I just thought of another way that I'm closer to my Wii age than I am to my real age: I listen to sports talk radio. And this morning on Mike & Mike, they were talking about fan behavior. First, 3 true stories about reprehensible fan behavior:
1) Steve Phillips used to be the General Manager for the New York Mets. After a loss during a particularly bad season, he was walking from the stadium to his car, holding his infant child in his arms, when a drunk fan approached him and started berating him in the parking lot. According to Phillips, he told the guy, "Look, you can say whatever you want. Just let me put my kid in the car first."
2) Steve Kerr played basketball for the University of Arizona before enjoying a successful career as a professional player. During his freshman year at U of A, his father--Dr. Malcolm Kerr, the president of American University in Beirut--was murdered by Islamic terrorists. Soon after, during a game at Arizona State, the ASU student body began chanting, "P.L.O.! P.L.O.!" (P.L.O. refers to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the terrorist group believed to be responsible for Kerr's assassination.)
3) Kevin Love played center for UCLA this year; he is a native of Oregon. When UCLA went to Eugene to play the Ducks, fans that felt Love had betrayed them by not going to Oregon called and left death threats on his voice mail (one example: "We'll find your hotel room and blow your f---ing head off with a shotgun"). Not only that, but at the game, fans taunted Love's family--including his mother, his grandmother, and his 13-year-old sister--with what Love's father called "every filthy word you can think of."
So the question on Mike & Mike this morning was basically why the hell do people act this way? I mean, those are all insane examples, but I could give you a dozen more without really even thinking too hard about it. Mike, Mike, and all of their listeners had a lot of thoughts, but here are the three that occurred to me:
1) One emailer suggested that fans yelling at players is no different than a coach doing it. I think any rational person realizes that that's a ludicrous suggestion, but I think it really gets to the root of the problem: These people want to feel like they have some kind of impact on the game. They honestly don't believe they're any different from a coach. Kevin Love had a monster game and UCLA beat Oregon, but you can bet that if Oregon had pulled off the upset, those dopes in the stands would have gone home and had a beer to celebrate how they "got in his head" and helped their team to a victory. This brings me to #2...
2) As much as the people in the stands want to pretend that the game is about the fans and the players somehow owe the fans something, it ain't true. If every professional sports league in the world somehow dissolved today, the players would still get together on some asphalt basketball court or some open field somewhere and play. They wouldn't feel like it was somehow less meaningful because there was no one there to watch them. The game is about the players. (Or perhaps more accurately, the game is about the game.)
3) I obviously don't deal with this stuff on the same level that professional (or even college) athletes and coaches do, but whenever a parent calls or emails or approaches me after a game to let me know that I'm not doing my job as well as I could be, I remember my favorite Al McGuire quote. McGuire coached Marquette basketball to their only national championship back in 1977. Once, when asked about fans who got after him before, during, and after games, he said, "Every obnoxious fan has a wife at home who dominates him." That always makes me feel better.