Monday, March 3, 2008

Acceptable Hate

Just how far should sports fans be allowed to go?.

In my study of sports, I've noticed that the relationship between fans and players has been deteriorating for quite some time. Anyone who recently has attended a NBA or major college game has seen and heard vulgar, despicable displays of fan behavior.

This Sports Illustrated article discusses some of the most egregious examples"

The article does a good job of explaining how the recent explosion of media outlets and technology has given fans far more access to the players and their foibles. It's true that in today's media market, fans can instantly call up factoids about most players with a simple Google search. The article also explains how anti-gay sentiments have replaced obviously racist remarks as the accepted means of conveying disgust in most arenas.

But, what the article doesn't do is explain why all this hate exists.

That may be because the author knows on some level that he is to blame. Stay with me.

The mainstream media in this country has never been a neutral and unbiased provider of information. Never. That is a lie media types tell to add gravitas to their reports, appeal to the widest possible audience and to justify special privileges received from the government.

And the sports media are no different from their general news cohorts. Any dedicated consumer of sports news will tell you that spin and bias maintain a constant presence on the sports page. Media types tell fans who is a good guy or bad guy often based on how well an individual treats them personally, or how much power that individual wields.

In addition, the inordinate amount of attention the media give to every mundane arrest of an athlete or the barely disguised disgust heaped upon anyone who deviates from the standard party lines for athletes ("I'm just so happy to be GIVEN this opportunity") drives public perception. Media coverage, combined with the standard racial and class biases in American society have combined to provide a very volatile mix.

Add in the spark of alcohol, and the explosion of hate at arenas is really no surprise.

Fans, whether they admit it or not, have internalized a low-level hatred of athletes based on the information fed to them by the media. Strangely, this hatred is often paired with sycophantic behavior, which leads to self-loathing, and then even more hatred for athletes. Many fans love the amazing things athletes can do, but despise the actual athletes. While these feelings can be controlled when fans deal with athletes that they identify with (either because of erroneous beliefs about a particular athlete's character or because of a loyalty to that athlete's team), they explode outward once fans are no longer constrained.

Consequently, it seems perfectly normal to direct vile and vulgar attacks towards players from another team. Hell, for many fans it makes sense to direct similar attacks on players on their own teams that they don't like.

The regular rules of interaction do not apply simply because these athletes have been clearly marked as acceptable targets for hatred. With alcohol and other narcotics lubricating their tongues, these fans can finally unleash all of the feelings they kept bottled up for so long in a setting that greatly minimizes the possibility of retaliation.

It's a perfect set-up.


MODI said...

you are perfectly right in pointing it right back at the media who often perpetuate fans insanity.

BTW, football games are the worst for fan behavior... ridiculous

Big Man said...

What up Modi, man thanks for stopping by for real.

Raving Black Lunatic