Monday, March 26, 2012
Put Up Your Dukes... It's Football Time
This week has been incredible for any football fan out there. Free agency is always a nice reminder of why we love football and gives us a little taste of what to expect of our team in the upcoming season. This week was particularly active. Possibly the greatest quarterback of all time, entered free agency; Quite possibly the most polarizing quarterback was traded from Denver to New York; The Saints were exposed for their, well, unsaintly behavior. As most of you know, this wouldn’t be my blog if I didn't throw a philosophical twist into the mix, would it? Nor would it be my blog if I didn’t add a little of my own experiences.
Anyway, I would venture to say that some fans are about as crazy as a redneck at the demolition derby... or their mama’s weddin’. Before anyone is too offended, I am a self proclaimed redneck and darn proud of it. I am also a huge football fan and I have a lot of opinions, so here goes nothing.
Why are people so passionate about their sports teams? This is a problem from little league t-ball, all the way to the National Football League. I understand as well as the next guy, that watching your team go all the way and winning is amazing. First, the game is memorable for a lifetime, and secondly, you get bragging rights... especially towards your rival’s fans.
However, some of the things people say and do is just too much! What is the cost? Well, it could cost you your life.
In my home state of Maryland, a fifty person brawl started after one team overheard the other team questioning the fairness of the game. Profanity, racial, and gay slurs were spewed. This incident occurred over a game where the children were ages seven and eight. (http://dc.sbnation.com/2011/8/9/2353178/little-league-fight-maryland-hagerstown-sharpsburg). Now, even as a fan of the Redskins, where the fans have ruined more quarterback careers than there are days in the month, this is just wrong.
As it turns out, we parents have an issue with trying to live vicariously through our children. Does that sound remotely familiar to any of you out there? Does little Susie have two left feet, but you’ve convinced her how she loves ballet? Yes? Make sure your up to date on your health insurance and good luck with the therapy she will insist you go to with her when she is thirty.
We also tend to believe that our children’s performance is a reflection on our parenting skills. Imagine that! We are worried about what the world will think of us if little Johnny is a horrible football player. Despite the fact that he just reassembled your computer and wrote a book on Brain Surgery For Dummies, we still need all of the parents to accept the job we are doing through little league.
Parents also seem to think that throwing our children into sports, or drama club for that matter, will bring us emotionally closer to our children. Are they like us when we were kids? Is my child gifted in soccer like I was? Can we share these memories together later in life? No? Well at least our kids know we are out there screaming our hearts out for them to do well.
I guess the whole communication thing is just overrated. It is still my preferred method of staying emotionally connected to my kids.
If it is the memories parents are attempting to capture, we will definitely do that if our kids watch us being put into the back of a police car for fighting withother parents. Imagine the stories they will tell their kids when they relive asking daddy, “when will mommy be home? Will she have to go to jail forever?”
We are the same people that are die-hard fans of our local hockey, baseball, and football teams. We are faithful and loyal fans. We put on our jerseys, pull out the chips and dip, turn on our big screened t.v.’s, and whoop and holler for three straight hours. We all recognize these as acceptable behaviors. When do we cross the line into the graveyard of mobster mentality?
Even today as I write this, seventy-three people died in Egypt after their soccer team was suspended from playing. Without a doubt, this crosses the line! (http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/world/story/egypt-soccer-fans-troops-clash-1-killed-032412/) Unfortunately, this behavior is not limited to countries outside of the United States. In August of 2011, three people were shot and another man beaten in a preseason football game between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers. (http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2011/08/21/3-wounded-in-49ers-raiders-game-violence/).
As much as I’d love to limit the violence to certain countries or cities, the truth is, every city and state are susceptible.
I have multiple theories of my own as to why such violence has spread. I will share my own experiences and feelings, as well as that of psychologists.
In 1977, I was ten years old. I vividly remember watching the Superbowl at the Moose Lodge with my parents. I was no football fan, nor was I a fan of the Moose Lodge as it was geared towards adults and not children. In other words... I was bored to tears. But this particular night was different. There, on a huge t.v. screen in front of me, was the most beautiful colors I had ever seen. They looked like a picturesque sunset. The most incredible blue and orange combination ever dreamed of. It was the Orange Crush! The Denver Broncos. Immediately, I was in love. I became a Broncos fan despite living in Maryland. Sadly, I watched the Broncos lose to the Dallas Cowboys that night. But I followed the Broncos as much as a disinterested child of football could.
In 1984, Bob Irsay, like a snake in the grass, slid into the darkness on a Mayflower Moving truck and took the Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis. I personally was not a Colts fan, but my father was devastated... and then angry. He turned to the Redskins and hailed his undying loyalty to the burgundy and gold and Jack Kent Cook. I hailed my loyalty to my dad and moved the Broncos into my number two spot and instantly became a Redskins fan for life.
When I relocated to Denver, I thought how perfect this would be. I had my beloved Redskins to hail and my first love, the Broncos. Unfortunately, this feeling didn’t last long. As I watched and rooted for my Skins and donned their gear, Bronco fans began to question why my loyalty wasn’t towards the Broncos. Despite my explanations that they were my number two team, the Bronco fans continued their probing. “Do you even know anything about football?” I was asked. “Who’s the Redskins quarterback?”. “You live in Denver now, your number one loyalty should be to the Broncos”. There was also plenty of joy to spread my way as their team made the playoff year after year. While mine, without Jack Kent Cook, looked like a trailer park after a tornado hit.
One die-hard Bronco’s fan who owned a rescue mission for cats, went as far as to deny me adoption of a “her” cat. In her exact words: “my cats are Bronco’s fans”. Really? So they recognize my Skins jersey and told you personally how much they would object to living in a home with a Redskins fan? Maybe they turn on the game every Sunday and that is how you know they are Bronco’s fans. I left her “rescue” mission crying and feeling as if I had done something wrong for honoring my father and carrying on a tradition that quite frankly I am proud to carry! Within three years of living in Denver, I no longer loved the Broncos. All of the “joking” had pushed me like a bull in a bull fighting ring.
Wondering if I was an isolated case, I began to ask around. One guy who moved here from Kansas City remained a Chief’s fan, and raised his son as a Chief’s fan. His experience when he went to watch the Chiefs play the Broncos was to have Bronco’s fans throw cigarette butts and beer at he and his son.
My husband, Tom, also had a boss that relocated to Denver from California. He wasn’t what you would call a die-hard fan, but more of a leisure fan of the Raiders. After having been here for several years, Jason became so fed up with the Bronco’s fans pestering him about the Raiders, that he became a die-hard Raider’s fan. In his exact words, “I was treated so horribly that I decided to become a die-hard Raider’s fan.” He displayed Raider’s fan gear everywhere!
After asking around for several years, my suspicions were confirmed that anyone who is not a Bronco’s fan should either leave Colorado or just keep their mouths shut about their team.
Is this the case in every city? Having grown up in Maryland where we had Eagles, Bills, Redskins, Cowboys, and Steelers fans all brought together, I personally did not encounter any violence. The Eagles-Redskins games, however, were always incredibly rough with tail-gaiting parties that did lead to fights and injuries. Is it possible that there is more acceptance in these areas because the states are smaller and closer together? I suspect that it does have something to do with a forced tolerance due to location. Larger states in the west are more like small countries with isolation from surrounding states. The closet state to Colorado with a professional football team, for example, would be Arizona and Kansas. There is just not enough diversity to force tolerance.
I believe the combination of alcohol and pride contribute to violence throughout the world in sports. These two things alone give people motivation to behave in a manor in which they would not normally behave.
Taking a look at the headline stories from this week, again we see there was a lot of controversy surrounding the Peyton Manning trade. Most cities would be ecstatic to obtain Peyton Manning. It was the case in Denver too, with the exception of a very loud group who were angered by Tim Tebow’s replacement. Many people were highly upset that Tebow was traded to the Jets. Many Tebow fans did believe that he would be a Superbowl quarterback given time, due to his determination. However, Tebow’s fans tended to be very loud and boisterous. Or, as my husband would say, obnoxious.
Tebow owes his starting position on the team to these fans, because they chanted week after week: Tebow... Tebow... Tebow! Unfortunately for Tebow, this was also his demise. Not only was Kyle Orton never given a real opportunity with the fans on his side, but Brady Quinn was also tossed from the back-up position to the third spot. Pat Bowlen, John Elway, and John Fox are in the football business to win Superbowls. Their true feelings were that Peyton Manning was their best opportunity. How embarrassing would it be for the Bronco’s management and the City of Denver, to have Peyton Manning endure Tebow chanting week after week? The Bronco’s management did not want to chance this, hence the trade. Peyton Manning was a clean break for the Bronco’s management. They no longer had a media circus to worry about.
Fans agreed with Bowlen and Elway and were very upset by the media attention that went with Tebow. Many people in the business of football, and fans alike did not believe he was an effective quarterback. There were concerns that if the Bronco’s team were to revolve around Tim’s style of football, no other quarterback would be able to back him up effectively. This could lead to an entire season shut down if Tebow were to be severely injured.
In this case, we also have to look at one more controversial factor... religion. Tim Tebow was very polarizing in that many fans loved his open praise of Jesus, while other fans just wanted to watch football without discussing Jesus every game. Who’s right or wrong? No one is right or wrong! These are just two separate perceptions of what was expected of their quarterback every Sunday. It is wrong however, to wish injury on Peyton Manning because of the trade, as religious leader Pat Robertson did. (http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/pat-robertson-believes-peyton-manning-hurt-142935112.html).
Fans are obviously not the only people susceptible to violence as we saw with the Saints this week. Coaches and players alike become caught up in pride, winning, and hype. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams had a bounty program where players were awarded $1000.00 to any player who made extra hard hits on opposing team players; and $1500.00 to any player who injured an opposing team player. Gregg Williams used this bounty program in Buffalo with the Bills and in Washington with the Redskins.
The NFL set a precedent this week by suspending Gregg Williams indefinitely; Suspending Sean Payton for the entire season without pay (to the amount of $560,000.00); Assistant coach Joe Vitt was suspended for six games; GM Loomis was suspended for eight games; a $500,000.00 penalty was assessed for the Saints team and the NFL revoked their second round draft picks for both 2012 and 2013. Individual players are still awaiting their penalties.
Some believe these fines were too high. However, I do not believe you can put a dollar amount on someone’s life or health. The NFL also expects for their players and coaches to be something in which kids all over the world can look up to without embarrassment. I believe with the fan violence that seems to be spreading, the NFL hit the target with the penalties they have distributed.
Lastly, I’d like to pass on the opinion of experts on fan violence. Aggravated by alcohol, “There is a culture of aggression and masculinity that permeates out onto the fans,” said William Wiener, a sports psychologist in private practice in Manhattan.
“Having a conflict and not backing down seems more appropriate in this environment for some,” he said. “It becomes an outlet for their life’s aggression.” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/22/us/22stadium.html)
As a society, we have an overwhelming amount of pride. Because many people see their teams as an extension of their family, this pride can change from satisfaction of their teams accomplishments, to an over-inflated sense of success. We have looked at passion, alcohol, and for some states, isolation; As well as an overall feeling of life’s frustrations that go unaddressed, people are left with festering wounds that erupt on stadium parking lots.
Sadly, there are people that do pay the ultimate price... their life!