Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fans Have Lost Their Way...

How did we, as fans, lose our way?

When did it become okay to cross the line, verbally and physically, while attending an event?  Within the span of 36 hours on Sunday and Monday, two situations within the sports entertainment world have completely befuddled me.  I just can’t seem to grasp what causes fans to become completely classless fools.  Buying a ticket does not give you any rights outside of watching the game from a predetermined seat.  Unfortunately some don’t comprehend that.

The first incident was during Sunday afternoon’s NFL game between the Baltimore Ravens and Kansas City Chiefs.  During the 4th quarter of a defensive battle, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel was sandwiched between two Ravens defenders and sustained a concussion.  As he lay on the ground motionless, there was an audible contingent of fans cheering.  While it wasn’t every fan in the stands, it was a substantial amount where you could hear them through the broadcast.  It was audible enough that players were angered by it, especially offensive lineman Eric Winston.

Now I’ve heard the Chiefs apologists say the fans were cheering for a “big play”, which was a 15 yard gain.  The other excuse I’ve heard is that fans saw Brady Quinn warming up and were excited he was possibly going to come in the game.  Both arguments are ridiculous, but the Quinn one is downright laughable.  The fans were excited for Quinn; former third stringer for the Broncos, former back-up in Cleveland, career QB rating of 67.3 and record of 3-9 as a starter?  Really?  Give me a break.  These classless “fans” were clearly cheering the fact that Cassel, who has struggled this season, was injured and coming out of the game.  They cheered, and then maybe once a small dose of intelligence seeped in, they quieted down as Cassel was worked on.

I understand we watch and enjoy a game based on violence and chaos, but we all like to watch and not acknowledge this aspect.  We like to play fantasy football, cheer for our team and pretend it is not the most violent sport every created.  That’s part of the fun for us as fans.  However, there is never a time where it is okay to cheer an injury.  What is more astounding is that they cheered for an injury to a player on their own team!  There are players I absolutely do not like.  Just ask me.  I would never cheer for any of them to get hurt, especially someone on my own team.  That’s just classless and disgusting.  Winston put it best when he mentioned they were not Gladiators in the Roman Coliseum.  They are playing a game.  “Your” team winning or losing, players playing well or not does not give you the right to act foolish and entitle you to anything you feel like saying or doing.

This leads me to, what I feel, is an even worse case of fan interaction with an athlete/performer.  It’s no secret that I have been a professional wrestling fan since I was five years old.  I still watch and enjoy sitting with my three year old son, Marshall, when we watch a little together.  Marshall has two favorite guys, Kofi Kingston and CM Punk.  I don’t know why he chose Kofi (other than that he’s an amazing athlete), but he chose CM Punk because “Daddy!  He has tattoos like you!”  It’s just a fun thing we share.

Unfortunately CM Punk found himself in a tough situation on Monday night at the end of the weekly broadcast of RAW.  While fleeing through the crowd near the end of the show Punk stopped on the steps, turned around to listen to the on-goings in the ring and finish the show.  It appears that the section he was to run into was filled with overzealous fans that proceeded to push, touch and smack Punk repeatedly.  It was caught on camera by someone in the crowd.  As you can see in the video, after numerous attempts to push him down the stairs and a stiff smack to the back of his head, Punk lashed back.  He threw an elbow and pushed a fan down.  Unfortunately, it was the wrong fan.  The person who really sparked Punk to lose his cool, in the most cowardly way possible, hid behind a larger person and smacked him in the head.  He would later brag about it via Twitter, like the genius he clearly is.  The person who was actually attacked is reportedly not pressing charges, but is looking into getting a lawyer and trying to cash in.  Oh the irony of this guy mentioning Ron Artest while wearing a 2010 Lakers championship t-shirt…a team in which Artest was a key piece to.

The debate has raged online regarding CM Punk’s reaction to the situation.  Quite frankly, I think he was well within his right to defend himself in an increasingly unstable situation.  Security was not in place and had not controlled the crowd.  Punk is repeatedly pushed and smacked.  Later on, he detailed more about it:

I think the whole situation sucks,” Punk told “It’s an unfortunate and isolated incident. I was up in the stands, surrounded.”

“Somebody said, ‘let’s push him down the stairs.  I got hit in the ribs three times. I was getting shoved and I was getting punched…Then I started getting tagged in the back of the head. Unfortunately, I lashed out in the heat of the moment and I apologize. I’m really just glad nobody was hurt."

Think about it.  He was getting assaulted on live TV and we expect him not to react simply because he’s portraying a character at that time?  I don’t care what he says on TV there is a line between fans and performers that should never be crossed.  Once you put your hands on him in a violent manner (which was clearly happening), he has every right to defend himself in whatever means he feels appropriate.  There were people trying to push him down the stairs!  I have been to many arenas and the stairs aren’t exactly the safest place to be.  Injuries can happen really fast once you lose your balance on them.  Sometimes you have to make a statement, a statement that couldn’t be made with the look Punk gave to a number of fans on multiple occasions in that short time.

Watch the video again and notice how quickly everything stopped the moment Punk stood back up after knocking the fan down.  Security finally showed up, but everyone that had put their hands on him quickly decided it would not be a good idea to continue.  Clearly something had to be done to get the attention of masses and that decision in the heat of the moment, was made.  It was unfortunate for the guy who got hit, but he was crowding into the aisle with his elbow right near Punk’s head.  Stay by your seat with your arms down and this doesn’t happen.  He was too busy trying to get on TV for his five seconds of fame.

Fact is CM Punk reacted as any human would.  The fact that he’s a major star doesn’t remove his humanity.  It also doesn’t give you as a fan the right to lay your hands on him in any way.  For one second, just use basic common sense.  If you’re in an arena do you want pushed, punched, slapped or have foreign objects thrown at you?  Of course not!  Just because we’ve paid to see them perform or play, doesn’t entitle us to treat them however we want.  Boo if they play poorly.  Cheer when they play well.  If CM Punk is cutting another legendary “pipe bomb”, react verbally however you want.  That’s what they want.  However, let’s start using some common sense and decency in arenas all across the world.

For some reason, I have a feeling this will fall on deaf ears to the ones that need it the most…

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