For the fan in enemy territory

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Epidemic of Pandemonium

Sports is a part of the very fabric of our civilization. Every sport has had its' beginnings and its' own rise into the psyche of America. Football is no exception. Fans have been emotionally involved in the sport of football since the game that was dubbed "the greatest game ever".

That game matched the New York Giants against the Baltimore Colts. It made average men into legends. Names that are synonymous with the history of the sport were forged there. Names like Johnny Unitas, Alan Ameche, Frank Gifford, Y.A. Tittle, Sam Huff and so many more are icons of the game because of that game.

It occurred on December 28, 1958 at Yankees Stadium. It was a home game for the Giants. They lost in dramatic fashion. It indelibly left a mark on the sport and both franchises. It was on national television and helped the sport grow in popularity.

Football has become the game it is today partly due to that historic game. That day, the fans were hurt, but they were respectful. There were no reports of riots or destruction of property. That was the way of things in those days. These days, however, that scene is all too common.

If a home team loses in a way that the fans deem as unacceptable, there is immediate trouble. This past week holds an example. As the Green Bay Packers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly, angry home fans began to make their disapproval known to the fans of the opposition.

A few of them even began to vandalize cars of known Green Bay fans. This is not the first case of such acts in the city of Philadelphia. Of course, every sports fan remembers Santa Claus being belted with snow balls and the fan that threw up on a child last summer.

However, before fans of New York teams begin to laugh and point, let me remind them that it was just this past December 19th that the Giants fans vandalized Eagles fans' cars in New Jersey. Just before that, a Cleveland Browns fan tackled a child after a Browns loss.

This time last year, we were talking about an off duty police officer "arresting" a Jets fan in San Diego for cheering his team. The immediate point is that these actions are not isolated to just Philadelphia fans.

If you were to search online for "fan attacked" or "car vandalized", you would be stunned at how many pages there are that match the inquiry. Why is it becoming so common? Why are these actions occurring at such an alarming rate? These are questions that must be asked. This issue must be examined.

I asked a simple question to the readers of my work. I asked "how does a Philly fan justify this behavior?" Of course, I later extended the question to "how does a sports fan justify it?" There were three common rationales that continued to emerge when these questions were asked.

One, it's the booze. By the time the game begins, tailgaters are already drunk and have lost their inhibitions long before. They enter the stadium already in the wrong state of mind. As one reader points out,

Ban beers at games, and this will stop. I never understood why beer is sold at professional sporting events. There's no place for that, especially if kids are going to the games. -Leslie

Two, it's the act of cowardice. The more fans in the stands that favor the home team, the more there is a sense of bravery. The stadium crowds usually favor the home team 75% to 25% (and that's being generous to the opposition).

Those types of numbers make a fan feel like they have support from their fellow fans if there should be trouble in the stands. Therefore, they feel confident to make trouble in the stands.

One response that stood out to me to support this argument was from a Philly fan (also a friend and reader of my work). He says,

Whenever something happens in Philly it gets magnified more than anywhere else because of the fans reputation of doing these types of stupid acts. It is cowardly if you ask me. 99% of the fans are the home teams fans, the other 1% is the visiting team. So if an altercation happens, those in the majority, know they will have back up, where as those in the minority are screwed. I wish these idiots would be banned for life! I offer no excuse for the behavior of Philly fans but I also think that the media plays a large role in keeping this horrible (and deserving) reputation alive and well which for some reason gives some idiots a green light to do such heinous acts. COWARDS! -John

Three, it's just simply the act of ignorant people that don't know how to properly behave. It is their depth of rudeness and/or sense of entitlement to "have a good time" that causes them to act out. It's as if they can't have a good time unless they have made someone else miserable.

One such reply to this questions the morals.

Destruction of property is over the top, but as in so many cases, the reason people do it to Eagles fans is that they've been doing it to everyone else for years and they`re proud of it. As for what caused it, it was probably talk radio's fault. Come on guys, it's happening because some dirt bags get carried away. -Adam

After careful examination, I have come to the conclusion that it is all three. However, there is one more dominating factor; the public code of ethics and conduct in our society. Where are the manners? Publicly speaking, the concept of etiquette has gone by the wayside and has been replaced by something much more sinister, a nonchalant mentality.

This mindset has become common place and the contributing factor toward the acceptance of rudeness in our society. When it is no longer frowned upon to be rude to another human being in public when you're having a bad day, that is a sign of a deteriorating society.

When miscommunication becomes the accepted language, things are not right in that said society. Tempers are far too easily fed into and even welcomed to a point. Stadiums have prisons in anticipation of unruly fans.

They provide the elements for an atmosphere of unsettled anger and they expect people to give into that anger. That is not the most inspiring thing to know is it? What does that say about human nature? It says that we are expected to be uncivil and that incivility is welcomed.

Most people see these incidents as so isolated that they are insignificant. I do not. I see them as several lacerations. By themselves, they seem harmless on the surface, but combined a society can bleed to death. We use sports as entertainment. We want that entertainment to be physical.

We hope for it to make a small impact on our lives. However, just because our sources of entertainment are physical, does not mean we have to be the same way. There is such a thing as separating yourself from what you cheer for. In other words, the sport you are a fan of doesn't have to define you.

Too many people get caught up in taking pride in the misery of others when their teams lose. That is being a poor winner. In the same sense that there are people who get wrapped up in the emotion that sweeps them when their own teams lose. That is a poor loser.

The only way to change this mentality is to make a conscience effort to do so. Instead of basking in the misery of another fan's depression, we can choose to be good sportsmen about it. There is nothing wrong or anti-competitive about encouraging another fan when your team just beat their team.

There is nothing wrong with being civil. It doesn't make you less of a fan. It doesn't make you less passionate about your team. The opposite is true. It makes you more of a fan because it shows that you are a fan of the sport and of your fellow sports fans. That helps build character and respect within one's self that permeates outward toward others.

Perhaps with the advent of respect toward one another, we as a society, would begin to show respect in public. If that were to happen once again, then just maybe our society can change its present course.

We could return to the days of proper etiquette, even when our teams under-perform. Back to the days of good sportsmanship and fans of character, like those at the 1958 Championship game. It has to start with all of us. Hopefully, it will start soon.


  1. Fantastic Article Frank!!!! I loved it.

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