Niagara Gazette

July 16, 2013

MROZIAK: A reminder for some: They're just games

By MICHAEL MROZIAK
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Just when you thought you'd seen it all in the category of "how low can sports fans go," there comes a report from the Tour De France last week that a spectator tossed urine at British cyclist Mark Cavendish. The fan who allegedly did it was reportedly upset about a crash the day before, blamed by many on Cavendish, the led fellow cyclist Tom Veelers to fall to the pavement.

Even lower than that, and just downright disturbing, was the report out of Brazil on June 30 about a family who hunted down and beheaded — yes, beheaded — a referee who, earlier in the day, fatally stabbed their loved one in a confrontation on the field during an amateur soccer match.

It may seem easy for American sports fans to look at both incidents and, with some smug satisfaction, think we'll never stoop to that level of madness over a sport. 

Not so fast, my fellow Americans. 

Remember the tale of Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was brutally beaten at Dodger Stadium two years ago? He has still not fully recovered from the brain trauma suffered in the attack. He returned home from the live-in care center in which he stayed, only because the family could no longer afford it.

Yankees fan John Mayor continues to sit in prison, deservedly so, for stabbing a Red Sox fan during a fight in a Connecticut restaurant in 2010. That Sox fan was recently awarded over $4 million by a jury. However, I'd wager Monte Friere would rather have back the full vision and speech skills he lost in the beating suffered as part of that fight.

Back in October 2000, Oakland Raiders fan Luis Uribe stabbed San Diego Chargers fan Daniel Napier during a fight at a Raiders-Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. Uribe served five years for the stabbing. 

Fortunately, we've not seen any of these extremes at local sports events. However, go to a Bills game and you can see the guys in the yellow security jackets are kept quite busy on any given Sunday.

All of the harsh examples you've just read are, luckily, still just isolated incidents. In the vast majority of sporting events that happen around the world, most folks leave the stadium alive to look forward to their favorite team's next opportunity to win. 

There's still a lesson to be learned from those sensational few examples, though. 

We may gawk in horror at some of the violence at sporting events in other parts of the world. Do not think, though, that it cannot happen here. It has.

USA Hockey, in cooperation with Hockey Canada, had a fantastic public awareness campaign a few years back that reminded parents and other fans, "Relax, it's just a game." 

Indeed, it's not worth losing your head. Or your freedom.

Follow Niagara Gazette Sports Editor Michael Mroziak on Twitter at MrozGazette