yr old father and paramedic, who was beaten into a coma on April 1st at Dodgers stadium may be the best example yet of controlling yourself at a sporting event but he shouldn’t need to be. We don’t need martyrs or examples of why you should learn to control yourself when at a sporting event, it should be common knowledge. Athletes are there to compete against other athletes on the field, court, ice etc., not to compete with the fans. Fans are there to watch, enjoy, and perhaps engage with other fans in positive fashion by discussing current or past decisions made by the organizations they support or detest. But that is where the interaction stops, at not point should fans be taking it upon themselves to make a statement either against another fan or athletes they just finished watching. Sports history is littered with poor examples of human behaviour, a long list can be found here at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_violent_spectator_incidents_in_sports.  Europe and South America specifically have a storied history of fan violence before/during/after football(soccer) matches which include rioting onto the field, gang fights which have been documented in all major soccer nations, fans attacking buses either by shaking as a group or in some rare cases even firing upon team vehicles. These examples are extreme and wouldn’t happen inNorth America, we hope but it still happens.

First let’s look at the fan involvement at a game and the responsibility that fans need to take when attending. When you purchase a ticket to an event you are paying for the right to experience watching the game live at the arena/stadium from a distance, that being your seat. You get to buy food, interact with fans both for and against your team, cheer or boo and have a good time. What is not included in this purchase is to ruin these similar experiences for anyone else around you. You can boo and if that upsets someone then they need to get over it. Sometimes you don’t get your way and you have to suck it up, but any form of violence or harassment cannot be tolerated. In order to maintain costs and the overall experience we cannot police every inch of every venue to ensure people’s feelings aren’t being hurt. But when the game is over, the points are tallied and you’re upset for whatever reason that doesn’t mean you get to go and take out your aggression on someone else just because they’re wearing a different jersey than yours. Do you know what it’s called when you attack someone who is different than you in appearance? That’s racism. You cannot assault people because you disapprove of their colour so why would people think it’s OK when the difference in appearance is a jersey or t-shirt? In November a little boy was tackled by, you guessed it, a drunken fan at a Cleveland Browns game inClevelandbecause he hates the Jets. Now I have my list of teams, players and coaches I hate and if I saw them on the street I would let them know how I feel about them. However I make sure to draw the line at words, offensive them in good fun but not hurtful or crude (pets, children, spouses, parents are off limits). The line is drawn well before physical harm because once you engage in actions like that you have now crossed the line between diehard fan and breaking the law as a criminal.

I experienced a strong example of fans misbehaving when at the World Junior Hockey tournament inBuffalo,NYin December’10/January’11. We were sitting in our seats surrounded by loveable diehard happy Canadians there to support their team play a heated rival in the Russian team. Of course we would boo whenRussiacame out in introductions, but we respected their anthem as they respected ours and went about our over the top support for our boys. However one group of fans that were in our section were heckling a fan there wearing a team USA Ryan Miller jersey. This makes sense as the season was still going on, we were in Buffalo after all so he’s showing support for his NHL team and star goalie and it’s an international tournament so support USA with whatever jersey you want. Disappointedly these poor ambassadors of Canadian fandom pestered this fan nonstop throughout warm-ups and the duration of the game. Names were shouted, profanities, pointless insults to the point where people began asking them (both politely then later on not so politely) to stop what they were doing or leave. Of course being intoxicated and not understanding the difference between fair and foul they shot back, refused to clean up their act and eventually reduced themselves to petty fight challenges after the game. Why share this story? Because this is one of countless examples of fans not getting the point, when you want to harm someone else because they cheer for another team isn’t that missing the point? Do you beat up the other team because they beat you at dodge ball? No you get mad at yourself, shake their hands and you throw a fit in the locker room if you want to but you keep the anger and violence to yourself. There is no place for this sort of behaviour especially when people’s lives are in danger.

The sporting event experience is something that unites families, friends and populations in general. I remember my first games as a child with my dad and I can’t wait to share those same experiences with my kids, and grandkids, etc. Please sports fans, don’t take away this special moment in people’s lives because you couldn’t control yourself or your moronic jealousy that a game you weren’t even playing in, didn’t go the way you wanted. Learn to enjoy the event for what it is, great times with great people watching the best at what they do competing for victory, one game at a time.

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