Should you be afraid to cheer for your favorite sports team?

By Justin D'Andrea
September 28, 2011

I thought there was only one way to get into a brawl  in the city and that is by wearing different colors than the home team.

After hearing recent national reports of brutality being taken place in sport complexes, I know now that sportsmanship is a concept that even grown men cannot understand.

How many more times must blood be spilled in American sports stadiums?  A fan should not feel uncomfortable going to a road game wearing the visitors’ colors.

There have been no fan riots in the U.S., like the riot in  the Stanley Cup Finals when the Canucks lost against the Bruins, but would you ever imagine that a fan could get shot in America for wearing the wrong shirt?

One incident of fan violence that was extremely disturbing to me was when violence marred a weekend preseason game in August, when the San Francisco 49ers played a game against the archrival Oakland Raiders.

Three people were hospitalized after two men were found shot in the parking lot at around 8 p.m., and another man was beaten unconscious in a bathroom inside the stadium between 7:15 and 7:30 p.m. The following day, the 49ers strengthened security at home games, including banning tailgating after kickoff and warning fans that rowdy behavior won’t be tolerated.   The team is even considering canceling future preseason games with the Raiders.

Another recent incident that took place in the San Francisco Bay  area nearly five months before the violence at Candlestick Park was the beating San Francisco Giants  fan Bryan Stow took from two Los Angeles Dodgers fans.

The teams’ neighborhood rivalries could be a factor in the violence, but changes have to be made before fans behave like gladiators in the colosseum.

The violence in sports is not only to be blamed on the fans but also the players.  I can remember accounts of violence taking place during Georgetown’s goodwill basketball tour in China, and its ugly on-court brawl.

Fans were always under the impression their biggest risk at a game was a foul ball, not foul play.  Why should fans be afraid to cheer for their favorite team?

I am a person that takes pride in my favorite teams, and made the stupid decision of wearing a Pittsburgh Panthers jersey when I was going to a Rutgers football game.  During the second quarter,  I was harassed for 10 minutes by three middle-aged men.   I was 13 at the time, I can only imagine what would have happened if I was in my twenties.

There is no easy answer to solve fan violence but there are some precautions that can be taken.  Teams need to hire more staff members, more police officers, have a zero tolerance policy for fan harassment and possibly get rid of alcohol in stadiums.

“This is a family outing, for residents and visitors and people who want to see the game; not for people to look for people they don’t like, then saying bad words, then getting into it,” Ed Lee, the mayor of San Francisco, said. This is a message that all sports fans need to understand.

We need to get back to respecting our opponents and stop creating problems.

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Justin D'Andrea

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