It’s not a new trend by any means, but if anyone was wondering, fan fights or a brawl in the stands should NEVER happen at a lacrosse game. I’d say it should never occur at any sporting event, but for some sports the fan brawl has become a regular thing. I’ve been to a couple pro football games over the last couple of years and I always see fights. ALWAYS. I have also seen fights outside of basketball arenas, at hockey games (sometimes youth hockey) and other smaller sporting events.
These fights are a sad thing to observe to say the least, but it really goes beyond that and enters into full on “pathetic” territory.
Who goes to a game and gets so drunk and jacked up that they can’t but help to throw a couple of punches? How have we not set higher standards for punishing assaults like this? And how can we prevent this from ever happening at a lacrosse game?
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Allow me to regale you with a couple of stories that have to do with (off the field) fighting at sporting events:
The Battle Of Words
This past weekend, I went to a high school football game to watch my high school lacrosse players play another sport. During the game, the opposing QB throws a fade pass to the sideline, it goes just out of the reach of his receiver, and one of my players finished the tackle and hits the player along the sideline. I yell out, “way to finish the play, nice hit!” and instantly a parent of the opposition starts saying loudly, but not to me directly, “that wasn’t a nice hit. He elbowed him in the helmet“. I couldn’t help myself. I responded with, “Hmmm… I must not have seen the elbow“. That was countered with, “Oh, there was an elbow!”
At this point I stopped talking, and could tell this parent was simply NOT going to drop his argument. He was emotionally invested in the game, which is understandable. Maybe he was even right about the elbow and I did miss it. Or maybe I was right and it was a figment of his imagination. Honestly, both are totally possible. The point here is that words escalated the situation, and could have pushed things to a weird or dangerous place, when neither one of us could be certain of what had just happened 60 yards away.
The point here is that someone needs to drop it. Otherwise…
When Words Become Physical
Why do I bring up mere words in my first example? Because words can lead to much, much worse situations.
At the World Lacrosse Championships this summer, one of the Thailand supporters would run up and down the sideline waving a flag after the Thai team scored a goal. We didn’t run into many problems with this until we played one team in particular. Who this team was is not important. One of their supporters took the flag waving run as an insult and asked the kid to stop doing it, or to at least remain on the Thailand side of the cheering fans along the sideline. The young kid did not adhere to this request and continued to run up and down the entire sideline.
One or two more times and I could see that frustration was brewing, so I watched the situation carefully, which was a good thing. One of our opponents’ fans actually stopped the kid from running down their portion of the sideline by standing in his way. The kid tried to dodge the fan, the fan grabbed the kid by the shoulders, and then the kid’s dad got involved. I walked over briskly as the two fans were arguing and pointing their fingers in each other’s faces. Tempers were flaring rapidly and the situation was quickly approaching the physical violence level. Event staff was nowhere to be found.
Clearly someone needed to take control here, and I decided that it would be me. All I said was, “YOU! Go sit down. YOU! Go sit down. Everyone stay on your own side if you can’t be mature fans. This is a community of people who love lacrosse, remember that. And try not to embarrass yourselves…” Then I walked away. There was no more commotion, both sides sat down and shut their mouths. One of the fans just got up and walked away. I’ll take that any day over fisticuffs.
Don’t Forget The Real Fan Fights
Of course we can’t forget about the ultimate in disgraceful fandom… we need to talk about actual embarrassing fights at sporting events.
(Quick note on the video: the fan who yells “Stop acting like children! Grow up!” is spot on. The big guy in the blue shirt gets exactly what he deserves. Everyone in this video should be arrested and charged with being a moron, including event staff, which does a TERRIBLE job of controlling the event)
I have seen a couple of these in person. Once I saw 5 or 6 Jets fans jump a Dolphins fan in New Jersey at a game. I saw a Pats fan sucker punch a Browns fan for no reason whatsoever in New England. I saw two Dolphins fan fight in Miami. I saw youth hockey parents fight once when I was kid. And I’ve seen more “fan fight” videos than I care to remember. ALL are absolutely disgusting, and they all make me feel really queasy on the inside. It’s not cool, or funny, or anything. It’s just pathetic!
So here is my solution for fan fights in lacrosse… if it ever happens, we need to make sure we have photos and video of the event. Then, every individual involved in the fight needs to be identified and BANNED from every lacrosse event EVER for the rest of their miserable lives. These folks should also be prosecuted to the FULLEST extent of the law.
Big time field lacrosse has been lucky so far not to have been marred by a fan fight that went viral. If we want to keep things that way we as a sport need to institute a serious zero tolerance policy here. If we don’t, it’s only a matter of time before drunk knuckleheads (and maybe some sober ones too) ruin the fan experience for everyone else, and that would be a sad day indeed.
I don’t have any kids, but my brother does. If he ever asked me to take his son to a pro or college football game, I would say no way. I’m simply not willing to take the risk of brining someone else’s kid to an event like that. Take my own kid? Ha! You’ve got to be kidding me! Would I take that same child to a Red Sox – Yankees game? Again, no way. Not worth going unless you’re sitting with the rich folks in a box.
The chances of being in the middle of a fight are slim, and this does not happen at every game, but it does happen enough to turn me off to going to games in person. I can only hope that it doesn’t start happening in lacrosse, because if it does, I’m not going to those games either.
It may seem silly to bring this subject up when fan fights at field lacrosse games are currently a non-issue, but that is just called being prepared! When some absolute fool, or group of fools, decides it’s time to start throwing punches, I can only hope that lacrosse, as a sport, decides to throw something too… and that would be throwing that fool(s) out of our game forever.
Don’t be the first field lacrosse fool off the field… we already have a couple on the field. Hopefully the below is enough to last us another century:
Seriously, I’ll never forget that… it was just straight up embarrassing. How much worse could that have been if the coaches had not stopped the benches from getting involved? You could see those kids wanted to throw down. Well done to both coaching staffs to stop this before it got truly ugly. And just remember… is THIS what we want to see on SportsCenter, or is this:
Yeah, I thought so. I’ll take the latter too. ANY DAY!
Is this cool?
Nope, that was terribly embarrassing, and the parent in the stands screaming “woo, woo, woo!” should be removed from all future lacrosse contests. Shocking? Not really. When you have parents cheering kids on when they fight, it’s not surprise they fight.
I think you get the point. Sports are, at some level, about sportsmanship. That is why we play sports and don’t just engage in Bloodsport, Gladiator Games, or Max Max Beyond Thunderdome type stuff. It’s a GAME. Play hard, play fair, and don’t fight anyone because of it. Follow those three rules and we’ll all be better off.