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The Attack of the Fans: When Does “Passion for the Game” Go Too Far?

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Picture this: you and a couple friends are sitting in seats you paid $70 a piece for, watching your favorite football team lose. Their record is 1-3, and it’s only a few minutes away from 1-4. You’re frustrated, not only with the score, but the way the players are performing. At this point you wish the coach would bench some of the starters in the hopes that you may find a spark of talent from the bench.  As this thought crosses your mind, a player on the field goes down with injury. The back-up begins to warm up.  Your prayers have been answered.  You, along with thousands of other like-minded fans, rise to your feet.  The previously dormant crowd is now cheering as if they had won the Super Bowl.

This was the picture at Arrowhead Stadium on October 7th. Chiefs fans, upset with the lackluster performance of quarterback Matt Cassel, saw a glimpse of hope when Cassel hit the turf with a head injury. Fans jumped to their feet as backup quarterback, Brady Quinn, took the field. After the game, Chiefs offensive lineman Eric Winston claimed he was “embarrassed” to have fans of his team celebrate an injury, addressing these actions as “100% sickening.”

Winston’s comments beg the question: had Chiefs fans crossed a moral line when the cheered during Cassel’s injury?

A similar situation happened to the Oakland Raiders in 1980. Dan Pastorini broke his leg, paving the way for Jim Plunkett, who won multiple Super Bowls. It isn’t common for fans to wish injury upon their team’s players, but it is common to want to win. Many fans identify themselves with their favorite team, and just want (what they think is) the best for them. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the “best” is Brady Quinn.

Even if the Kansas City fans didn’t cross the proverbial line on Sunday, where is the line? Atlanta Braves fans crossed the line on October 5th, when they threw glass bottles from the upper deck in order to protest a poor call by an umpire in the first wild-card baseball game. Two things angered me the most during this debacle:

1. It’s one thing to cheer a player while he’s injured; it’s another to injure the player yourself. On top of that, the game was delayed for almost 20 minutes.

2.This interrupted the television experience for fans across the nation.

Baseball, or any sport for that matter, would decay before our eyes if fans littered the field every time they were upset with an official’s call. What happens on the field will happen on the field. What happens in the stands will happen in the stands. It is for the best if those two elements don’t mix. Fans should keep their beverages in their hands, players should keep their opinions on the field. If they do this, both parties will benefit.