Nic Gibbs |Staff Writer|
A fan is no longer a fan when he or she forgets the humanity of the men and women who play the game and the people who follow it. The root of fan is fanatic but recently that word has been tainted by the actions of a few.
On opening day at Dodger Stadium, San Francisco Giant fan Bryan Stow was beaten within an inch of his life by men wearing Dodger jerseys.
This tragic incident has forced the Dodger and sporting community to look at fan safety very closely and rightly so. Fan violence in the United States is often considered tame compared to the violence seen at European sporting events.
The line between fanatical and militant, hothead or zealot, may be closer than we wish to believe, but as fans we are asked to blindly follow our team through good and bad. We unconditionally love and support our team, but our zeal can sometimes take us over the edge.
Fan violence is common in the Los Angeles area, and baseball isn’t the only sport involved. The Los Angeles Lakers are the two time defending NBA Champions, and fans celebrated its second championship much like its first: with riots.
So what makes Stow’s attack different? The only thing that Stow did wrong was wear the colors of the other team. Stow did nothing else to provoke the attack.
As a fan, I enjoy seeing fellow fans both for and against my team cheering with all their might. I am fanatical about my team, but I would not have a reason to cheer if I did not respect and acknowledge the competition. The human being, not a Giant fan or a Dodger fan, but a human being sitting next to me in the stands may have a different sports experience, but for them it is just as powerful as mine and that is to be respected.
These feelings of disrespect may have many different origins and may come from the owners of these teams who ask for our undivided allegiance.
One of the most beautiful things about sports is its ability to comfort and distract us during times in our lives where we could use a few hours of escape. Ken Burns documentary “Baseball” chronicles our nations use of baseball to distract us during some of our darkest times. The documentary shows a time when soldiers played the game during the Civil War on fields yards away from enemy fire.
Ted Williams, Yogi Bera and Jackie Robinson are only a few names of men who battled on the baseball field as well as the battlefield. These are true American heroes.
There is little doubt that for over a century sports have always been personal. Our country’s history cannot be told without the games that litter its fields and the legends who filled them. When New Orleans was down, the Saints won a Super Bowl and invigorated the city with hope.
This is what I love about sports, its ability to give us hope. Even if it’s even for a day, an offseason or an inning. We are a part of a general public of sports fans that represent our team. Somewhere down the line we equated hatred with fandom and in doing so have done ourselves a disservice.