Final Impressions

Tackling fanaticism

Written by James Combs

Some sports fans need to unclench their fists and enjoy the game.

It began with a little smack talk.

Then the men found themselves face to face. Insults were hurled, followed by a torrent of punches, kicks, and headbutts. The enraged combatants wrestled each other to the ground as curious onlookers used their cellphones to video the melee and make it go viral.

It’s what you’d expect to see in a heated rivalry game. Except, in this case, the violence was coming from the stands.

Fan fighting seems to be an increasingly growing problem these days inside collegiate and professional sports venues. Call me old school, but I have a problem when middle-aged, beer-bellied men are providing more action than the teams on the field. I use my hard-earned money to pay for my seats, and the last thing I want is for a horde of brawling dimwits to ruin the experience for me.

Perhaps it’s time for me to start enjoying games from the comfort of my recliner. That way, I can avoid outrageous people like the Cleveland Browns fan who tackled an 8-year-old New York Jets fan in the parking lot following a game in 2010. Or the fan who fatally stabbed a 24-year-old man outside of Dodger Stadium in 2013. Or the fan who pushed a man in his early 20s over a second-deck railing during the 2016 NBA Finals.

What gets these people so riled up that they’re willing to inflict injury on a total stranger and risk spending time inside the county jail? I doubt they’re attending a game to discuss the opioid epidemic or health-care crisis, two topics worthy of real passion.

In most cases, it’s probably one of two things. First, the combination of 12 beers and a lackluster performance from the home team likely will exacerbate feelings of hostility. Second, the Chuck Norris-wannabe fan with all the free-floating rage spends the entire game looking for a target until he finds someone to take the bait.

The latter will strike at any moment, even when the game comes down to a last-second field goal with a trip to the college football playoffs or the Super Bowl on the line. Of course, moments before the most important play of the game is always an ideal time to start a fist-flying frenzy. Said no real fan, ever.

Look, sports venues are not the Wild West. We’re there to cheer our teams, not walk around clinking our boot spurs and twirling our six-shooters. Enjoy everything that makes being at a sporting event great: the mascots and cheerleaders, the wafting aroma of popcorn and hot dogs, the crowd cheers and the wave.

Don’t let the irritating, smack-talking guy sitting directly behind you or the obnoxious drunk a few rows down ruin what should be an enjoyable experience. Neither are worthy of your attention, and it’s best to let security deal with them.

And for those of you who have trouble keeping your cool, just stay home and yell nonstop at your high-definition television. Your absence will ensure that the best action is taking place right where it should be.

On the field.

About the author

James Combs

Akers Media Group's James Combs has been a staff writer for several local publications since August 2000. He has had the privilege of interviewing some of Lake County’s many fascinating residents—from innovative business owners to heroic war veterans—and bringing their stories to life. A resident of Lake County since 1986, James recently embarked on a journey to lead a healthier lifestyle. He has lost 60 pounds and walks nearly five miles a day. In his spare time, he enjoys target shooting, skeet shooting and watching his beloved Kentucky Wildcats!

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