It’s a growing problem. HBO Sports’ Bernard Goldberg did a great job detailing the dangers from fan-on-fan violence at stadiums, ballparks, arenas, even tennis matches, on Tuesday night’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
There are assaults, stabbings, even shootings at sporting events. On the episode, we saw sports fan Bryan Stow reduced to a wheelchair after being beaten and left in a coma outside Dodgers Stadium. His offense: wearing a San Francisco Giants jersey.
Stow’s a former EMT who helped others for a living. Now he can’t help himself, noted Goldberg. His interview with Stow’s mother Ann and sister Bonnie was heart-breaking.
With her son still suffering brain damage, Ann Stow said the father of two will never be the man he was before the beating. And for what? A baseball game?
“Bryan is never going to be the person he was — but we love him for the person she is,” said an emotional Ann Stow.
Goldberg also revisits the story of police officer Neal Auricchio. He’s a decorated Marine veteran wounded in Iraq. But the New York Rangers fan and a friend were attacked by four Philadelphia Flyers fans after the NHL Winter Classic in the City of Brotherly Love.
The video shows him being knocked out. As he lay on the sidewalk, one of the Flyer fans said over him: “Welcome to South Philly mother*&#@*#.”
Goldberg pinpointed an interesting reason for the increase in fan violence. Yes, there’s the boozing in parking lots, overall lack of civility, the increase in bullying. But there’s also been a breakdown of traditional institutions across the USA that used to make Americans feel like they belonged: home, family, churches, civic groups, etc.
People, especially young people, have a deep need to belong to a group. As the traditional institutions break down, young people are filling the void through sports. They’re identifying with fans of their favorite team as allies — and viewing fans of other teams as foes who should be confronted, even beat down, for wearing enemy colors.
“We used to go to games to escape the turmoil of the real world. These days you can run from the real world but you can’t hide,” noted Goldberg.
The episode, which also features an interview with the Dodgers’ new owner Magic Johnson, re-airs Wednesday night on HBO2 at 9 p.m. ET.
I completely agree with Goldberg’s take. Do you? Sound off below: