The most talked-about topic in sports last week was the San Francisco Giants’ sweep against the Detroit Tigers. What didn’t garner nearly as much of the media’s attention was the devastation bestowed upon the victors’ home city by celebrating fans. As a Bay Area native, reading about the damage inflicted upon the city by the Bay by its own residents evoked feelings of shame and disgust. This was by no means the first of its kind.
Detroit 1984: the Tigers beat the Padres in the World Series. Denver 1998: the Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl. Boston 2004 and 2007: The Red Sox win two World Series in four seasons. Philadelphia 2008: The Phillies win the first championship for their city in 25 years. Los Angeles 2009: The Lakers beat the Celtics in the NBA finals. The list goes on. So what do all of these victories have in common? In every case, fans of the victorious team rioted in their home city post-win. In some cases, fans were killed in the violent chaos. In all cases, fans were hospitalized for serious injury and arrested for unruly behavior, causing millions in damages to their respective cities. Clearly there is a pattern here. Sure, sports lovers go crazy when their team wins it all.
Glancing at sports rioting history, the rest of the world normally reacts in a much more consistent manner. Take for example, Vancouver, Canada in 1994 and again in 2011 after the Canucks lost the Stanley Cup. Tens of thousands of fans filled the streets, starting fires, looting stores and brawling. In Istanbul just earlier this year, when the Fenerbahce soccer club lost the league title, fans went nuts. Flairs were shot onto the field and mayhem ensued. Also just this year, violence broke out in Dakar, Senegal when the national team lost the African Cup of Nations qualifying match to Ivory Coast. None, however, can top the tragedy that occurred in a 2001 soccer match in Ghana. When the trailing team’s fans realized a loss was imminent, they began throwing bottles and chairs onto the field. Police sprayed tear gas into the stands, which resulted in a stampede that killed 120.
In all of these cases, fans turned into monsters and acted inexcusably. However, in looking at the causes behind the riots, there is an unfortunately logical explanation. When the effects of alcohol, extreme emotion and mob mentality collide, bad things happen. People tend to form a deep psychological connection with their home team. When that team finally loses the big game after a season of anticipation and hope, fans can go off the deep end, resulting in death and destruction. It’s a sad truth, but nonetheless a truth around the world—except in America.
Right here, in “the greatest country on earth”, fans don’t react so logically. In the grand ol’ US of A we flip logic on its head, and beat the crap out of our cities after a victory. Hours after the Giants clinched the championship with an extra-inning game four win in Detroit, the faithful erupted. Thirty-six people were arrested, with 23 reported felonies. Fires were set ablaze in city streets, cars turned over, and city bus windows smashed in. The low point of the night was when fans set a mini bus on fire, its driver and riders narrowly escaping the flames through the back door.
Meanwhile, in the defeated city of Detroit where the game was actually played, there was nothing to report.
So the big question is “Why?” Why after a victory, when fans should be swelling with pride for their home city and its success, do Americans choose to cause massive destruction that devastates their city and its reputation? How do these fans’ despicable behavior, wasting millions of their very own tax dollars, constitute celebration? These actions make little sense, yet cause extensive devastation, time after time in this country. It is a counter intuitive pattern that spectators’ feelings of jubilation repeatedly manifest themselves in the form of violent riots, and it needs to be stopped. Sure, the rest of the world may be poor losers, but at least they can win with dignity. America certainly can’t say the same.
Loren may be reached at [email protected]