Tuesday, May 6, 2008

No More War (ESPECIALLY Over Sports)

This is a moment of stupidity I will never forget.

I was standing in the parking lot of Giants Stadium last October before an MLS playoff game between the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution. It was a typical scene, really: a bunch of friends and acquaintances, enjoying some decent beer and grilled food, talking about the world of soccer, of which there are endless subjects to discuss.

One of the participants in this discussion was a friend-of-a-friend, someone who I was not terribly familiar with, but who had played the game and was a big fan of A.S. Roma of Italy’s top league, the Serie A.

He felt that Italy’s league was the best in the world. Okay, that’s your opinion.

He felt that Francesco Totti was the best striker in the world. Being a Roma fan, you’d expect this from him. Fine.

He generally prefers the defensive Italian style of soccer. Whatever man, whatever floats your boat.

Then the subject of hooliganism and soccer-related violence came up.

“I think that’s f---in’ awesome man., they’re so passionate.”

This is where I lost all respect for this person and came very close to smashing my bottle of Heineken over his head (thus making me a hypocrite in this discussion, though really, this guy deserved it…but I digress).

Most people have some idea about the problems in many countries around world involving soccer-related violence. They are still very much an issue today.

Well, I’m here to say that, contrary to what my colleague from the Giants Stadium parking lot believes, THERE IS NOTHING “F---ING AWESOME” ABOUT SPORTS-RELATED VIOLENCE.

For most people around the world, soccer is everything. Everything.

But that does not make it okay for people to riot before and after matches. There is no reason that fans wearing opposing colors should engage in a gang-like street fight. There is no reason whatsoever for policemen to die.

Wake up, people. It’s just a game. A damn game. Why in the world are people dying over it?

The sad thing is, and the reason for this article today, is that even in America, we are not immune to this sort of thing.

Now, we certainly love our sports in America, probably as much as people love soccer abroad. Europeans and South Americans always describe America as a “sports-crazed country.” Normally, we’re able to keep emotions in check over here though, and I’m proud of that. People don’t need to fear for their lives going to an opposing stadium to cheer their team on. Sure, you might be the victim of some verbal jabs, but if you’re not obnoxious, usually you’ll leave the arena unscathed. Sometimes there are fights, but these are usually broken up quickly by the security staff.

So that explains my absolute shock when I read this article yesterday on ESPN.

First of all, you can tell by the picture that this woman isn’t exactly a first-class citizen. But the fact that she drove her car into a crowd of people over a Yankees/Red Sox argument shows what a true psychopath she actually is.

Yes, Yankees/Red Sox is probably the most contentious rivalry in American sports, though at this point it is more heated off the field than on. There are usually fist-fights at games. It is a known rule that you will be spat on, insulted, etc. if you’re caught wearing a Yankee hat in Fenway or vice-versa, especially when the two teams aren’t playing each other.

But I don’t care if an opposing fan insults your spouse, children and mother in the most appalling way you can think of, you do not, DO NOT, do anything that could seriously injure or even kill that person. There is no justifiable situation. Never under any circumstance.

Hey, Ms. Hernandez. Life is more important than the New York Yankees. That guy Matthew Beaudoin you killed? Yeah, he had a family. He had goals. He was 29 years old. He was drunk and told you he thought the Yankees sucked. So what?

Well, now he’s dead because you ran him over with your car. Despicable.

This isn’t an indictment of Yankee fans (I am a Yankee fan and this woman is a disgrace to us all) or anyone in particular, really. It’s more of a call to realize that this situation of sports-related violence, which many Americans scoff at, is a real issue, even here in our hemisphere.

Passion is good. Passion fuels fans and athletes alike. It makes sports the pulsating spectacle that we know and love. But violence has no place inside, or outside of the stadium.

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