At the breaking point: Zealotry and the NFL

By Julian Reed

Let me preface this article by detailing an important fact. I love sports as much as any human that walks this earth (no hyperbole intended). But as of late, I’m at the end of my patience level with sports fans. Not all sports fans, but the zealots.

After another death (by stabbing) at an NFL game Thursday night in Denver, I look at zealot fans, the NFL, and the breakdown of society in a multitude of ways with the greatest degree of disdain, shame, anger, and even some resentment.

Sports fandom has become a warzone (literally). When I see the fan fight videos on Youtube, read about the chaos and injuries on Twitter, it makes my stomach turn. In my head I think it’s in reference to some foreign conflict, dealing with military and government, when in actuality it’s quite simply idiots.

On so many levels it’s embarrassing and disgraceful the state of things. How common fights during sporting events and riots after them are. Widely understood (and accepted) as an integral part of the fan experience in the 21st century.

Barbarism of the highest order, meathead reign or whatever catchy comic relief spin you want to put on it, it is inarguably horrific.

(VIDEO: Football Season Is Under Way Texans Vs 49ers Fans Fight)

Let’s be clear, this is by no means me solely laying the blame at the feet of the NFL shield but a collectively group shared blame between sports leagues, fans, and society.

When one looks at the totality of the situation, it paints a picture that people could never imagine. The fact that people can’t take their kids to NFL games, many opt to stay home and watch the games instead because of the numerous fights, drunken idiots, vulgar language and tense nature of the in stadium experience. It goes without saying that the culture of idiocy and violence at games is unacceptable.

(VIDEO: Fight at Jets vs Colts Game 2012)

As an NFL fan, I cannot enjoy my favorite team live because I fear for my life and the lives of my loved ones. Many share in this belief. That is an incredible black eye for the NFL. At current, they are unable to protect the consumers of their product.

When is it enough for us as a society to say no more? How many more stabbings, savage beatings, and riots are we willing to accept?

(VIDEO: Fight at the 49ers game vs Cardinals Oct. 13, 2013)

Football is an incredible game, teeming with excitement, suspense and drama. Those feelings aren’t exclusive to the players and coaches on the field. Fans naturally share in those emotions, which is what makes the experience so riveting. But the psychological problem for the NFL security detail is a sophisticated one.

How do fans gradually disengage from the emotion when there is no direct gratification or reward for them (unlike players/coaches) at the end of a game?

Mix in alcohol, hooliganism, and (in some cities like San Francisco and Oakland) a gang element.

The byproduct is a loose fitting delicate orchestra like chaos that truly has no immediate full solution short of turning games into miniature police states.

Is that what it’s come to? I think so. The level of violence over a long period of time in my mind says maybe a police state like atmosphere is necessary. The alcohol and idiocy at games isn’t going away, so ultimately it might be time for a true marshal law era to be ushered in order to protect fans from themselves.

Is that fair for the casual fan that goes to a game to have a good time peacefully? No. But unfortunately, throughout history, the masses have had to pay for the idiocy of the few.

(VIDEO: Eagles fans fighting Bucs fans at game)

I think the sacrifice of some individual freedoms at games is a more than fair trade off to provide people a place where they can enjoy football on Sundays without fear of losing their lives, and or being seriously injured.

The truth is, there is no easy solution to these problems. Society over the last decade plus has broken down in a variety of ways. Education, religion, family, have massively collapsed alongside the economy. Sports (high school, collegiate, pro) have benefited immensely from that reality.

The popularity of live sports grows every year. The energy and care many originally invested in those other pillars have overwhelmingly been placed into sport (and to alcohol and escapism for that matter). This reality has created an imbalance that rears its head with the level of passion millions invest into meaningless sports games.

Passion that has transformed a civilized society based on rules and laws into chaos.

(VIDEO: Fans Fight at 49ers vs. Colts Game on Sept. 22, 2013)

No regard for women and children, no regard for common decency, a drunken aura of idiocy rules the roost. The NFL is at fault for not doing more to manage things, we as fans are culpable for allowing this culture to be accepted as the norm, and society is at fault for leading many to replace life with pro sports.


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