People will do the craziest stuff in the name of sports.
To show their love fans will go to great lengths, expressing their love in ways that if they spent half their time showing that attention to their spouses, might reduce the out of control divorce rate in this country.
Parents name their kids after famous sports figures like our friend named after Brooks Robinson or the one named after Lambeau Field. And maybe because of the Adam Sandler movie or just a creative way to pay homage to your favorite TV sports channel, many couples have named their kid “Espn” (pronounced es-pen).
When we were expecting our first child, I had dreams that one day I would be sitting at Notre Dame Stadium watching our son following Lou Holtz onto the hallowed grounds as “Touchdown Jesus” stood looking over him in the background.
Coming home from the hospital he wore a Notre Dame sweat suit to accompany the felt baseball cap with “ND” on it that his grandmother had made for his homecoming. A few years later, after learning the “Happy Birthday” song, my 2-year old son could sing the Notre Dame Fight Song, word for word, in front of admiring friends and family.
Those stories are tame compared to some of the fans in the news.
A man from Wisconsin once tied up his son with tape after the boy refused to wear a Packers jersey during the team's game. The father was cited for disorderly conduct for the incident involving his 7-year-old son. Although the father brushed it off as a harmless joke, the police didn’t think it was that funny. He was accused of restraining the boy for an hour with tape and also taping a Packers jersey onto him.
Excited with their unbelievable season when they took an undefeated record in to the Super Bowl, a Patriots fan had Tom Brady’s entire helmet tattooed onto his bald head, from the team logo on both sides of his head, to the No. 12 on the base of his skull, even the green dot where the microphone goes into the helmet. He said “when” they beat the Giants, he planned to add the years of their championships at the base of his neck. It turns out, Eli Manning had something to say about his next piece of body art.
My favorite happened several years back, as the Ravens were mired in the worst losing streak of the franchise’s history. Ravens fan Ronald Stach — dubbed the "Goof on the Roof" — became a celebrity for camping out atop a Southeast Baltimore bar until the Ravens snapped their losing streak.
Because of his newfound celebrity for the support of his beloved Ravens, his former wife had him arrested for lack of support of a different kind, the financial support ordered by the court to take care of his children.
Sports fans can be so obnoxious that you can’t help but to love them for their passion and undying support of their team. But even the most fervent fan has his limitations. Steve LaPlanche, aka “Sports Steve” was dubbed the “Iron Fan” for his decades long commitment to Baltimore sports teams, most notably the Colts and Ravens.
You might recognize Sports Steve as the fan at games or on EA Sports with black face paint, a jester’s hat and enough beads around his neck to supply a night of decadence during Mardi Gras.
LaPlanche was the last fan standing as the Mayflower vans pulled out of the Colts training complex in the middle of the night. He stood there alone, in a snowstorm late at night, broken hearted as his beloved Colts skipped town.
This fall, the Iron Fan reached a landmark few, if any, can boast on their resume. In the Thursday night game against the Miami Dolphins that coincidently ended in a 40-0 score, LaPlanche attended his 400th — and last — consecutive Baltimore home football game.
Once again, LaPlanche stood there alone and broken hearted saddened that the team that he loved so much, the team that drove his undying passion for the NFL, let him down once again. LaPlanche had made the decision to make the Dolphins game his last a few weeks prior, when many of the players took a knee during our national anthem on foreign soil, the same country from which we fought for our independence.
We all have our own opinions on what this recent NFL “protest” means and whether it’s the right place or time for making a long overdue statement about equality. But when fans like Sports Steve have their passion stripped from them causing them to cash in their chips, it shows this conflict has gotten out of control.
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In the words of the late Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”