Crossing the Line from Fan to Foe

By Anelise Cimino

Sports fans are passionate people. Even the casual fan will get into a game and live and die for that team in that moment. This behavior is a daily lifestyle for many fans out there. People dedicate whole rooms, cars, wardrobes and even their bodies to their beloved sports teams (see Dedicated Sports Tats). I grew up a dedicated Pittsburgh sports fan since birth, just like my father, grandfather and great-grandfather. Many other kids grew up like this too. I learned that the Browns and Ravens are hated, that the Pirates will probably lose no matter who’s pitching and that Mario Lemieux was the greatest Penguin to ever pick up a hockey stick.

This being said, fans can be one of the biggest contributors and inhibitors to a sports team. There have been many instances in the past week, let alone the past weekend, that have shown the tremendous amount of passion and pessimism that revolves around sports — regardless of the type.

Let us begin on Friday. Who can forget Chipper Jones’ last game? It was memorable, but not necessarily in a good way. Every legend wants to go out a winner, but that didn’t hold true for Chipper on Friday night. Regardless of your opinion of the now infamous “infield fly,” the Atlanta fans showed their displeasure with the umpires’ call by throwing beer bottles, soda cans, trash and anything else they could find onto the field. The TV announcers called Atlanta fans unclassy, tasteless and denounced their behavior for millions to hear.

You know what? I don’t blame the fans. Bottom of the 8th, with a chance to win, I would probably have joined in too. Other fans in MLB stadiums across the nation probably would have reacted the same way. Lets just be thankful that a grenade didn’t land on the field like it did in the Asian Champions League quarterfinal in September (Asian Champions League Grenade Thrower).

Even though there was less than desirable behavior occurring for 19 minutes of the game, Braves fans exhibited respect and grace for one of their own, even in a losing effort. Chipper left to a packed stadium, a standing ovation and tears on several faces. The beauty of the moment outshined the trash throwing and boos because it was the end of an era. Babe Ruth said, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” Fans will remember this game not because Chipper was a hero, but because he left as a legend. 

Saturday brought us another day full of fandom. College football is the perfect scene to observe fans exhibiting both good and bad behavior. It’s typical to boo and bash the opposing team and exchanging niceties in the SEC is seen as odd and out of place. Hostilities are constantly high. This is all expected, so lets move on to when there is a play, a player or coaching decision that causes fans to boo their own team. As a fan, don’t we have that right though? I say, of course! We pay to see them and invest in the team too! However, fans cross the line when they choose to egg and roll a players house after a big loss (Fans Turn on Team). Passion for the game, during the game and after the game shouldn’t be displayed this way. Trash talk all you want, but carrying it into someone’s personal life is inexcusable. Be thankful that the whole football team doesn’t show up at your door to make you answer for it later.

Sunday is for futbol. No, not football, FUTBOL. All across the world, fans are waking up bright and early to begin their soccer Sunday. Soccer fans are notoriously the most passionate and dedicated fans in the world. College football and baseball fans would pale in comparison. Soccer fans literally live and die by their teams. The Deadliest Soccer Riot took place in Egypt and resulted in 72 deaths. There really is no end to the madness that goes on in soccer. Racism, death threats, sexism and sheer hate that has been boiling for decades go into these Sunday morning games. Countless attempts to eradicate these issues have happened, but they have not completely eliminated the behavior. Players don’t help when they refuse to shake each other’s hands and say racist remarks to opponents (Please see Luis Suarez and John Terry).

What I’m trying to get at here is that EVERY sport has problems with fans. There is no tried and true rule to being a fan, but think about what could happen before you boo, destroy or degrade your team. I know it’s silly, but the movie Holes comes to mind. Clyde “Sweet Feet” Livingston, a famous baseball player, thinks Stanley Yelnats stole his playing cleats and looks upon him with so much hate and distaste that it hurts me to watch. What if your favorite player looked upon you like that when they found out you called them a dirty name, egged their house or threw trash onto their field? It would hurt. I’m not saying you can’t do all these things. By God, you can, but think about the worst thing that could happen. What if you were banned from Braves games for the next year after throwing beer bottles onto the field? What if that football player found out who you were? What if you were prosecuted for the racist Tweets you made about a player on your favorite soccer team?

All I’m asking is that fans THINK before they allow their passions to potentially cost them something they love. Sports are not life and death (in most countries that is, see North Korea for exceptions). They are meant to be highlights in our lives where we can yell as loud as we want, enjoy the camaraderie with other fans and gain valuable memories with each other. I didn’t say being a fan was easy. We have weeks where we want to jump on the field with our team, but we can’t. Remember to think about the “what ifs” before you misbehave. They are all entirely possible.

 

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