Typically in the morning, on my short commute from Woodberry to Johns Hopkins, I listen to the local sports radio channel, 105.7 The Fan. I really enjoy the hosts banter and opinions. Today, I had to turn it not because of the hosts but because of my disappointment in the people calling into the show. Last week, there was a terrible event where a fan was seriously injured at an Orioles game at Camden Yards. The story.
This morning, 105.7 was having a discussion of the incident. Steve Davis, one of the morning show hosts, whose opinions about vulgarity and drunken fan behavior are essentially the same as mine, was interviewing callers about the incident. It was disgusting to hear callers essentially say that the victim should have known better and not worn a Yankees hat to the park that day. Personally, I find the “blame the victim” mentality disgusting.
We’re talking about sports. This fan was watching a game. I don’t have a problem with gentle ribbing and “look at the scoreboard” type jawing, but vulgar harassment and physical assault should have absolutely no place in the grandstands. I’ve worn my Ravens gear in Pittsburgh and smiled as Steelers fans inform me that the Super Bowl champions suck (at which point I remind them of who was the champ this year). It’s all good. I’ve told my friend Josh that I believe Tom Brady is a crybaby, and therefore, since Josh is a fan, must also be a crybaby. Sure, the logic is faulty on many levels, but it is intended to bring a smile. It is intended to create a sense of community around the fact that we are all fans, regardless of who we are a fan of.
It should be irrelevant what gear you are wearing. You should not have to worry about your safety or feel threatened by vulgar fans around you.
Let us take it a littler further, shall we? I have to wonder if the callers who said the victim should have known better are the same people saying women at nightclubs in short skirts should have known better after they are raped.
The idea that we are entitled to a good time even at the expense of other people is insane. This is the root of bullying, which as adults, we are quick to shun in teenagers and children. As adults, though, we pursue it. I would be lying if I said I haven’t. We all do. We all judge and criticize people and mock and tease them. Those of us who are more civilized do it behind their back and couch it in gentle phrases (maybe). Those less civilized will get in others’ faces or throw beer at them.
They aren’t different. The present consequences may be different. The gossip style bullying may remain secret and the in-your-face may end up with hospitalization, but they are both harmful, self-satisfying and wrong.
It is never okay to be vulgar or violent. After going to the Orioles-Yankees game a couple weeks ago, I know I will never bring Ariella to one of those games. Honestly, every Orioles game I’ve been to so far this year with Ariella has left me cringing with people yelling at opposing fans, “Fuck you.” Thanks bud, I really want to explain the word Fuck to my five-year-old. One of the announcers this morning had a great idea, “One f-bomb and you’re out.” I like it.
It is awesome to be passionate about sports and feel the camaraderie of fandom, but ultimately, we are talking about a game.
One of the things we all love about ‘Merica is “freedom.” We should be free to wear what we want and not be afraid of being assaulted. Saying, “He should’ve known better,” indicates you believe he should have surrendered his freedom. That means you should surrender yours, too. It also says that we aren’t civilized enough as a society to behave acceptably or police behavior inside the community and should at all times be prepared for violence. That sounds extreme, but I think it is where this type of thinking leads.
Sporting events and anywhere else where large gatherings of people are will become less fun and more of a police-state as more incidents of this nature occur.
If you are an idiot and planning to get drunk, do us a favor and stay home and watch the game from the comfort of your living room. I don’t want to hear about your sex life while on the light rail. I don’t want to watch you push a cop. I don’t care how much you hate the “fucking Yankees.” I don’t want to hear it. I don’t want to see it.
If I think I am better than the violent and vulgar people around me while spreading and encouraging gossip, I am sorely mistaken. While my gossip may be more culturally acceptable, it is just as selfish and wrong.
I want my daughter and eventually my son to love sports the way I do, but I shudder at what other things I’m exposing them to when I take them to games.
Finally, thanks Kevin Cowherd of the Baltimore Sun for a brief but great blog.