Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hostile, Angry Colts Fans

For those who don't know, my wife is a die-hard Redskins fan. She scored a ticket in the end zone for Sunday's Colts/'skins game (thanks to Evan, my brother-in-law!), so she got to see her two favorite teams play each other from great seats. We had high hopes for the Redskins; a friend called from Las Vegas to tell us the best odds were on the Redskins winning by 40 points. They ended up losing, but it was a good game to watch.

For me, at least. I was watching from home, text messaging Laura whenever the Redskins did something cool. Laura was trapped in the stands with fifty thousand angry Colts fans. I'd like to believe they weren't all actively hostile and surly, but the ones around her definitely were. The big guy in front of Laura informed her that he wasn't originally planning on standing, but since he had a 'skins fan behind him he was going to do his best to block her view. And he meant it. The woman a few seats down cursed like a sailor and kept wishing debilitating injuries on Redskins players. These were specific people, but they reflected the general mood of the crowd. Laura had a genuinely awful time. She would've much preferred to see the game on TV, even with the poor reception from our homemade antenna, than have the experience she did Sunday. I suspect she would've probably preferred dental work. She's thinking this will be her last Colts game from the stands; after this, even if she's cheering the Colts, the evil fans will leave a bad taste.

I don't know why it surprised me, but it did. I had expected Colts fans to be generally good-natured: more "Go Blue! Woo hoo!", and less "I hope Clinton Portis [Redskins running back] gets his spine broken!". Laura spent most of the game sitting on her hands trying not to draw any attention to herself. When people get this vitriolic and hateful they're forgetting that it's just a game. And spending any time actively wishing harm on complete strangers is bad for you.

One second while I turn off my cheerful idealism. Ahh, there. Now that I think about it from a slightly more cynical viewpoint, a team needs this rabid level of fan support. You'd have to take the game pretty seriously in order to do what the league needs you to do: be willing to spend $100 on a jersey and $75 on a ticket. Professional sports franchises are businesses, supported entirely by the goodwill of people willing to shell out huge chunks of cash to support the team -- people willing to buy ridiculously overpriced licensed merchandise; people willing to buy expensive tickets to seats that give you a worse view of the actual game than you'd get sitting at home watching on television; people willing to patronize businesses that support your team; people willing to vote for a politician based solely on their support for spending $600 million dollars of public money to give a team owner a new stadium. If Indy's are any indication, local sports journalists tend to encourage this kind of hateful attitude. And merchandise backs it up. You can get pro football shirts that depict Calvin peeing on a Dallas Cowboys helmet, with the caption, "Dallas Sucks, T.O. Swallows".

I remember hearing people talk about all the positive benefits of sports when I was in school. I don't recall them talk about the importance of teaching children meaningless spite and anger....


David said...

I definitely agree with your take on the pointless mean-ness that so many sports fans seem to embrace - it's one reason I could never get into following team sports as a fan of a specific team. But at least in the US the fans tend to let go of their stronger feelings once the game is finished. There are places here in the UK where you run the risk of getting jumped in the street if you show the wrong team colors in certain parts of town on game day. Especially if the home team loses...

Chris said...

Hey, Jeff's talkin' sports. I'll give my 2 cents worth.

The Colts fans ARE getting rediculous! I am a Steeler fan and have been since I started watching football (I'd say around '78). I take a lot of greif for this since I don't all of the sudden like the Colts because they're a winning team and I'm from Indiana. But when I started watching football the Colts were in Baltimore. I can take the fun pokes I get from relatives and friends that know me, but I don't need random, jump on the bandwagon Colts fans giving me shit.

For instance, the last two home football games I have worked at the Artsgarden. I come decked out in my ridiculously overpriced licensed Steeler merchandise and have had random people spew their venom at me. The first time I was walking down the street and a guy looks me up and down and says, "The Steelers, I hate you and I don't even know you!" The second was a guy who looked at me in the Artsgarden and told me that I better take my shirt off because I'm in the wrong town to be wearing it. So I politely told him, "Tough Shit!"

I could even take this from strangers if they were just joking around and being fun about it (because I do this in fun), but both of these guys were pissed. Which leads me to my next point. I realise these are just two idiots out of some nice folks that talk to me and aren't hateful. But these two dolts represent what happens when a team starts winning and people start jumping on the wagon. I don't believe that the folks that are mean are the true fans. These people aren't in it for the all around enjoyment of sports. They're just assholes, period. And there's usually jealousy envolved. BECAUSE THE COLTS CAN'T BEAT THE STEELERS WHEN IT COUNTS!!! Or anyone else in the playoffs for that matter. (See, there's that fun side I was telling you about.)

So tell Laura that I feel her pain. I don't dislike the Colts either. They're actually a fun team to watch play and have one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game. Not to mention all the hilarious TV commercials he does. I wouldn't mind seeing them win the Super Bowl, even if it does mean more idiot fans!