America’s worst fans? Right now, it’s a close race between the folks who “root” for the Houston Texans and those who “occupy” the seats at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park to cheer on the 49ers. With a “dishonorable mention” to the Boston Red Sox faithful.
And after what happened Sunday, there’s no need to do further research into whether alcohol kills brain cells. As they like to say in the NFL, “after further review,” we have conclusive evidence it does.
At Reliant Stadium in Houston on Sunday, “fans” of the hometown team actually cheered and laughed as beleaguered starting quarterback Matt Schaub lay writhing in pain on the field after hurting his ankle.
Schaub, it seems, is the latest victim of the “what have you done for me lately” mentality that plagues American sports. Last year, he led the team to the playoffs and was the toast of the town (being Houston, that’s mostly beer, but hey, it’s Texas); this season, the team is off to a miserable 2-4 start and Schaub’s taken the brunt of the criticism for the team’s poor record, as if a) football isn’t a team game and b) a star quarterback has suddenly forgotten how to play the game he’s played his whole life.
And you thought President Obama and the pols in Washington were having a tough week.
Now, the treatment of Schaub was terrible, but it pales in comparison to what 49ers fans stooped to on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. As Cardinals’ player Calais Campbell lay motionless and injured on the field, medical personnel hovering over him and and players from both teams kneeling in prayer — why, Candlestick fans decided it was a good time to do the wave. And cheer.
It was so bad that 49ers players implored their own fans to stop. But they didn’t.
It’s bad enough that professional football requires players to risk their long-term health every weekend just to play the game, and that most fans don’t care. (Hey, they get paid a lot, right!?) And that it’s a league that allows one of its teams — Washington, no less — to continue to use the racist “Redskins” moniker.
But the simple truth is that the NFL puts on the equivalent of gladiatorial games, with young, athletic men doling out dreadful punishment to one another for our “entertainment.” Given that, the least that booze-fueled fans can do is knock off the brainless behavior.
Which brings us to the Boston Red Sox and the senseless tradition of throwing back home-run balls hit by the opposition. In Sunday’s game versus Detroit in Boston, the Tigers’ Alex Avila hit a home into the right-field stands. A woman was lucky enough to come up with the ball. Except. Except a knucklehead next to her wrestled the ball from her and threw it back onto the field (check out the video).
Worse, Yahoo Sports and others are reporting that the man, who was removed by security, had spent much of the game directing racial slurs at Detroit fans nearby.
Now, I’ve been to Fenway, and it’s a wonderful place to see a game. But as we’ve witnessed at Dodger Stadium with the beating of Giants fan Bryan Stow and in San Francisco with the stabbing death of Dodgers fan Jonathan Denver, trouble too often lurks in the stands and the surrounding neighborhoods.
In Sunday’s Times Opinion section, writer Hal Herzog discussed “cognitive dissonance — the notion that simultaneously holding two inconsistent views creates mental discomfort.”
Now, Herzog was talking about our attitudes toward animals and food. But the same notion might apply to sports: It seems that we love our teams, yet we allow the very thing that we love to bring out the worst in us. And too many fans seem to be falling on the “dissonance” side of the scale rather than the “cognitive.”