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Fanatics


Quite a few years ago I took my parents to Houston to an Astros game. They were big fans and I thought they would enjoy the (at the time) relatively new stadium and general atmosphere of a big-league game and ballpark. We had decent tickets near the third base dugout, had our hot dogs and soda. Even the roof of the stadium was open for a gorgeous day. We were ready to revel in America's favorite past time.


The problem was a bunch of yuppie drunks had seats right behind us. Three couples, early forties. They were the kind of people you see all the time. Doing pretty well money-wise, just past their prime physical-wise but bound and determined to prove they could still par-teeeeeeee!


They talked loudly and obnoxiously, lots of cussing and beer sloshing. They booed vociferously at the Astros' opponent that day (Brewers) and flipped the bird as nonchalantly as most check the time. They laughed riotously at the most inane and unfunny distractions. They were what Jerry Lee Lewis once labeled in song, middle aged crazy. In other words, real jerks.


They were either completely unaware or, more likely, didn't give a rip an elderly couple was sitting a mere few feet away. A younger version of myself would have been a tad more aggressive and explained to them the virtues of basic etiquette. Instead, we just left in the sixth inning. My parents had no interest in attending a game after that.

Some time back, ESPN aired a documentary titled War Eagle/Roll Tide. It was fascinating, if unsurprising, viewing. It chronicled the rivalry between The University of Alabama and Auburn University. Now, I'd guess there are some fine folks in Alabama but, for the most part, they did not appear on this program. The clips of fans calling in to sports talk shows with unbridled rage was priceless. Time capsule stuff.

One Alabama fan called in to a show and admitted he, in retribution for Auburn fans placing an Auburn jersey on the statue of legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, poisoned two famous old oak trees on the Auburn campus (known as the Toomer's Corner oak trees). He later said, “I wanted Auburn people to hate me as much as I hate them.” The interview with him is spectacular. He's decked out in Crimson Tide garb in a Crimson Tide house – a grown man - too dumb to be embarrassed by his behavior (a big problem in America, if you ask me).


A few years back, an infamous event took place in the NBA, later labeled “Malice at the Palace”. Short version: players from Indiana and Detroit got into a fight and, in the aftermath, a fan threw a drink from the stands, hitting an Indiana player. From there, it was on. Players went into the stands and general chaos ensued. Comedian Bill Burr did a hilarious – and spot-on – bit about the events of that night, highlighting the times we've seen fans – from the safety of their seats – encouraging a player to come into the stands (“Come on up here!”). Well, Burr said, “...they came up there.” Yes, they did.


In 2019 the Los Angeles Dodgers lost a World Series game largely because all-star pitcher Clayton Kershaw gave up back-to-back homers. After the game fans in the parking lot ran over his jersey with their cars. Here's a man (Kershaw) who can do at the highest level what only a few people around the world can even do at a mediocre level, and orthodontists and supermarket managers and the guy who changes your oil were doing donuts on his jersey (that they paid a hundred bucks for!). Clayton Kershaw was the loser in their dim-witted eyes.

When I was in Little League, I watched two grown men get in a fist fight on the parking lot because one of their boys did not make all-stars. The aggressor hit a man who was partially paralyzed due to a stroke many years before. My dad was an assistant coach my first year in Little League. Asked later why he stopped coaching, he said, “I got tired of mothers I saw in church on Sunday cursing at me from the bleachers the rest of the week.”


I would argue adults who parade around in their favorite team's colors from head to toe (and they have become legion) and burst blood vessels screaming opinions on call-in sports shows and obsess over every loss and beat their chests after every victory have a colossal hole in their lives that, obviously, does not get filled by family, friends or work. For all the pain in the you-know-what billionaire owners and spoiled brat athletes, I am of the mind the worst thing about sports in America are the fans.


A while back I was at a minor league baseball game with a friend. We were enjoying the mild night, having a beer and chit chatting between pitches. A few rows down, along the fence line, were eight or ten twenty-somethings hurling profanities at complete strangers (the opposing team). My buddy and I agreed that big-shot team owners and millionaire athletes can often be horse's rumps but at least they are big shot team owners and millionaire athletes.


Shifting our focus back to the insult spewing fans below us – and one jerk, in particular – my buddy mused, “I'll bet that poor devil has never even been on a date.”


Nope.

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