According to ESPN.com, the average ticket for an NFL ticket is $78.38. The average MLB ticket is $26.92. These are high costs. What does paying these amounts entitle us to? What do we expect to get for our money? What does this show about us as a society? What are our values? Do we place winning on too high of a pedestal? Recent events in Major League Baseball and the National Football League have left me pondering these questions.
This past Friday, the St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Atlanta Braves in a Wild Card Playoff Game. It was great because my team, the St. Louis Cardinals won the game! Things turned ugly in the 8th inning when a call did not go in Atlanta’s favor. The play potentially could have led to a big inning where Atlanta could have tied the game or taken the lead. Once the crowd realized the call was made, mayhem ensued. Play had to be stopped for twenty minutes because fans were throwing trash and bottles onto the field. This was the fans’ way of showing their disapproval of the missed call. Now, I am an unabashed Cards fan and am glad the call went the way it did. It ultimately helped my team win. But what if my team was on the other end of it? Would I respond the same way? I would like to believe I wouldn’t have acted in the same manner, but the adolescent fan inside might have been tempted to act the same.
I used to be very superstitious with my teams, the Cardinals and St. Louis Rams. It sounds really dumb now as I write this, but I had a lucky pair of jeans that I had to wear when the Rams played. I used to have a routine. I would read the papers scouting reports, watch the same pregame shows, sit in the same spot on the couch, and wear the same clothes as the previous week if “we” won. I say “we” as if I actually had an impact on the game. What a moron. I did this on game days as if it actually had an impact on the game. I admit that this was silly, but I am not the only one to ever do this. Sports fans all over carry out their own superstitions or “traditions” while their team plays. It’s crazy, but we actually think we are helping our team win by doing this. When the Rams lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots I was sure it was because I had left my lucky jeans at home and forgot to bring them back to college with me. It had nothing do with the Patriots cheating (Yeah, they cheated), holding our WR’s, or Mike Martz’s refusal to run the ball. It was all because Kyle Elmendorf was not wearing his lucky jeans. I just have to laugh at myself now. HA! I no longer do these things because I realize it’s stupid and that it has no impact on the outcome of a game. These superstitions are like the actions of the fans in Atlanta on Friday—they show that our sports culture has become too big. Our sports culture in America is out of whack and it’s evident. Too much importance is placed on the results of a sporting event. When things don’t go our way, we act out to show our displeasure. Sports should be used to teach character, responsibility, and ethics. I now wonder what we are teaching our youth.
A few days later, the Kansas City Chiefs were playing a home game against the Baltimore Ravens. Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell was knocked out of the game after sustaining a hit to the head. Cassell, who has not played well for the Chiefs, was lying on the ground after the hit. The sight of the injured QB had many Chiefs fans cheering. This caused several of the Chiefs’ players to voice their displeasure with the fans’ actions after the game. They stated how “sick” they were at the cheering of an injury. NFL fans pay top dollar and spend hard-earned money to attend games. Does this mean they can act however they want at a game? I don’t think so. Too often people believe they can act however they want at sporting events with there being no consequences. The NFL is the most violent professional sport we have. Players know this and participate with the understanding that they will most likely have long-term health issues because of it. Players get paid a lot of money to do this and it blurs the line of what people think is acceptable behavior while attending a game.
These last two incidents have left me a bit disturbed. There will always be controversial calls in sports. People have reacted negatively before, but I see no improvement, only a decline in acceptable social behavior. It is not acceptable to cheer a player’s injury, no matter what team you root for. I fear what may come next if this is what our children see happening. Have we as a society lost our social conscience? It is our responsibility to act in an adult manner while attending professional games. We need to be role models for our children. How can we explain to a child that throwing trash on the field or cheering an injury is the right thing to do? People need to step up and take action. If we want a better society to live in we must quit hiding and only criticizing actions from afar. We must become the type of people we claim to be. Actions speak louder than words.
What can be done to prevent these types of behavior? This year the NFL has enacted a fan code of conduct whereby if fans’ violate the policy they can be removed from the game and barred from attending future games. MLB has developed a similar policy. What should we do? We are quick to condemn this type of behavior in public but too many of us participate in the conduct. It is easier to join the crowd and be funny than to stand up to it and help prevent its occurrence. As a society we must start instilling better values in our children and we must practice what we preach. If and when these types of negative situations occur, we must use them as teachable moments. My son is only 19 months old; however, if he were older I would have discussed these situations with him at dinner. I would have explained what occurred leading up to each event, what the fans’ reactions were, why the actions were inappropriate, and what the proper way to handle the situations would be.
What kind of world do we want for our children? What kind of role models do we want to be? We must change the way we act. We must develop more of a social conscience. We must promote fair play, character, values, and work ethic to our youth through sports.
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