Sports Loses When Fans and Coaches Go Ballistic

By Douglas S. Looney, Senior sports columnist of The Christian Science | The Christian Science Monitor, October 22, 1999 | Go to article overview

Sports Loses When Fans and Coaches Go Ballistic


Douglas S. Looney, Senior sports columnist of The Christian Science, The Christian Science Monitor


Behavior by fans, athletes, and coaches - some, by no means all - at sporting events over the years has gone from generally gentlemanlike to often abysmal.

Two events earlier this week bring the deterioration into sharp focus.

Most troubling was Boston fan behavior as the Red Sox were being drubbed at home by the Yankees in baseball's American League Championship Series.

Several hotly disputed umpire calls - including a couple horrendously wrong - were viewed by some fans as authorization to throw whatever they could get their hands on and to scream obscenities.

Equally outrageous was the berserk protest by Boston manager Jimy Williams. Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, not always the poster boy for proper behavior himself, did get it right this time when he said that Williams "incited" the brouhaha.

Both teams were ordered from the field for a time to prevent injury. The proud and typically classy city of Boston should weep over its behavior. Instead, some segments of the chauvinistic local media are whining, saying nothing happened, and taking the position that if something did happen, which it didn't, it was the umpires' fault.

The truth is being pummeled by revisionist spin control. We understand. Truth is always the first casualty of zealots.

It all was, we are left to presume, a mirage. What we saw isn't what we saw. It's as if the local apologists forget we all watched on TV. But our eyes lied to us.

Even Mayor Thomas Menino called fan behavior "inappropriate," a weak characterization but at least an acknowledgment of wrongdoing. Words from BoSox first baseman Mike Stanley were far more heartfelt. He said on behalf of the fans: "We're sorry for the way we acted. That's not right. Not right at all." The players did nothing wrong.

Indeed, what is it that seems to prompt sports fans to act, well, inappropriately, at event after event?

It is largely the cover offered by anonymity, the perfect cloak for cowards. Often the most vitriolic letter writers to The Sporting Scene spew their venom, then sign off sans name. At Fenway, it's safe to assume these hoodlums throwing things at umpires and Yankees would not conduct themselves similarly in a one-on-one confrontation. …

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