Sports passion too often turns violent

? Let’s face it, if you are a huge fan of a sports franchise, you are going to support them through thick and thin and defend them no matter what.
But over the last little while here in North American, that passion fans bring has started to go over the line from cheering for your team to instead turning into violence.
The most recent example of this took place Saturday during an NFL pre-season game between the Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49’ers at Candlestick Park, during which opposing fans (some of whom also were members of rival gangs) brawled throughout the stadium, which saw two fans get shot, another being beaten down, and more than 70 people be ejected.
As a result of that incident, the Bay area teams called off their annual match indefinitely, and the 49’ers have made moves to strengthen security at their home games, including the banning of tailgating after kick-off.
While we like to think that these incidents are the exception rather than the norm, over the last few years, violence at (or as a result of) sporing events is becoming more and more common.
In the past year, we have seen the destructive riots in Vancouver following the Canucks’ loss in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the Boston Bruins, a San Francisco Giants’ fan beaten to within an inch of his life at Dodger Stadium, and a crazed Alabama football fan poisoning the long-standing trees at Toomer’s Corner at the University of Auburn, where fans have celebrated victories for years.
And it hasn’t just been in the last 12 months that these type of things have occurred. The “Malice at the Palace” between the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers in 2004, and fans throwing beer cans following the end of NASCAR Sprint Cup races, spring to mind.
When you think of fan violence and sports, though, arguably the first thing that comes to mind is European soccer riots, which is a stigma the game still is trying to move on from.
Part of that rivalry between certain fan groups in soccer often comes from the team’s historical background, with the violent Old Firm derby between the Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow, Scotland being the most visible example.
The two clubs basically divide the entire city, with the Rangers’ fan base being historically of a Protestant background and Celtic supporters being mostly Roman Catholic, resulting in many clashes between the two even when the teams aren’t playing each other.
In fact, there have been stories in the past about a Rangers’ supporter wandering into a Celtic supporter pub in Glasgow, and not realizing what was about to happen until it was far too late.
While fan beatings and looting often are associated with those riots, sometimes things have gone to far and resulted in death, including the horrific Heysel Stadium disaster of 1985, which saw 39 Juventus fans killed after rioting with fans of Liverpool broke out.
It’s hard to say exactly why we are seeing more instances of fan violence in recent times, with some saying it could be a result of the current situations people are in or with the increased passion fans have for their team.
But it’s easy to see that if this sort of thing continues, there could be some dire consequences somewhere down the line.
California state assemblyman Mike Gatto might have put it best in a statement he made earlier this week following the situation at Candlestick Park, though.
“There are many things worth fighting for,” Gatto said. “The fact that someone wore a rival sports franchise’s jersey to a game isn’t one of them.”
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With the SIJHL regular season just around the corner, Fort Frances Lakers’ head coach/general manager Wayne Strachan is looking for those in the community who would like to be billets to come forward.
At the moment, Strachan said he’s looking for about six more billets who would be willing to welcome a Lakers’ player into their home for the 2011/12 campaign.
“I think sometimes there are people that shy away from being a billet and they might think, ‘Oh, those Lakers players are nothing but trouble,” Strachan noted. “But these kids are coming to be a part of your family, and they are willing to learn, listen, and help.”
Those interested in being a billet can contact Mary Cooper (274-6608) or Mary Polz (274-7264).

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