Obnoxious fans turn a spectator sport into war

Obnoxious fans turn a spectator sport into war

by David Morain

You look at the clock and you know what’s about to happen. The seconds tick down as the home team lines up in victory formation to take a knee. The coach gets a bucket of Gatorade to wear into the locker room. The television team begins to talk about next week’s game. Fans begin to filter down the aisles toward the fence surrounding the field. The horn sounds and all hell breaks loose.

Here’s where what should be a joyous celebration often turns into a nightmare. Fans careen onto the field in droves, surrounding their players, giving high fives, hugging one another, stuff you’d like to see in a perfect world. This is not a perfect world. More often than not, a lot of fans like to get out of control at the conclusion of a big game. They scale the goalposts in the end zone. They huddle around the on-field reporter who’s patiently trying to interview a star from the game. They get up in the faces of opposing players and coaches. It’s sick.

Football is a spectator sport. The nature of being a spectator, if I’m not lost on the definition, is to WATCH the game. Nowhere on your ticket stub does it say, “Please feel free to run amok on the field following the conclusion of today’s contest.” Trust me, there’s a reason.

What starts out being harmless fun can turn into a disaster faster than you can say “Christian Okoye”. Take the Nov. 12 game between Miami (Ohio) and Marshall. Marshall fans stormed onto the field following the conclusion of a heated rivalry game. Instead of exalting their own players, however, they chose to chastise their opponents… to their faces. Robert Flaugher, 36, got up in the face of Miami assistant coach John Wauford. Wauford shoved Flaugher to the ground, hitting his head on the artificial turf. Flaugher ended up in an ambulance, Wauford ended up in a squad car.

Was the Miami coach justified in doing what he did? Definitely not. But you have to ask yourself what a grown man was trying to accomplish in taunting opposing players and coaches on the field of play.

This was not an isolated incident, either. Both universities from Iowa were involved in similar instances this past Saturday. The Hawkeye’s defeated the Minnesota Golden Gophers, 45-21, up at the Metrodome, thus ensuring a share of the Big Ten title and a possible trip to the Rose Bowl. At the conclusion of the game, the entire Hawkeye Nation swept down from the stands, covering the turf in a sea of black and gold. When the P.A. announcer told the fans to get off the field, they simply booed. It was so crowded that Brad Banks could barely get through an interview at midfield. Jubilant Iowa fans clamored onto the goal posts, ripped them down, and carried them out the gates of the Metrodome. This was an away game, mind you. Not only was this disrespectful to our neighbors to the north, it was a very dangerous undertaking. If you think being pushed to the turf can cause a headache, try falling thirty-plus feet off of a goal post.

The Cyclones experienced the crowd on the field as well. After a 41-27 win over Iowa State, Buffalo fans marched onto the field to be with their team. This wouldn’t be that strange except for the fact that Colorado was 7-3 going into the game. Usually it’s the bad teams that charge the field after a game, not the good ones. Sure, the Buffs all but clinched the Big XII North title, but they just accomplished that same feat a year ago. Do you ever see Florida State fans run onto the field? How about Notre Dame? The Cyclones hit the skids mid-season and, following Saturday’s loss, all they wanted to do was hit the showers. They had to wait, though, for some of the commotion to clear out. Can you imagine what that was like for someone like Seneca Wallace or Jordan Carstens? They are coming off their second loss in a row, they lost their chance at the Big XII title, at a BCS bowl and now they can’t even get to the locker room because a bunch of yahoos from the Rockies want to run around on the field. This is inexcusable.

The networks and corporate execs want the fans to feel like they’re a part of the game. But when the fans take it on themselves to be in the game, not just a part of it, where does the liability lie? There should be heavy fines and/or police action against anyone stupid enough to head for the 50-yard line after the horn sounds instead of the exits. It’s a fan’s responsibility to be courteous of opposing players and coaches.

So the next time you’re up at a Hawk or a Cyclone game, don’t fall in with the mob. Stick to your seat, cheer as loud as you want, but don’t risk the character and health of other players, coaches, or yourself.