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Why do fans riot when their team wins?

POSTED October 30, 2012 10:06 p.m.

Detroit's city leadership is probably relieved that the Tigers didn't win the World Series.
That's because Detroit baseball fans are widely credited with staging the first "victory riot" in the United States after the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.
It still ranks as the standard - at least as baseball victory riots go.
It had everything - the burning of trash and cars, overwhelmed police, the overturning of police vehicles, and window smashing - as well as plenty of injuries and arrests.
Detroit isn't alone in having fans who feel compelled to turn euphoria into anarchy. San Francisco had its share Sunday night although it was extremely tame by Detroit standards. The biggest damage was a $1 million Muni bus that was torched. There were also a few bonfires in the streets, windows on vehicles and stores being smashed as well as people jumping on cars and such. Altogether, police made 38 arrests for disorderly conduct.
And in all fairness to Detroit, a town that has made Oakland over the years look like a violence-free zone, the undisputed king of sports victory riots is laid back Los Angeles. The Lakers win a title and it is justification to burn the town down while throwing beer bottles at police as they fire back with tear gas and rubber bullets. Lakers fans rioted after league championships in 2000 and 2010.
You'd think they'd riot if they lost and someone like say the Sacramento Kings became the league champions. Los Angeles Clippers fans would never riot, of course, because they'd be in cardiac shock that the Clippers won a national championship let alone made it past the first round in the playoffs.
So why do fans riot when their team wins?
Part of the blame could be anarchists who work the crowds. Some of the problem can be associated with excessive drinking. Perhaps pack mentality drives the violence.
Still, if logic can ever be attached to violence, one would think the fans of a team that loses big games would be the ones most likely to torch their city.
Making it ironic is how we are all in a tizzy about the controlled violence in football games that players engage in by choice and in doing so they can demand bigger and bigger paychecks during contract negotiations. Our court system is about to become the setting for a morality play about grown men who knowingly engage in violent behavior for the glory and the bucks now suing over the consequences to their personal health as a result of their willingness to play the game.
Yet we seem to accept victory violence.
We accept it so much that we insist that police - just like they did in San Francisco Sunday night - stand down until it gets out of hand for fear of excessive force being deployed. Then, of course, we blame the police for letting things get out of hand.
There are no substantial consequences for those who are arrested for violently trashing our cities as we learned this past year from Oakland and the Occupy Movement.
The destruction in San Francisco on Sunday night easily cost $1.5 million, once property damages, police, and clean up costs are all taken into account.
Victory riots have unfortunately become a cost of having a major league sports franchise doing business in a city. It is a cost that shouldn't be borne by taxpayers. Yet, that is exactly what is happening.
If major league sports franchises were any other businesses that could be counted on to indirectly generate such destruction government would call it a nuisance and hold them accountable to some degree.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.

 

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