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the devils made ’em do it, or the shadow side of fandom

September 13, 2011

[Welcome to the latest installment of Chasing Maybes, a self-imposed challenge to live beyond my comfortable edges.  Join me on my experiential ramble through Trivial Pursuit categories.  I’m working my way through September, chasing adventures related to Sports and Leisure.]

First of all, I want to thank you all for your copious and varied opinions on my study of football.  My request for your thoughts on the subject elicited several messages.  One friend suggested picking two favorite teams — one college and one pro — and immersing myself in the study of each.  Some of you encouraged me to join a fantasy football league in order to delve into football culture, have a stake in weekly games, and learn background information about the players.  Several of you advised me to just start watching football games, asking questions along the way.

I plan to take as much of your advice as I can.  My husband (who is a member of three fantasy football leagues and the commissioner of two) has generously ordained me as his partner in making weekly picks.  I’ll let you know how all of that goes.  [An aside:  in the past, I’ve had marginal success in NCAA basketball tournament brackets by picking teams whose names I like.  I’ve always thought “Gonzaga” has such a nice ring to it.  Not sure Steve will permit this method for his Survivor Pool, but I’ll let you know.]

The intensity of your feelings about how I should approach the study of football led me to ponder the subject of sports fanaticism in general.  As someone who has never played organized sports or felt an overwhelming loyalty to any particular team, I feel equipped to observe sports frenzy from a comfortable — and relatively unbiased — distance.

I think sports fandom brings out the best and the worst in people.  Today, I’m going to write about the worst.

image by Drabik Pany via Flickr

Consider, first, this family’s legal tug-of-war over a pair of Duke basketball tickets.  Sister 1 is suing Sister 2 over the transfer of two season tickets once belonging to their deceased father.  I suppose everyone mourns in her own way, but  really?  I mean, Duke’s good and all, but it is no Gonzaga.

image by bethd821 via Flickr

And did you hear about Brian Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan, paramedic, and father of two who was beaten nearly to death by two Los Angeles fans at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day?  I hadn’t, until I approached the Sports and Leisure category of this project.  It seems Stow’s only crime was cheering for the “wrong” team, and now he’s fighting for his life in a San Francisco hospital.

I was also shocked to read about the violence taking place at San Francisco 49ers games, where a 24-year-old man was shot six times in the stomach and a 26-year-old man was beaten nearly to death.  No arrests have yet been made in those cases.

I’ll admit, reading through these stories thoroughly disgusted me.

Then I read a little more closely and noted that the suspects in the Stow case both had prior arrest records for violent crimes.  I also read that the outbreaks of violence at last month’s 49ers games might be attributable to gang activity.  Lastly, I considered that the Dorton sisters’ lawsuit over Duke basketball tickets likely has very little to do with basketball at all.

I remembered this footage of Black Friday shoppers brawling over coffee makers at a Georgia Wal-Mart.

Though I’ve never played organized sports, shopping is an athletic endeavor for which I’ve spent a lifetime training.  I’ve never rioted or rumbled with anyone during a shopping excursion, but these Black Friday rampages reminded me that humans bring their humanity, or lack thereof, wherever they go.  Athletic events, Wal-Marts, funerals, whatever…  We all come as we are, marinating in whatever emotional stew we carry with us.

I try to remember this

Image from fffound.com via Pinterest

when I am surrounded by strangers.  It helps.

So, I realize I’ve written a lot about the dark side of sports fandom.  I know I owe you some light — and there is a whole lot of light — so stay tuned.

Today, I hope you have front row tickets to the battle for kindness.  Don’t forget your face paint, and thanks for showing up.

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