Thursday, May 7, 2009

What the Hell is Wrong With People?

Some people take their sports a little too seriously. It's one thing to be riled up over the Capitals versus Penguins series, but to go so far as to actually claim that you are going to kill a rival team's player? And to say that you "know [you] will be arrested, but [you] don't care?"

Did this seventeen-year-old brainiac ever consider the impact of his words for just one second?

The worst part about this is the fact that, since he is a minor, this child will not even be properly punished for his actions, and therefore likely won't learn anything from it. Had the Pennsylvania troopers taken the Internet tough guy into custody and let him sit in jail until his parents arrived, maybe he would have learned an important lesson. But, having been around snark-tastic teenagers for the last fourteen years, I am fairly confident that the "talking to" he was given by the police is just fodder for the boy's Facebook status right now.

Hell, he is probably proud of the fact that he "scared" Ovechkin and the hockey world enough that the police were brought in. If, may the gods have mercy on us, the Penguins actually win tomorrow night, this child is going to believe that he helped by making the Capitals look over their shoulders instead of being focused on the game.

What ever happened to good old trash-talk between rival fans? When did watching hockey -- being a spectator -- become a life-or-death thing?

Seriously, when I first suggested that we go to Philadelphia for a Capitals game earlier this year, Pat was horrified by the idea. "We'll get killed!" he said to me. I bought tickets anyway, and he reluctantly joined me. He was even more loathe to wear his Brashear jersey; I all but forced him to don it. He really thought it would incite violence against us. I told him that I'd been to Philly by myself for games in the past (granted, in the early '90s), and emerged unscathed, so he shouldn't worry. And, in fact, we engaged in some trash talk with the Flyers fans around us, and we stood and cheered loudly when Brooks Laich scored the lone Capitals goal (yeah, we went on 12/20), and afterwards, the Flyers fans around us said we were cool, and that our team had played better than the score indicated.

In other words, everyone was an adult about the game.

Yet, when I was discussing my latest Flyers experience with one of the Capitals marketing guys at the ESPNZone viewing party in Baltimore during the Rangers series, he told me a different story about Flyers fans. Last year, during the first round of the playoffs, Ted Leonsis secured a suite for the Capitals' office staff and rented a bus to make the trip. During the game, there wasn't "friendly banter," or even mild "trash talking," but outright nasty discourse. Additionally, when the marketing guy was in line for food on the concourse, he said he was literally kicked in the shin by a child who was rooting for the Flyers.

What kind of parent allows their children to run wild at Wachovia Center, and more so, encourages that kind of behavior? Talk about someone the police need to visit...

At the first game of this second round series, after David Steckel scored to tie the game at 1, the man seated directly behind me got up to use the restroom. As he scooted past three Penguins fans seated towards the aisle, he said, "Penguins suck," in a conversational tone.

The response? One of the Pens fans elbowed him in the face, while another threw beer on him. This resulted in a fight, obviously, with one of the Penguins fans being escorted away by security.

What is wrong with a modicum of maturity these days? Sure, you might say the Capitals fan caused his own situation by what he said, but it wasn't an "in your face" comment, it was just stated, not yelled, and not to any of the Penguins fans, but just directly towards the aisle. Those fans decided to escalate things to violence instead of verbal banter.

On the ice on Wednesday night, the Capitals could have been like these immature, childish fans, and been out for blood in response to Chris Kunitz's hit on Simeon Varlamov. Judging from comments by Alex Ovechkin and Bruce Boudreau, I would not have been surprised to see a lot of excessive hitting and bodies encroaching on Marc-Andre Fleury's crease. Yet, that was not the case, not to the extent one would expect for retaliation.

Seems that the players have better sense than those who are cheering them on. Maybe the fans need to take more away from the game than a simple win or a loss.

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