“Rage is an intense uncontrolled anger or a great force. An example of rage is someone screaming at the top of their lungs holding a bat and charging forward”
………. Miriam-Webster Dictionary.
In my last column, I wrote about the value of being a good fan. I talked about the enjoyment and pleasure that it brings and how, in many cases, such support actually plays a role in helping a favorite team win. I cited the Seattle Seahawks and how their noisy fans, in the eyes of Coach Pete Carroll, effectively make up the “12th man” giving visiting teams more to worry about. Also, the Green Bay Packers with its 100,000 shareholders were mentioned.
However, there is a dark-side! I call it “Fan Rage”. Most of us know and understand “Road Rage”. This is the same, but without the wheels.
So, I decided to take a look at a few selected incidents that took place over the past decade. New research has come about due to a great extent because of the increased violence in recent years among sports fans. There are some long-held ideas the link between highly competitive games and the fans they enthrall.
Both psychologists and sociologists now have come to the conclusion that much of the violence occurs when there are traditional rivalries, personal relationships involving participants, or many times possessing an overreaching ego, which tells the enraged fan that he knows more, then the coaches, or the officials.
“Fan Rage” is nothing new. This phenomenon has been around for centuries. In 532 A.D., the rivalry between supporters Blue and Green chariot-racing teams in Constantinople, (today: Istanbul), led to 30,000 deaths in the Nika Riots.
However, modern instances are numerous in all walks of sports and for multitude of reasons. Let’s look at a few examples.
In 1975, cyclist Eddy Mercx was viciously punched by a spectator as he climbed the Puy de Dome in the Tour de France. Earlier, he had won the Tour five times and at the time of the incident was leading. He finished the stage barely able to breathe and went to finish the Tour in second place overall.
In 1980 at London’s Wembley Arena, Boxer Marvin Hagler scored a three round knockout over Englishman Alan Minter. Many of Minter’s fans began to throw beer cans, bottles and other objects into the ring. The fighters had to be escorted out by Scotland Yard.
In 1984, a Braves/Padres game degenerated into a Beanball war. At least five Atlanta fans were dragged from the stadium in handcuffs after being part of a bench-clearing brawl.
In 2000 at Reading, Massachusetts, the beating death of a volunteer youth hockey coach, sent shockwaves throughout the country regarding the escalating violence being displayed among adults at youth athletic events.
Death is the epitome of “Fan Rage”. It is an unspeakable indication of how far rage can be carried. However, as heinous as the previous action was, what happened at Dodger Stadium on opening day 2011 was another indication how “Fan Rage”, in this case, fueled by alcohol, can get out of hand.
After the game, a San Francisco Giant fan named Bryan Stow was accosted in the Dodger parking lot. In front of a milling crowd and in the presence of his young children, two hooligans set him upon as he walked to his car. He was beaten to an inch of his life and was forever left Brain damaged, a paraplegic who will never walk again.
His only crime he was dressed in a San Francisco Giants jacket.
There have been countless studies as to what causes such outbursts of fury. Some researchers say it has a great deal to do with the easy access to violence on TV, or the massive number of video games which show little regard for life and limb giving impressionable minds with the belief that life and well-being are cheap commodities.
Others say it’s the ranting and raving of those who have the public’s ear emphasizing victory at whatever the cost may be. Sometimes it’s related to nationalism or as an outlet for social tensions.
Basically though, most studies agree. A person’s home atmosphere often spills out into how that person reacts in societal situations.
The days when we could go to a Ball Game, a Tournament, a Match, or a Race, just for the simple enjoyment seem to be gone. For a myriad of reasons: we are checked by security guards, we are not allowed to bring in certain items and we are constantly being scrutinized as we sit in the stands.
In many Ball Parks, because of unruly instances over the years, alcoholic beverages are not served after a definitive time. For example, that time in Baseball, is after the 6th inning. Also, because glass bottles and cans have been used as missiles of destruction. The beverages are served in plastic containers.
The times are tense. An afternoon at the Ballpark is supposed to relieve tension. It is supposed to be entertainment, not life, or death.
After all, they are just games.