It seems that it is a practice as old as time itself, but no one can quite understand the connection.
Of course, I am referring to the rioting, violence, and rampant destruction that occur in the home city when its team has won a major sports championship. It is senseless and demeaning, turning something that should unite a city and its fans under one common flag into an excuse to justify breaking the law and destroying public and private property. And no matter what lessons have been learned in the past, police presence does little to deter the savages at play.
The latest example of this is the now infamous rioting that just occurred after the Lakers defeated the Celtics for their second consecutive and 16th overall NBA title. Police had five times as much presence on the streets compared to 2009 and have arrested 45 people thus far in connection with the violence and vandalism. Given their use of information age technology such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook, there is likely more arrests to follow. A great game and a monumental achievement by the sports second most decorated team were overshadowed by an incessant need to destroy rather than to cherish.
So what leads such a beautiful moment in time to break down into a stain on the police blotter? No one quite knows, but a 2005 article by National Geographic attributed the phenomenon to the combination of adrenalin, alcohol, and the relative anonymity of being a fan rather than an individual. Basically, the experts believe that sports gives fans an excuse to act like idiots and believe that they can get away with it.
Certainly, fans act much differently in the stands than they choose to in front of their bosses or loved ones and perhaps it is feasible to believe that the same moral standing could pour out onto the streets as fans exit the stadium. Then again, as evidenced in the recent Laker riots, the violence very rarely occurs anywhere near the stadium, field, or arena. Rather, it erupts around the city, in neighborhoods and city blocks that hold only the city name in common with game itself, where the alcohol isn’t managed as tightly and the people are streaming out from their homes and nearby watering holes.
So is there a way to quell the behavior? There’s no doubt that the current information age has made it easier for police to punish those responsible for the indiscretions, but we’ve learned from the past that reaction does little to correct a problem. Instead, maybe other measures are required, from possible prohibiting alcohol sales on nights where a championship can be clinched, issuing a citywide curfew, or simply breaking up loitering crowds before they can grow to unmanageable sizes. Then again, passing short-term corrective measures like that also inhibits economic growth and constitutional rights.
Until then, cities will still live and die by the hand of pride for their respective sports teams, rooting for them to bring home their coveted trophies. Unfortunately though, success sometimes comes with a heavy price tag and until this idiocy is resolved, the checkbook will need to stay open to pay for it.
Police Use Internet To Seek Lakers Violence Suspects, mercurynews.com
Riots On The Streets As Lakers…, DailyMail.co.uk
Sports Psychology: The Psychology Of Fan Mayhem, NationalGeographic.com