Sports are supposed to be fun. It’s a pastime. An escape from the real world, if only for a few hours. It’s something you do to literally past the time. You sit down, have a beer, grill some meat, root on your team and then move about your day. It’s akin to any other hobby, whether you’re a cinefile or music nerd.
The difference seems to be that music and movie fans, as opposed to sports fans, don’t stab those that don’t share their opinions. I’ve been in plenty of conversations about Pearl Jam only to hear in return “I really only like ‘Ten.’ Do they still put out albums?”
Does the urge to strike that person in the face rise up? Sure. But I’m a civilized person and in the end it’s a conversation about music. Besides, that comment is usually followed by how much they like “FUN.” So I usually feel like I made my point without having to make my point.
Sports are different. Passion runs deep. And don’t get me wrong, passion is a good thing. You should be passionate about things in life. And if your thing is sports, as it is my thing, there’s nothing wrong with that. The problem comes when passion crosses that invisible line into violence. And that’s a thing that’s happening far too often of recent note.
Fan violence is by no way a new phenomenon. Soccer riots, disco demolitions, booing Santa Clause, it’s nothing sports fans haven’t dealt with before. But there’s been a rash of these incidents recently and frankly, we should be beyond this. Instead, the violent rhetoric in the age of social media seems to have only been ratcheted up.
First there was the tragic story of Bryan Stowe. By now you know of the stabbing of a Giants fan in the parking lot of the Dodgers during Opening Weekend.
There was the stabbing death of a Dodger fan outside AT&T Park not more than a week ago.
And two nights ago the assault of Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos’ wife Dallas.
These are dramatic stories that bring light to a dark underbelly of sports fandom. Fan violence. As Padres fans we’ve become use to the days when LA comes to town. Fights in the crowd, unruly fans from both teams. Chargers/Raiders week brings the same unruly environment, again a problem from fans on both sides. This rash of violence at sporting events prompted Matthew Hall of the UT to tweet this question out to his followers:
Does the prospect of fan violence keep you from attending games? http://t.co/yBSCpF6UqE
— Matthew T. Hall (@SDuncovered) October 3, 2013
The answers are enlightening and frankly he’s a good follow so go ahead and do yourself the favor.
The point is this. Sports are an odd hobby. The fans often care far more than the athletes. When you’ve played for 4 teams it’s tough to have any strong emotional tie to the team compared to a fan whose been a fan for multiple decades. Honestly, how often do you think Brian Giles thinks about Game 163? Because I’d bet anything it’s a fraction of the amount of time I spend thinking about it.
Wait…maybe I need help. Moving on.
And because those fans care so much, fans of rival teams are not simply fans of a band you don’t like. They are the enemy. The language around sports doesn’t help. Football is a “war.” Teams are going into “battle.” We have to “PROTECT THIS HOUSE!”
Guys (and gals), it’s not a war. It’s not a battle. It’s a game. A game you probably played when you were 12. Played at an incredibly high level with millions of dollars at stake. But a game nevertheless. So I ask this of all of you.
Be better fans. Cheer your team. Root for them to win, mourn their losses. Boo teams you don’t like. But keep it civil. No one should be stabbed over the fact that Puig hit a double. No one should be beaten because they have a team’s jersey on. Give them a hard time? Sure. But keep the switch blade holstered (do you holster a switch blade?).
Let me give you an example. In the final season of old Yankee Stadium the Padres happened to be playing them in interleague. I made a trip to NY to see the stadium for the first (and only) time. I was decked out in Padres gear. I pre-gamed (and post-gamed) at a little dive bar near the stadium called the “Yankee Tavern.” I struck up conversations with Yankees fans. Did they give me a hard time? Sure, a bit. But in good fun. We chatted about baseball, the new stadium, had a few beers and went on our way. Not only was it a non-violent event, it’s a great memory that I carry with me. I had the same experience in Boston. Red Sox fans gave me some “thanks for Adrian Gonzalez” ribbing, bought me a Harpoon IPA and we had a good time.
Be better fans. And it’s simple. Don’t be a dick when you’re watching your team on the road. You’re a guest, act like one. You don’t have to be a quiet little mouse in the corner. But you don’t need to be obnoxious either. At home, have some respect for your city and team. Take the high road. Let the drunk assholes be just that. Assholes. Then move.
Sports are supposed to be fun. When people stop going to games because of fear of physical altercations, they stop being fun.
Be better fans.