The Wrong Side of 30: Leaving it on the field

“The Wrong Side of 30” chronicles existential questions sports fans have as they traverse the trials and tribulations of adulthood, ultimately helping us manage our fandom against life’s more pressing adult priorities. Or we’ll just complain about something trendy that really pisses us off.

This week’s topic: leaving it on the field.

Every Monday morning during the NFL season I anxiously await the first-person accounts of that weekend’s fan fights. Without fail, it (usually) involves two or more heavily intoxicated adult males who appear to have nothing against each other aside from being fans of opposing teams.

I am not proud: it is a guilty pleasure watching men betrayed by Darwinism shout obscenities at each other until one of them cracks and decides to wail away.

While the vast majority of these incidents take place before, during, or after NFL games, MLB “fans” aren’t afraid to get in the mix either: after Toronto’s Game 3 win Tuesday night, a group of Blue Jays fans went after each other. While violent arrest records at sporting events are spotty, at the very least it seems violent crimes at sporting events are receiving more attention than ever. The coverage is disturbing.

Going to a sporting event is supposed to be fun. Unless you’re some sort of sick idiot, why would you want to pick fights or talk shit to a stranger? Loyalty to your team is great, but when that loyalty turns to rage and starts spilling out into the stands, the bar, or the parking lot, it’s time to let it go.

Let’s make something else very clear: protecting your team’s “honor” is a load of shit that comes right out of a stereotypical greaser movie. Owners only care about money and winning. Players care about the way they are perceived at work, but their jersey is just laundry. They play for themselves, their teammates, their coaches (sometimes) and then their fans.

When you raise hands with some dude over a sporting event, the players don’t have your back and they’re definitely not watching. You’re undoubtedly a loser.

A few years ago I went to an out-of-town baseball game wearing the visiting team’s gear (please note: not a jersey). I was with a few friends in the standing room area of the stadium when a group of meatheads in their late-30s/early-40’s rolled up a few feet behind us. They looked (and smelled) like they had left the job site and went immediately to the bar.

Before they made it to our area, they were trying to intimidate other fans into giving them that night’s giveaway (a bobble head, of course). Needless to say, they were not cool with me wearing opposing colors.

Their nonsense began with them screaming obscenities about the away team and their fans. They tried to mitigate it by pretending to have very loud conversations among themselves, but they succeeded in letting everyone know how they felt.

Then they got more aggressive, moving closer to our group and “accidentally” bumping into me while they cheered during big plays (my buddies were all fans of the home team so they were alarmed, but spared).

The deal breaker occurred when the home team took the lead and one of the red-faced assholes with the shaved head and goatee walked up right behind me and screamed, “WHAT?” in my ear.

I had ignored these pricks for the majority of the game, but now I was pissed. I turned around and glared at the offending ass clown. He stared back, flexed his arms and hunched his shoulders as if to say, “What are you gonna do?”

He was a bully. He was showing off in front of his fellow rednecks. He tried to embarrass me in front of my friends and everyone around us. He was muscular, but also short and fat, and in a crowd this size, I could probably get up in his face before one of us had to throw that first punch. And even if it came to that, the anger was enough to mitigate any rational thought. I turned to my buddies and we nodded: it was “go” time.

Any by “go” time, I mean we left the standing room area while the meatheads heckled me on the way out. To this day, I wish I would have at least gotten back in his face (or waited until he turned around then passive aggressively yelled shit back), and in my 20s, I probably would have. But in retrospect, walking away was the right (albeit highly embarrassing) thing to do. Johnny Redball and his friends might not have had a lot to lose, but my friends and I (all of us gainfully employed, many of us married, and a few of us with kids) certainly did.

As we walked out of the stadium that night, I still felt stupid, but we had a good laugh over how pathetic those guys looked, thankful we didn’t risk anything truly important in our lives over a baseball game.

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