Yesterday, in Italy, a soccer match was delayed due to the fact that the fans got overly rowdy. How rowdy you say? They were throwing flares at Dida, a goal keeper. He was, unfortunately, hit in the head with one of those flares and suffered first degree burns to his shoulder. Now, we all remember the incident a few months ago when Ron Artest launched himself into the stands to attack a fan. Here in America, the general public went insane. A few days after the Artest incident, I discussed this issue with a few other faculty members. Most of them found it upsetting and deplorable. Here's the thing though. The fan, though acting incorrectly, obviously loved his team and probably believed that he was sticking up for Ben Wallace by throwing his cup at Artest. Am I defending the actions of a crazy fan? No, but there are multiple levels of fanaticism. There's the casual fan who likes the team. The fan who always wears the team's colors on gameday. This goes all the way up to the fan who believes that he or she has to stand a certain way, or eat a certain item, or do some kind of ritual at a specific time in order for his team to win. I knew a guy who, whenever the Mets had runners on first and second, had to turn his hat inside out, hold a drink in his right hand, and the progam in his left. All of this, because the Mets had once scored when he sat this way, so he did it everytime. I don't know if he still does it, but I wouldn't be surprised.
This goes beyond sports, however. There is a joke that if fans of Star Trek and fans of Star Wars were put in the same room, they would brawl. Probably in character, but they would still fight anyway. There's a reason the term "Fanboy/Fangirl" was invented. For sports, these people are known as diehards. If a person can rattle off the names of every character and every line from a film, then how is that any different then knowing who the starting nine were in the first game for the Colorado Rockies?
Back to the point. I remember a time when Philadelphia fans booed Santa Claus. Santa Claus! Still, if that's the worst we as fans can do, then we have a long way to go before we can equal what happens elsewhere in the world. I don't recall anyone ever shouting, "He's a rapist," when Kobe was playing. In Mexico, the fans started shouting, "Osama," at the American Soccer team during the World Cup qualifying match. There's a reason why certain matches in Europe are played in empty stadiums: the fans are extremely passionate about their teams. Have you seen that commercial for Fever Pitch where Jimmy Fallon's character ranks the important things in life? "I say Red Sox, Sex.....and breathing." That would be considered barely a blip in other parts of the world. I once saw a Euro Cup match between the French and the Germans. At one point, a German player's leg was broken, and the bone was sticking out of the skin. If that happened here, the crowd would go quiet, and many of the players would circle up and pray for him to be ok. That night, the other team was not as merciful, and the French fans cheered and even through bottles at him as he lay on the field.
So what's the point? Well, there are a few: 1. we Americans, though ugly at times, are not at a level of fanaticism (outside of religion) as the rest of the world. 2. If the fans really love their team, they won't try to hurt the other team (remember that the next time your star player leaves and returns on another team. No batteries should be thrown). 3. If you can't be civil, you won't get to watch a game that you love.
I hope that Dida is ok, and I hope the Italian Prime Minister, who owns part of AC Milan, puts his foot down on this subject.