- By Belch
A young man leaves Dodger Stadium and makes his way to a local bar after a baseball game between his team (the Dodgers) and a rival team (the Giants). When he gets close to the bar, the young man, Jonathan Denver, sees a group of rival fans across the street and a shouting match begins.
“Let’s go Dodgers!” The chants come flying out from Jonathan and his friends. “Let’s go Giants!” The rival group of fans starts to chant back, escalating to a new level. As the levels of aggression increase to an intense level, the groups become close enough for a physical altercation, and the unspeakable happens.
Denver is stabbed and is rushed to a hospital, where he later dies from his wounds. The behavior of those rival fans illustrates a behavior that is becoming more common, and I believe one of the reasons we see this extreme increase is the role models that sports has produced.
When Michael Vick reinvented his image and came back into the NFL, many young fans picked up his jersey and toted it to the next Eagles game; however, when Aaron Hernandez was arrested on suspicion of murder, his jerseys were actually exchanged to make way for better role models. Regardless of which side of the debate you land, the aspect of unlawful behavior is a major part of American sports.
Since last year’s Super Bowl, 27 players have been arrested in the NFL. These crimes range from DUI’s to murder charges (Manfred). At the same time, violent sports related crimes have risen at a similar rate since 2011. It can only be concluded that this rise of crime in sports is directly correlated to crime in the general population. It’s my opinion that certain teams in sports, with their reputations for being “dirty,” are acting irresponsibly as an influential role model for adults and young adults.
It’s widely known that a Raiders game is a place where rival fans don’t want to be, and the organization is doing next to nothing to fix this. It’s the team’s job to make each game a safe environment for the fans. It’s no longer enough to plant security in the stands or close by; players need to set the example also.
I’d like to see more stories on the news about athletes visiting children’s hospitals. Where are the athletes that get a commercial for saying no to the “party bus?” The image is, unfortunately, that if an NFL star is doing it, it must be cool. So when Aaron Hernandez is arrested for murder, there are many young adults who will follow in his footsteps.
Going back to the Jonathan Denver story, we had two rival teams who had just finished a game. I’m not too arrogant to think that any amount of security could stop every fight that has sprung from some rivalry game, but the players on the field can have a say.
Get in front of the camera and tell fans that violence is not the kind of behavior condoned in sports. If invited, turn down the opportunity to get on party cruises with strippers and hookers; you’re only telling your fans that they should be doing the same. If you chain a dog to a truck, you get the same result.
In short, the publicized actions of players off the field draw a crowd, but what are the affects on that crowd? I know there are a few youths in Detroit that could stand to see Ndamakong Suh help a rival team’s player off of the turf and not kick his groin on his way up.
Sports figures and icons need to be more mindful of what their actions say to those who idolize them. Even if they were completely ignorant to the violence that sports cause, players who don’t violate the rules stand to see more playing time, and far more money.
So take a step back, Carlos Gomez, and don’t mouth off to the pitcher the entire way around the bases. Be an adult, Amare Stoudemire, and don’t punch a fire extinguisher like a two-year-old. Be the role model you decided to be when you put on your city’s jersey, and we could see a whole new era of sports without the violence.