The phrase “Philly sports fan” conjures up a specific set of images in the minds of most folks who follow sports in the US. The reputation of the Philadelphia Police Department as a no-nonsense kind of organization was cemented into place during the days when Frank Rizzo was the Police Commissioner and reinforced by the incident when the Philadelphia Police bombed out a city block to resolve a standoff situation. Bringing those two stereotypes together in one’s mind might produce interesting situations. Bringing those two kinds of folks together in Citizens Bank Park a couple of nights ago resulted in a 17-year old fan getting tasered.
As you must know by now, the kid jumped onto the field and eluded security guards as he ran around on the field. A Philadelphia Police Officer used his taser to bring the kid down. This has led to some regal level pontification on the part of sports writers around the country. I will attempt to spare the rhetorical gas in summarizing.
Yes, a taser is a weapon supposedly issued to police officers for use in protecting themselves when deadly force is not needed. No, the kid was not threatening the person of the police officer who fired the taser.
There, we have the basis of the pontifications. And for every writer who wants to go off on the tangent of “police brutality” or “improper/excessive use of force”, allow me to say that the kid could easily have avoided the business end of the taser. All he had to do is stay in the stands and off the field. About 40,000 other folks managed to do that and not a single one of them wound up in a quivering puddle with electrodes on their person.
The kid was charged with trespass and similar stuff. The countdown is on until a civil lawsuit against the officer and/or the Philadelphia Police Department and/or the Phillies and/or Francis the Talking Mule is filed. Just so you know that I would have to be disqualified as a juror in that civil trial, let me explain what I would have to tell the judge under oath in the voir dire process of juror selection:
Your Honor, I believe in the principle that when you act like an asshat in a public setting, you become a taser magnet. If you do not like being on the business end of a taser, you should not act like an asshat.
While on the subject of strange fan behaviors, consider an ongoing situation in Italy that has spilled over into the Italian Parliament. The basis is soccer – of course – and it involves the scudetto – - the championship of the Italian Serie A league. Within the Serie A there are myriad individual team rivalries, and one of the most intense exists between the two teams from Rome, AS Roma and Lazio.
This season, AS Roma is in contention for the scudetto with Inter Milan the team that has held that title for the last four years; Lazio is at the other end of the stick facing possible relegation to a lower league next year. [At the moment, Lazio is 5 points above the “relegation line” but they are not out of the woods just yet.] Last weekend, Lazio hosted Inter Milan and the Lazio fans openly rooted for Inter Milan. After the game that Lazio lost 2-0, the fans “demonstrated” in the streets as if the Lazio side had won. That win gave Inter Milan a two-point lead over AS Roma who had played its game of the week a day earlier than the Lazio/Inter Milan contest. [Believe it or not, that fact actually becomes relevant later on…]
To put perspective on this for you, let me relay some information from translated Italian reports here regarding the AS Roma/Lazio rivalry. It seems as if this rivalry goes beyond what we here in the US call “bitter foes” or “traditional rivals”. It goes beyond Army/Navy and/or Ohio State/Michigan and/or UNC/Duke and/or Yankees/Red Sox and/or …
After the last game between Lazio and AS Roma (about a month ago), fans of the two teams engaged in a fight. About a dozen fans had to be treated for knife wounds…
Five years ago, the match between these two teams had to be stopped because someone started a rumor that the police had killed a young boy outside the stadium. [The rumor was false.] That sparked riots in the stadium that went on for more than a little while.
The Italian press was all over this Lazio/ Inter Milan game and the fan reaction. I do not read Italian so I do not know if they used the Italian equivalent of “the fix was in”. However, here is a translation of a comment from the Italian La Gazzetta dello Sport in a front-page editorial:
“Those who love sports, not just football, cannot celebrate in seeing Lazio’s quiet obedience to its fans, who wanted it to lose.”
That is strange enough, but in Italy anything can go over the top and so the Chairman of the AS Roma team issued a statement that she would be “ashamed to win that way.” She might just as well have ended her statement with, “Game on…!”
The Lazio Chairman reported that he had received death threats and envelopes containing bullets prior to the Lazio/Inter Milan game indicating what would happen if Lazio did not win. [They lost and he is still alive as of this writing…]
The Chairman of the Inter Milan team had to respond saying this was not his problem but this was an issue between AS Roma and Lazio. Since he is absolutely correct, I wonder why he had to flap his gums here at all, but this is Italy and he did. And then – - the politicians got involved…
There was talk in the Parliament about a Parliamentary inquiry into why games are held at different times since known outcomes might affect the race for the scudetto. I believe that my position as a person with extremely low regard for the Congress of the United States is well established. Notwithstanding that low regard, I must concede that I have yet to hear a Congressthing or Senator complain about the scheduling of professional sporting events to the point where hearings had to be held on that subject alone with the idea that there might be government oversight of something like sports schedules. However, as I said, it does not take much for something to go over the top in Italy…
Finally, here is a comment by Greg Cote of the Miami Herald (from about a month ago) about the ill fortune of a fan favorite here in the US:
“Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s winless streak is now 62 races, and last week he was penalized for going too fast on pit row. A new definition of no luck at all: you are ticketed for speeding during a NASCAR race.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports…