The start of a new baseball season is usually a reason for fans to rejoice and get excited about their team making its annual run for the coveted World Series Championship title. But for Giants fans, the start of this baseball season was marred by needless violence. After the Dodger’s home opener last week, a 42-year-old father of two who was there to cheer on the Giants was savagely beaten by two Dodger fans inside the parking lot. The two men pummeled Bryan Stow so violently, that he’s now in a coma and suffering from brain damage. His recovery is expected to be a long one. What kind of rage could induce these men to such barbaric acts of viciousness over a baseball game?
Violence in sports or by supporters of sports teams dates back to Roman times. In those days chariot racing teams were popular and it was common for riots to erupt after races. The most notable one was the Nika riots that took place in 532 A.D. The rioting centered in Constantinople and nearly burned half the city down and caused thousands of deaths. At that time there were four major factional teams of chariot racing. Each wore a different color uniform when competing. They were known as the Blues, the Reds, the Greens, and the Whites. Supporters of these teams also wore the corresponding colors. The weeklong rioting that occurred in 532 A.D. was in response to some members of the Blues and Greens having been arrested for murder in connection with a riot that had broken out after a recent chariot race. It had resulted in a number of deaths. Instead of being hanged for murder, the accused were imprisoned instead, sparking anger from the mob. Politics had a lot to do with stirring up the already enraged masses of people waiting to pounce and get revenge.
There are numerous examples to cite throughout history where sports and violence intermingled. English soccer fans known as football hooligans had such a violent reputation that they were actually banned from European competition for six years after the Heysel Stadium disaster in 1985. Thirty-nine people died and six hundred were injured as a result of the rioting that occurred before the start of the 1985 European Cup Final between Liverpool of England and Juventas of Italy. A wall had collapsed from the pressure of Juventas supporters trying to escape from the English hooligans.
Deaths sometimes result from these extreme acts of aggression from sports fans. An unfortunate incident transpired after Colombia lost 2-1 in a match against the United States during the 1994 FIFA World Cup. A Colombian player named Andres Escobar accidentally scored an autogoal giving the Americans the win. When Escobar returned to Colombia, he was confronted outside a bar in Medellin by an outraged fan who shot Andres six times and killed him.
Fan violence is worldwide. After a 2002 FIFA World Cup match in Zimbabwe, thirteen people were trampled to death in a riot that erupted when the team from South Africa defeated Zimbabwe. During a 1993 tennis match in Germany, a Steffi Graf fan stabbed Monica Seles during a changeover.
Sometimes celebrations turn destructive. Los Angeles Lakers fans celebrating a victory over the Indiana Pacers in the 2000 NBA finals decided to storm the streets of L.A. to light bonfires and dance and stomp on parked cars. They even overturned a news van. After the Detroit Tigers defeated the Padres in the 1984 World Series, violence ensued outside Tiger Stadium resulting in overturned vehicles including an overturned Detroit Police car that was left burning.
Whether fan violence is related to nationalism, or as an outlet for underlying social tensions, or perhaps even too much testosterone mixed with alcohol, the destructive results remain the same. The damage and deaths it brings with it always touches the lives of those affected by it. People searching to find meaning behind it all may instead find themselves hitting a dead end.