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Monday, December 17, 2018

A Brief History of Fan Rioting: Vancouver Was Just a Copycat

A number of rowdy sports fans can be interesting character studies, that is, if you choose to spend more than three-and-a-half seconds on such a venture. I’m not sure about you, but my time is currently being invested in watching paint dry. Like a Marilyn Monroe movie, some of these individuals like it hot. Others though, prefer to have their Molotov cocktails on the rocks. Regardless, there is a particular segment of the sports-watching population that feels elation or anger over the results of a championship game is a dish best served with a blunt object thrown through the window of a storefront.

The latest band of louts choked the city of Vancouver into requiring the Heimlich maneuver, following the Canucks’ Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Boston Bruins. In so doing, the city saw its behind suffer a de facto paddling which ensured its place in the world fraternity of cities for which the only requirement of membership is a large band of ne’er-do-wells hell-bent on using sports as an excuse to rid the local Sears of its supply of vacuum cleaners, weed whackers, and inexpensive electronics equipment.

This is not exactly a very new tradition. Europe’s band of soccer hooligans has been stirring up mayhem for years. Though the rules of soccer confine the game largely to feet, it hasn’t stopped the sport’s Guinness-fueled patrons from using hands, flares, and tire-irons to accomplish their goal. Presumably, bearing witness to a 90-minute scoreless tie drives people to do less than law-abiding things. However, if spending an hour-and-a-half of your life watching something where no one scores was the requisite for a riot, then there would be a wealth of pillaging at any of the locations I’ve ever been to while scouring for single women.

Sports riots usually follow a similar blueprint: a huge swath of disappointed fans, a lot of noise, and a complete lack of decision-making skills. In other words, a lot like a Cincinnati Bengals game. Interestingly, though, baseball has had a special place in its heart for unruliness. It all began with the infamous Ten Cent Beer Night promotion on June 4, 1974, when the Cleveland Indians offered fans an impetus to show up and watch shoddy baseball played in a dump which featured a baseball diamond. Now keep in mind that this was in the days before the advent of foresight. Predictably, by the 9th inning, with most of the stadium’s occupants possessing a blood alcohol level of near-flammable, there was mass rioting that led to fights on the field beginning with flying hot dogs and ending with folding chairs to the face.

Bill Veeck, five years later, could easily claim credit for starting another major sports ruckus with Disco Demolition Night (talk about stayin’ alive). It was easily the low point in the musical genre’s history, if you discount the slew of perms and white polyester pantsuits worn by its performers. Detroit’s ranks of rank made al fresco riots a headlining event back in 1984, when the Tigers won the World Series, turning the city into a conflagration (there’s your word of the day). The city became so infamous for the unrest and perhaps inciting others, that there might have been a campaign to adopt the city’s slogan as “What happens in Detroit stays in everybody’s backyard.”

While the big D (possibly for destruction) might have started the trend on American soil, Los Angelenos, staying true to modern-day Hollywood cinema, copied the production, slapped another name on it, and rebranded it as completely new. When the Lakers won the first of their five recent titles back in 2000, the city’s inhabitants saw their excitement and elation manifested in the best way possible: namely, through burning cars and news vans. The destruction — which prevented the Lakers from leaving the arena following their Game 6 title win — became so much a part of rioting lore, that the event was marked with a 10-year dunderhead reunion after the Lakers defeated the Boston Celtics in the 2010 Finals. While champagne was flowing in the locker room, lighted trash cans were soaring, and the true meaning of competition was remembered: justifying a way to blow stuff up.

Which brings us back to the Vancouver looters. The city itself has historically drawn people to its agreeable hub with its scenic beauty, welcoming residents, and its relaxed regulations on marijuana usage. (Come to think of it, the three might be interrelated.) Maybe the outpouring of lawlessness there was borne out of boredom. Even an Olympic hopeful on the Canadian men’s water polo team was seen lighting on fire a rag that was sticking out of the gas tank of a police car, essentially proving that fire and water sports can coexist in some fashion. That a water polo player can get sucked into the fracas suggests that no activity is safe from the claws of sports-induced tumult.

Baseball? Check. Basketball? Check. Hockey? Check. Tennis? You cannot be serious! Well, Wimbledon just started this week. Wait until they run out of the strawberries and cream.

Pic via Busted Coverage

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