UNDER FURTHER REVIEW – Enjoy watching football in person? Brace yourself

I stopped attending Broncos games more than a decade ago, and a couple of recent events reassure me it was the right thing to do.

My decision had nothing to do with the play of the team but everything to do with the behavior of people who consider themselves fans. I got tired of listening to the profanity in the surrounding seats and having beer dumped on my back. More importantly, I got tired of subjecting my wife to both, as well as other rude and rowdy conduct.

The two recent incidents to which I refer (neither in Denver, I emphasize) confirm that, in general, not much has changed regarding football crowds. And in one sense—a sign of the times, I’ll say—it’s gotten worse.

First, the Kansas City Chiefs announced that so-called superfan X-Factor is no longer welcome at the team’s home games after a physical altercation with another such attention-seeker who calls himself RedXtreme. A paragraph from coverage of their “incident” explains what happened:

“RedXtreme had blamed (X-Factor) for throwing water at him and his wife during the game, which then sparked the melee in the stands. (X-Factor) told Fox4 KC he tried to “talk to him” but after one punch to the head, he ‘saw stars.’”

A letter to XFactor from the Chiefs’ “Director of Fan Engagement” reads:

“Your future presence in GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium and/or any Chiefs-controlled parking lots or similar areas, as well as any Chiefs-sponsored events, is trespass, and the Chiefs will involve law enforcement and seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”

It’s hard to imagine the late Tim McKernan, a.k.a. Barrell Man, ever getting into any kind of scuffle with another Broncos fan, much less ever receiving a letter using terms such as “trespass” and “prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”

But sadly, there has been, and remains, enough testosterone in the seats of the Broncos stadium, whatever it’s called at the time, to fuel a variety of unpleasant interactions. That can be said of every NFL and most college stadia.

One incident I recall from before I discontinued my Sunday afternoon trips to the site of Mile High Stadium was particularly distasteful, without a punch ever being throne. It was a Raiders game, though that no longer distinguishes the aggression many patrons exhibit. 

A dad had brought his son see the rivalry.  The boy, who looked to be no more than 10, wore his Raiders ball cap, which was a big mistake.

A few loudmouths nearby thought it was sport to ride the little boy as though he were their age. I don’t remember who won the game. But I’m quite sure it wasn’t a fun day for the dad and his son, regardless.

Not all football fans are like this, of course. But enough are to taint it for others unlucky enough to be in the vicinity.

In the other recent incident, fans at the University of Tennessee pelted the Ole Miss bench with cans, bottles and at least one golf ball in the waning minute of a 31-26 loss to former Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin—in an apparent expression of their lingering antipathy toward Kiffin for ditching Tennessee in favor of Southern Cal back in 2009—TWELVE years ago. 

The final 54 seconds of play were delayed for 20 minutes.

I can’t help but think that such an outrageous disregard for order and safety is the result of more than the usual fever pitch of a hotly contested football game.

When college students see so-called “peaceful demonstrators” riot in the streets of Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis and other major American cities—looting and burning businesses and assaulting law enforcement, all with impunity—why wouldn’t they think it’s perfectly fine to shower the visiting team’s sideline with all manner of projectiles?

When they see New York City police officers doused with water and other fluids, why wouldn’t they model such disrespect and think it’s funny and fun?

The Southeastern Conference responded by hitting the University of Tennessee with a substantial fine, which is better than nothing. But punishment for those who actually hurled objects from the stands is next to unattainable.

All of this leaves me wondering: Why is the unruly element in football crowds so much more prevalent than in other major sports?  

A major league baseball game, generally speaking, is a friendly, family affair. For me, the most annoying aspect is those who make it a social event and come to talk instead of watching the game. And when basketball fans express their ire, it’s almost always at the referees, who have an almost impossible job trying to keep up with a game often played at the speed of greyhounds. Otherwise, they’re pretty well-behaved.

Even hockey, a fast-paced, physical game that allows—some would say, encourages— actual fighting in the course of play, draws an audience that is largely tame, despite its passions. Or at least in control of them.

I’m guessing that with football, it’s a combination of the size and number of players in football, the inherent violence in every play, the large crowds that football attracts, the significant potential for crowd noise to affect any play, and the results of tailgating and in-stadium beer sales.

Bottom line: If you enjoy watching football in person, brace yourself.

Denny Dressman is a veteran of 43 years in the newspaper business, including 25 at the Rocky Mountain News, where he began as executive sports editor. He is the author of 13 books, seven of them sports-related. You can write to Denny at info@comservbooks.com.

Broncos game. But that’s exactly what happened with X-Factor, who The ban is the result