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It's not just the obscene language—my kids hear that at school. It's not just the racial insults and taunting of players, for that is a valuable lesson in the dark side of human behavior. It's that it becomes impossible to enjoy a game you can't see or hear because drunks are shouting, spitting, throwing litter and falling over you. After a while, you concentrate on the security and safety of your family.
Before we went to the game, I had promised my boys that I would buy season tickets for this year. I decided not to do this, and my sons have not reminded me of this promise.
I've just graduated from high school, where I played on the basketball team. During the past season I became the father of a baby girl, for which I was taunted by opposing fans. When I stepped to the foul line, I was greeted with imitations of a baby's cry or serenaded with Rock-a-Bye Baby. Students held up diapers and condoms, shouted obscenities about my girlfriend and even ridiculed my daughter.
After my final home game, a fan of the visiting team yelled, "Hey, Clausen, I'm gonna kill your kid!" I had a basketball in my hand, and I threw it at him, but I missed. When I read about Albert Belle's throwing a baseball and hitting a fan in Cleveland, my reaction was "Nice shot, Albert!"
Dawidoff overlooks one cause for the increased boorishness of fans: the conduct of the players toward one another. Brush-back pitches lead to bench-clearing brawls. The play of basketball's Pistons could, like the conduct of some fans, result in assault charges if it took place on the streets. And hockey, of course, remains boxing on skates. Fans are reacting to the level of civility they see on the field.
I suspect the worst fans are those with the least sports background. Fans who have been athletes typically behave better because they are more able to put themselves in the players' shoes.
Players who think all fans are abusive and vulgar should think again. Most of us are as disturbed by the horrible actions of the few as they are.
It seems to me that one step in correcting abusive behavior would be to eliminate the sale of alcoholic beverages at games.