Living Vicariously – Why Sports Brings Out the Worst in Some Fans

I was telling Eric the other night that I start a new post by adding an item from this day in Dodgers history.  Sometimes it sparks an idea for the post.  Today’s historical item has churned up some disgusting feelings in my gut.

I am a pretty even tempered person, but there are certain things that really push my buttons.  Man’s inhumanity to man is one of them.  I have very little tolerance for bullies and for people who are extremely rude and violent to others.  I guess I am not alone, considering the popularity of that theme in just about every movie about high school and vigilante movies like Billy Jack, Falling Down and just about any movie starring Charles Bronson.

Why would a guy throw coffee in the face of a fan of the opposing team?  Some psychologists have made a study that indicates when individuals identify and form a strong connection with a local team, it is related to their psychological health.   “The more they identify with the team, the higher their self-esteem, the higher their vigor or energy, the lower their fatigue, confusion, depression, and alienation.” says Daniel L. Wann, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Murray State University in Kentucky.  Dedicated supporters are proud of their allegiance, but sometimes team spirit can be carried too far.  “If you’re all gung-ho for your team and anything goes in terms of people who are your rivals, that’s when violence can happen,” explains Edward Hirt, PhD, associate professor of psychology at Indiana University.

The vast majority of fans take games in stride, but for a small number, spectating may not be a healthy pastime. Some team worshipers could benefit from gaining the perspective that it’s only a game. Sports can become disruptive to interpersonal relationships and, for some fans, an excuse to act violently.  We do not have to look back that far to see how a couple of thugs thought they could feel better about themselves by beating Bryan Stow to within an inch of his life.

Much more on fandom topics is available at

This Day in Dodgers History

September 19, 2000 – A Dodger fan, in addition to other court-ordered restrictions, has been banned from attending home games in Los Angeles for 18 months. The irate patron threw coffee in the face of a Mets fan who was cheering a grand slam hit by New York’s catcher Todd Pratt.


14 Responses to Living Vicariously – Why Sports Brings Out the Worst in Some Fans

  1. Nellyjune says:

    What a fantastic thread!!! The school I work at does a really good job in dealing with this issue if bullying. Each year we have an author of a book called, “Simon’s Hook”, and what she did is she wrote a book on ways kids can be in control over somebody who is attempting to bully them. In addition to that, we have a school-wide behavioral system in place designed to make students accountable for their actions. We still have those few screw ups that think the rules don’t apply to them, but it seems to be working really well for the most part.
    However, this is small stuff compared to what Brian Stow encountered. That was just people having no regard for human life.

    • 32and53fan says:

      I just read this Facebook feed from a friend:

      Durga McBroom-Hudson
      Today my 14 year old Godson Jacob had to deal with the suicide of a friend from camp. The boy had a hairlip and a speech impediment. He decided it was better to die then live with bullying. Please support anti-bullying groups at your or your child’s school. It is real and has a real effect on families. Post your own experiences and spread the word. Bullying must stop – we are losing too many children to SUICIDE.

  2. trublu4ever says:

    Back in my day, we didn’t have a lot of bullying. If people didn’t get along, they would settle their differences with a fist-fight behind the baseball backstop. Once the fight was over, so was the problem. Everybody involved shook hands and it was done. With the internet and less involvement with teachers and parents, bullying has gotten out of control. At first, the teachers (not you Nellyjune) thought kids were just being kids and, didn’t nip it in the bud. As far as out of control fans at games, too much beer and a low self esteem will do it every time.

    • trublu4ever says:

      Actually, I think the experience at a ball game has become a little better now than it was several years ago. It seems as though there are as many fans from the opposing teams at the games so, you don’t feel so out numbered. I believe, however, football is a different element……you’d be crazy to go to a Raiders game in the opposing teams colors.

      • dodgereric says:

        ……and that’s the evil – the idea that you’d have to be crazy to go to a Raiders game in the opposing team’s colors.

        Not that I don’t agree with you, tru, But why? When did this stop being the United States of America? How did we devolve into this? This is the same gang mentality that we had as apes.

        Woe is us.

        • Back in my day, we used to be gracious hosts. If an opposing player made a good play, we would applaud his effort. There was nothing but good natured teasing going on in the stands. The day it changed for me was at Anaheim Stadium when an old lady sitting in front of my family attacked my mother with a regulation sized give-away bat because we were cheering for the Cleveland Indians – many of whom we knew on a personal level. Society as a whole should know better. You’re right Eric, we are devolving and it’s a very sad commentary.

          • trublu4ever says:

            It is very sad. People are getting shot while tail-gating (Raiders/Niners pre-season). I don’t think kids are taught respect and courtesy. Therefore, they grow into adulthood with no moral values.

    • nellyjune says:

      I must admit though, there are times when I have to say “get over it!” to some because they “love” playing the victim in every way, shape or form and create bullies out of kids who really are not. It’s usually stems from a parent who thinks their kids never do anything wrong, and those are the parents who come down to the school ever time their child is yelled at (including from the teacher). We actually have parents who sit out in their cars watching the playground for teachers who yell at their kids. It’s the beginning stages of the entitlement argument, which is a whole other soap box issue for me 🙂

      • trublu4ever says:

        You’re right, Nellyjune. Good grief, parents don’t even want their kids to get exercise….heaven forbid they would break a sweat!

      • 32and53fan says:

        Click on the link for Edward Hirt that is in the post to hear a 15 minute interview with him about playing the victim and other ways that people and athletes sabotage themselves so they have an excuse when their performance is not up to the expectations placed on them.

        At the highest levels of sports, almost all of the athletes have top notch physical ability. Often it is how they handle the mental side that makes the difference between champions and also rans.

  3. lbirken says:

    This an interesting topic that has intrigued me for years. On the surface, spectator sports should just be another form of entertainment. You pick you sides, hope you win, perhaps feel disappointed when your team or athelete don’t win, and that should be that. As a fan you might hope for a good game or match with some excitement and something about which to cheer. But we all know that is not enough for many of us. Look at the cottage industry around the sporting world that has been created such as sports cards, magazines, newspaper sections, books, and the modern media of radio, TV and the Internet. No doubt many people live their lives through their teams and define themselves by how well their teams do. Why else would I react negatively to colors and logos of certain other teams? Look at how emotional people on the various blogs and call in shows get about their favorite teams and players. Anyone listen to the Jim Rome show? The anger and disprespect of our fellow man comes out strong on that program, mostly from the callers. If you think about it, this passion we have for sports is not too logical and sometimes detrimental to our mental health. Why does it take five experts to discuss a football game on TV?

    Perhaps this aggressive behavior is just another manifestation of how angry some people are in this life. Clearly no matter what Brian Stow may or may not have done deserved getting beat up so badly. No one deserves having hot coffee thrown in his or her face simply because they root for the “wrong” team. There is no need for hateful taunting although sometimes good natured ribbing does have its limits. We all want to win, some of us just have to in order to be fulfilled.

  4. 32and53fan says:

    From Tony Jackson’s Twitter feed:
    Great piece on the presumptive 2011 N.L. Manager of the Year.

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