In the wake of the shooting outside of Candlestick Park last week and not long in the shadow of the near fatal beating of San Francisco Giants fan Brian Stow at Dodger Stadium, I've been thinking about fan violence in professional sports. Growing up in the Bay Area, I went to numerous sporting events at Candlestick Park and the Oakland Coliseum. They both had reputations for "being rough" (usually defined, at least in part, by a few fist fights in the cheap seats) but it seemed to be that if you stayed away from certain sections you would do no more than observe the fisticuffs. As far as what was reported, the violence ended there in the stadium (likely in the drunk tank).
Of the many sporting events I had been to in the Bay, the one thing I'd never been to was a Raider game. The obvious reason is number one (hate 'em), but number was the lingering pit in my stomach (is this okay?). I got over that in 2005 and went to see my beloved Broncs take on the Silver and Black in what was usually the friendly confines (thinking of A's games -- as they are my team in MLB) of the Coliseum. I wrote a post about that experience on the following site:
As you see (if you took the time to check the thread) there are a lot of opinions about how I was treated. Generally, though, most Raider fans seemed to think what I did and how I handled myself was correct (or at least acceptable). It's hard to say, however, how close at any given time I was to being attacked. I can only say I wasn't (and I'm glad for it). I can also say my wife (who was with me) does not want me to ever go back to a Raider game and has forbid me from bringing our son.
I have also been to a number of games at Qualcomm to see the Broncos take on the Chargers and never had more than the passing insult (which I think one should reasonably expect in a visiting team's venue -- particularly when donning the opposing colors).
There's a lot to discuss here (I think), so I'll lay my personal beliefs out regarding the issue(s) of fan violence:
*I believe fans should be able to go to any stadium they want to wearing whatever team jersey they want to. I believe those same fans who exercise this right should recognize their position as guests and act accordingly. I also think guest fans should expect a certain amount of verbal abuse. There is a line that I would define as fighting words, challenges and excessive swearing. However, I do not believe the mere act of showing up at an opposing team's stadium (even a hated rival) in the opposing team's jersey is justification for violence upon said guest.
*I believe physical violence in response to anything involving a being a fan of and/or watching a sport is silly (I make the differentiation there because playing a sport brings up a different set of, imho, more defensible excuses for physical violence -- though even there, that's not nearly carte blanche -- just more defensible via "heat of the moment" of the actual participant).
*I am concerned about what I'm perceiving as the escalation of violence -- from (non-coma inducing) fist fights to shootings.
I look forward to the discussion and hearing about your thoughts on opposing fans in Mile High, being an opposing fan (yourself) in someone else's park and all the responsibilities and considerations those situations entail.