There is a 56-year-old man in Baltimore clinging to life today because he was beaten inside the stadium of a Baltimore Ravens football game.
In Alabama, the first three months of football season are the deadliest months of the year because of DUI fatalities.
Not long ago, before a college football game in Nebraska, police had to breakup a tailgate and force 3000 people to leave, after arresting fifteen individuals.
In separate incidents at different stadiums across the country, a group attacked a single man and stabbed him to death, two other people were shot at different times and two men suffered irreparable brain damage after being attacked outside different stadiums.
A two-year old girl who was out on a pumpkin picking trip with her parents will live her life as a paraplegic because of a head-on collision caused by a man who was driving drunk after leaving a professional football game.
Philadelphia Eagles fans are notoriously brutal; so much so that in the late 90’s the club installed a jail and courtroom in the bowels of their stadium where unruly fans were arrested, put on trial and sentenced by a judge who was forced to be in attendance for every home game.
These examples are a microscopic sampling of what goes on before, during and after sporting events in this country. Football games, both college and professional are especially guilty of this type of behavior. I’m not even addressing the rioting that goes on after teams win or lose championships, as if celebrations need to be intoxicated examples of boorish and irresponsible behavior.
Why? In part, the short answer is alcohol, though the parties involved will quietly move away from that topic because of the financial implications.
Now, I have been a season ticket holder for New York Giants football games for 40 years. For the first 30 years I rarely missed a game, attending well over 300 during that 40 year period. I’ve seen some pretty ugly stuff during that time. I’ve also attended countless baseball games in several ballparks. Also not a pretty picture.
When you take upwards of 80,000 people, many with testosterone issues, and you place them in a parking lot where they’ve been drinking for 3-4 hours before a game starts, then cramp them into a stadium where large amounts of beer is sold, considering there are fans from both teams at these games, you have the strong potential of several thousand angry and drunk individuals. That’s a potent combination and a recipe for dangerous confrontations in and outside of the stadiums.
Statistics tell us that those who tailgate are fourteen times more likely to be legally drunk during or after a game and that one in ten people leaving these games are legally drunk. So in a stadium that holds 80,000 people, 8,000 people are walking out impaired and many of those are getting into car and hitting the roads. Multiply that by hundreds of stadiums across the country on any given weekend.
And yet, very few restrictions are put on these individuals before or after a game.
Look, I love a good tailgate as much as the next person and even though I don’t drink, I don’t have a problem with people who do, as long as they do it responsibly. But if I want to take a child to a game and it’s going to cost me upwards of 250.00 for two tickets, another 30.00 to park and who knows what else inside the stadium, I want to be able to enjoy the entertainment in front of me without someone throwing around four letter words. I want to know I can cheer for a team without being attacked because of it, regardless of what stadium I’m in. I want a safe environment and considering the billions of dollars these teams and leagues are generating in revenue, they should be able to provide that for me. It doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
But they won’t do that because the product would suffer. They don’t want to alienate the crazy fans who buy $120.00 team jerseys and they certainly don’t want their beer concession sales to suffer. Both would be a financial hit to the bottom line, and regardless of the smoke and mirrors they place in front of us, it’s always about the bottom line. Restrictions, random testing, increased security, removing people from games before incidents occur, implementing proactive measures to avoid injury or death; these are all things that should be considered but probably never will.
So lives will continue to be altered, families will continue to mourn the loss of loved ones or face a future of long-term care and the games will continue to be played.
Because greed and violence is as much a part of sports as the play on the field.
Anyone who tells you differently works for a team or a league office.