Fan Violence Gives Sports a Black Eye
It's only a game.
For years, parents have said those very four words to any overly-emotional kid following a sporting event. It's an attempt to deflect the anger and sadness that a team or player inflicted upon the little one's heart, mind and soul.
But with a wave of serious fan violence incidents being reported in recent months, why aren't adults heeding their own advice?
On Sunday, a 23-year-old man was reportedly beaten outside MetLife Stadium by a group of people following the Jets-Chiefs game. While that man is hospitalized with multiple facial injuries, a 35-year-old man was arrested and charged with aggravated assault.
In August, numerous fights occurred inside San Francisco's Candlestick Park during an NFL preseason game between the 49ers and Raiders. The game between the Bay Area rivals didn't even count -- yet after the exhibition, two fans were allegedly shot in the parking lot.
It's not just limited to football. Following Major League Baseball's Opening Day in April, Los Angeles police spent weeks investigating a beating that San Francisco Giants' fan Bryan Stow allegedly suffered at the hands of two men dressed in Dodgers' attire. The 42-year-old Stow was nearly killed, and still faces a long recovery from his injuries.
When will it stop?
Fan violence is nothing new, and the list certainly isn't confined to the examples provided here. In some cases, it's aided by alcohol. In others, one's passion for a team is wrongly channeled into vicious behavior.
Too often, people don't think about the potential consequences of such activity -- such as lawsuits, liability, and jail time. You really want to risk your freedom over a recreational activity?
So far in my lifetime, I have attended roughly 400 professional sporting events. Throw in college events, and that number is somewhere around 550. Not once have I been in a fan altercation. I go to games to get away from the stresses of daily life -- not create new ones for myself.
Think of how silly you would look in front of other adults and children by getting into a fight at a sporting event. During a Mets-Braves game at Shea Stadium in the early 2000s, I watched and laughed as a group of fans about three sections away did battle in-between innings. The song that was playing over the P.A. system at that time? "Love Train," by the O'Jays. While they fought over an issue that was deemed so important, those people were only embarrassing themselves.
Can this epidemic of fan violence be slowed or stopped? Would such revisions ruin the overall fan experience at a sporting event? As numerous entities compete for your hard-earned dollars in a fledgling economy, those questions (and others) must be addressed by teams and leagues alike -- and soon.
Remember, it's only a game, and we should try to keep it that way.