Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When fans turn fanatics

A spilled beer.

That is apparently what precipitated a brawl that started inside McFadden’s at the stadium Saturday night. After the two combating groups got kicked out of the pub, the fisticuffs continued in a parking lot.

With fatal results. A 22-year-old Lansdale man who was attending a bachelor’s party with some friends was basically stomped to death. Three men are now in custody. At least one of them has a record of a similar previous attack.

There might not be any point crying over spilled milk, but today a lot of people are simply shaking their heads over what can result from a spilled beer.

But ask me if I am surprised, and I will tell you – very quickly and very bluntly – not in the least.

I spent a lot of years as a resident of the 700 Level at Veterans Stadium watching Eagles games – and their fans.

I shudder at some of the things I witnessed there. Most involved some naïve out-of-town fan who had the temerity to wear his team’s colors into that rarefied – and volatile – air.

But it’s more than that. I always thought that much of the behavior I witnessed was right on the borderline, regardless of who was being targeted.

Sure, the opposing fans always got their share of abuse, but at the same time I witnesses any number of fights among guys who had come together.

In particular, I always remember one of the most dangerous times attending any Eagles game at the Vet was trying to get out of the parking lot after the game.

Alcohol makes people behave in strange ways. And lots of alcohol makes them that much weirder. Lord help the poor sap who made the mistake of tapping his horn as a horde of drunken fans crossed in front of his car, despite the fact that the car clearly had the right-of-way.

Having said all that, it’s important to remember that these incidents involve a tiny fraction of those who attend games.

The Phils are packing 45,000 into Citizens Bank Park just about every night this summer.

Now all them are being painted with the same brush because of a fight that got way out of hand.

Instead of painting the town red, or green, depending on what team we’re talking about, Philly is once again being painted as a city of louts, of fans who simply can’t comport themselves within the law.

No one will mention the 44,950 who behaved themselves. Instead we’ll focus on the 50 or so who crossed over into the hooliganism so many had hoped had disappeared when they knocked down the Vet – and its infamous 700 Level.

What’s next, a court manned by Judge Seamus McCaffery at Citizens Bank Park?

The 700 Level is long gone. Problems with a minority of Philly fans clearly are not.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please losen requirements for comments on regular news stories. Your editorials are anonymous so the commenters to your paper who are also editorializing should not have to disclose names, addresses and other identification your paper now requires.

July 30, 2009 at 5:28 AM 

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