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A discussion about fan violence in the sport; but which sport?

Oct 14, 2012, 11:25 AM EDT

Fan violence

Behavior of that minority of knucklehead and chuckleheaded fans is topical. That’s why we hear statements like this one, from Sunday’s excellent Outside the Lines on ESPN:

The violence in the stands is one of the main reasons why I won’t allow my family to travel to away games. Because I just wouldn’t be comfortable knowing they are up there and there is nothing I can do if anything might happen to them.”

Or this one:

It might be safer on the field than in the stands.”

Here’s the rub: Those words are not from a shin-guarded soccer man. The first statement is from linebacker Aaron Curry of the NFL’s Raiders. The second is from former NFL man Tony Coats.

So, why is ProSoccerTalk writing about this? Three reasons:

First, as we know, this will continue to be a point of emphasis in MLS, where the fantastic Pacific Northwest rivalries have added so much to the league – but where one awful incident could alter an otherwise sunny landscape as contingents of visiting fans interact.

Second, this is a problem where NFL can certainly learn from professional soccer. I heard Colin Cowherd talking about this last week. His solution is centered around raising ticket prices, which he likes to cite as the chief element in the critical reduction in violence that took place in England starting about 20 years ago.

But that’s not exactly correct. A comprehensive approach, which included modern policing tactics, identification of known troublemaker, calculated seating policies and more, is what helped retake English soccer from the hooligans, not just “raising ticket prices.”

Third: hopefully, attention to roguish fan behavior in NFL (and at baseball games in Atlanta, apparently) puts to bed once and for all this notion that, somehow, soccer as a sport is the root of violence. That was always, and continues to be, a completely ignorant notion.

Back in the late 1990s and into the next decade, I worked dutifully to educate my business, the newspaper business. Validating and amplifying cultural clichés was and continues to be one of the worst practices of legacy media.

Every single time my newspaper dipped into the big bag of media cliché stories, publishing a headline about the latest violence in a soccer ground somewhere in the world – never mind that our newspaper would never, ever, ever otherwise care about some of the leagues involved –  I would go to editors with my standard checklist:

  • Should we really be running cliché stories?
  • Are we going to run the latest arrest report from Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, where fans are arrested each week?
  • Is this really a sports story? (Because I often heard that “arrests at an NFL game is a ‘news story,’ not a sports story” … which makes no freakin’ sense, of course, if you run stories of fan violence in soccer from obscure spots around the world in the sports page. But, details, details.)
  • Regarding that latest stabbing at a match in Africa, or multiple-arrest incident somewhere in Europe, etc., are we going to run a story about that league’s champion, or about the star player, etc? (The answer, of course, was usually “no.”)

So, the next time some dim bulb floats the tired old saw about soccer violence, you might point to the latest person left in the hospital by drunken goons at an NFL game.

This is society’s issue to attack, not just soccer’s issue or American football’s. It always was.

  1. magicbucs - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:07 PM

    How come you guys rarely write about Conmebol qualifiers? You write more about Uefa. Who really cares about what Russia is doing?

    • Steve Davis - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:25 PM

      Small staff. Just doing what we can for now. (And by the way, the numbers are always OK when we write about European qualifiers and such, so the data doesn’t support your “who cares” theory.

  2. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:35 PM

    Well said, Steve.

    Football, err, soccer as it’s referred in here, is equivalent to the world’s game. The “Pro-Americana” movement caused this country to become biased, if not hateful, of anything foreign which in this case anything British created/related. Football, err, soccer, being the BIGGEST sport in the world became the sacrificial lamb and laughing stock for easy cheap shots since football is more than a sport, it’s a passion, for other countries so what better way to “stick it to them” than by ridiculizing it.

    This practice took a life of its own that it became culturally accepted in the media to do it even if it compromised what media is supposed to stand for. Heck, ESPN, now a “friendly” soccer advocate, was a prominent offender of it with its sportscasters snotty comments and Jim Rome made a living out of it which other media outlets replicated.

    The irony of it is that the same , if not worse violence accredited to soccer, was also happening in American sports, but it was best kept under the rug.

    As $occer has grown and continues to grow, those comments are not as normally heard as before; however, there are still those foul-mouthed, old schooled anti-soccer persons who pull out their outdated scripts here and ther without much effect.

    Times are changing and globalization is a reality which has forced the US to come out of their cave or deserted island and no other sport is benefitting of that than world football itself.

  3. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    @ magicbucs
    How come you guys rarely write about Conmebol qualifiers? You write more about Uefa. Who really cares about what Russia is doing?

    With all due respect to Conmebol, Aside from Brazil and Argentina, most attention is directed to European football by fans. South America might be as good , if not better than Europe, but the lack of organization, proper infrastructure, economic and social issues affects how club and national football is perceived by others.

    Concacaf is given attention only because the US belongs to this region; Otherwsise, it would receive the same treatment given to Asian and African football which is a big zero.

    In the end, it comes down to demand and supply and European football takes the main $potlight.

    • pensfan603 - Oct 14, 2012 at 3:49 PM

      Uruguay is better than argentine but thats besides the point..

  4. seanb20124 - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:35 PM

    See the fan violence after Drogbas goal the other day. Makes me want to avoid attending an African WCQualifier

  5. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    lol, it’s not like you’d attend any African WC qualifier regardless of anything.

    It’s like me saying , i’d not attend a Jaguars game because a Bears fan was killed or I’d not to go to a dodgers’s game because a fan will attack me. I just won’t go because it’s not my cup of tea.

  6. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    For the ignorant believers that sports violence is only a soccer related issue and enjoy poking fun at it, please take a look:

  7. footballer4ever - Oct 14, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    @ Pensfan603

    “Uruguay is better than argentine but thats besides the point..”

    What was your main point then because you did nothing worth it was said.

    Was that said in the same context of “my father is stronger than yours” type of statement. I would not be surprised that you are Uruguayan or of Uruguayan descent to say that. If that’s the case, we understand where you are coming from, but that’s besides the point.

  8. mkbryant3 - Oct 14, 2012 at 10:53 PM

  9. danny136200 - Oct 15, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Should the NFL adopt the way that EPL game seats are assigned? like, give away fans designated sections in order to keep the peace? that will be one way to sort of stifle fan violence. It probably wont be popular a decision though.

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