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Several months ago I posted a photo of the Tulsa Oilers center ice on Instagram. It was opening night for the newly branded “ECHL” Tulsa Oilers and I covered that game from press box row and snapped this photo. A “hockey fan” on Instagram found it (they don’t follow me, nor do they have any contact with me and their account is private) and this person responded “I hate. the oilers.” What makes fans seek out photos, comments, posts, etc. on social media and respond in this manner?

Recently there have been a number of incidents that are very concerning involving fans and their response to sports teams, players and even owners. It is understandable that fans are angry with a team’s loss, or even with a particular player if they missed a catch or blew a save. Trust me, that player and their team are just as upset, or even more, since it is their profession. But more and more today fans are using social media to express their anger in inappropriate and even dangerous fashion. And it is not just on social media unfortunately.

I have witnessed fans cursing and spitting on an opposing hockey team as they exited through the tunnel after the visiting team lost in the playoffs. Why would any person even bother? Their team won that night! What makes someone do this? Why taunt anyone? Alcohol plays a huge part in this as every fan knows who has ever attended a $1 Beer Night at any hockey game. “$1 Beer Nights” make money for the teams and the arenas, but in the end it also makes for some ugly behavior in the stands.

Today the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads published a notice from their owner:

Our owner has asked us to communicate the following message – “Someone left a note on my car after yesterday’s game. Whoever you are, you scared my children. I am so upset about this, that I am seriously considering not attending games anymore with my family. I cannot begin to tell you how unhappy I am and how much this act has affected my family. What additionally bothers me is that I could not be more approachable, and have been since day 1. I may agree with you, I may disagree with you but I would always listen. WHOEVER you are, you have hurt my family and I will not accept it. Please stay away from us.”

The actual text of the note was not shared, but we most certainly get the impression that it was a highly detailed and very threatening note.

In addition to this event Sports Mockery published a series of tweets by fans who sent death threats to Brandon Bostick of the Green Bay Packers. From some of the comments I can only assume that some of these “fans” are young and clueless, however many are adults who seriously need to take a much closer look at their own behavior before chastising any athlete on social media.

Athletes and teams are becoming more and more concerned about their personal safety as fans cross the line with incidents that range from verbal abuse to physical abuse at times. And it is not just the sports teams who are concerned, fans themselves are becoming more concerned about the bad behavior of other fans however lack of security is always an issue. Aaron Beard writes, “Arenas with 20,000 fans are often staffed by several dozen ushers and an outnumbered security staff, while some teams post signs or make announcements asking fans to police themselves by reporting bad fan behavior.”

These athletes and teams are professionals and this is their livelihood, but to you the fan, it is just a sport for enjoyment. It is a game. A GAME. Win or lose, it is just a game, and all of the booing, the taunting, the bashing of players and their teams — all of this — doesn’t change the outcome or make anyone a better fan. It just means that you’ve taken the game too far on a personal level. It’s time to step back and focus on the real things that matter in life.

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“The time is always right to do what is right.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

 

 

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