It’s not so much that sports fans are stupid as much as it is that they can do stupid things. I don’t feel out of line saying that, because I’m convinced it’s true and I know that I’m not an exception. We’re stupid, but not everyone is stupid in the same way.
That’s what I tell myself as I’m walking outside of the Meadowlands. The 2007 NFL season is set to kick off, and I don’t know then how great it will be. I don’t know about the 23 touchdown passes that Tom Brady will throw to Randy Moss. I don’t know about Wes Welker. I don’t know about Spygate. I don’t know about David Tyree. I know about none of that yet, and I don’t care. I’m dreaming, because I’m at my first NFL game.
-“Brady, you suck!”
-“Yeah, Brady! Go back home!”
-“The only good thing in New England is the clam chowder!”
That brings me back to reality, in part because I happen to agree with this fiery New Yorker that few things in life are as good as New England clam chowder. I’m a Patriots fan in J!E!T!S! country and so, I’m fair game.
Throughout the game, the insults thrown my way are never too horrible. Frankly, they lack originality. It’s always a lame pun on my jersey, which reads “12 BRADY” on the back. And anyway, the Patriots quickly run away with the game, winning 38-14. But I don’t gloat too much. The Jets fans are mad (unlike myself) and drunk (a little like myself). And when people are mad and drunk, they do even more stupid things.
On Oct. 7, 2012, Chiefs offensive guard Eric Winston took offence with what he believed had been stupidity on the part of the team’s fans. In the game against the Baltimore Ravens, starting quarterback Matt Cassel got injured and, depending on how you see it, fans cheered when backup Brady Quinn replaced him. After the game, a 9-6 defeat for the Chiefs, Winston made an epic rant to reporters.
Surely, you’re familiar with this by now. Players aren’t gladiators. In ancient times, the crowd would decide the fate of the survivors as part of the famous panem et circenses mantra of Rome. Gladiators would battle and, depending on how well they had performed, they would die or survive. But this is different – football isn’t bread and circus. It’s just sports. It’s just entertainment for the fans. And it’s just a job for the players.
This is all true. There is a prevalent sentiment among fans that they believe they are entitled to do whatever they please at a sporting event, so long as they have paid for a ticket. And, well, that’s a faulty logic, but this world of ours is one of entitlement – what else is new, really?
Rather, let’s give a little credit to the Chiefs fans here, and accept that Winston is possibly (or should it be probably?) wrong and that they weren’t cheering an injury to the starting quarterback of their beloved football team. Instead, maybe they were cheering on the arrival of Brady Quinn – except that nobody should ever cheer on the arrival of Brady Quinn. Or maybe the fans were hoping to tell ownership how frustrated they are with the current state of the once mighty Kansas City franchise.
But again, this is a faulty logic, because the fans that do criticize ownership at Arrowhead Stadium are still attending home games. Ownership will hurt for money, or it will not hurt at all. Maybe that’s simplistic, but I believe it’s accurate.
Fans are stupid, but that doesn’t mean every fan is by him- or herself. It’s groupthink. In a crowd, no one truly sticks out and because of that, anyone can do just about anything. What’s more, it’s not restricted to football. There may not be anybody more ruthless than soccer fans. Riots are a dime a dozen in the sport, but that’s not all. What is the name that the Juárez Indios fans give themselves? El Kartel – as some sort of twisted homage to none other than La Linea (i.e. the Juárez drug cartel), which, well, effectively runs Ciudad Juárez, home of the Indios, and is responsible for so much of the violence in the city.
Further, as anyone who has watched the excellent Two Escobars knows, Andrés Escobar suffered hell in his native Columbia after scoring an own goal during the 1994 FIFA World Cup. But the stupidity of soccer fans doesn’t stop at violence or rioting. There’s blatant racism and other weird displays that might be even worse.
Hockey, too, is no stranger to fandom controversy. In 2011, Canucks fans rioted after their team lost a seventh game at home in the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, and most of them weren’t exactly like the Sleeping Beauty and Prince Charming from the picture that traveled the world.
In Montreal, the Habs faithful are equally ruthless, if not even more so. That’s why they booed Patrice Brisebois for absolutely no reason at the turn of the millennium, after he had signed a new four-year contract that would pay him $12 million. The fans only stopped after then-GM Bob Gainey called them “gutless bastards” in the media. It’s also why I decided not to wear my Flyers jersey to the Bell Centre for Game 3 of the 2010 Eastern Conference Final. The Canadiens won the game 5-1, and I decided to simply blend in for the evening. It’s the same crowd who is notorious for having rioted after series wins, in 2010 as well as just about every year that the team does win a series – which, admittedly, is not all that often.
It’s stupid to come back after a lockout, but that’s what fans did in 2005 after the lost NHL season, and that’s what they will do whenever this second lockout ends. Of course they’ll be back. There’s nothing that one Roberto Luongo shutout or that a race to mediocrity can’t fix for Canucks and Leafs fans. They’ll pack the stands and cheer on.
And you know what? So will I.