April 13, 2011
The Quality of New York Fans
The story of San Francisco Giant fan Bryan Stow, who remains in a medically induced coma after two Dodger fans knocked him down and kicked him repeatedly, made me think about the stereotype of the New York fan. Some of the phrases used to describe us include "over the top," "crazed," "negative," and "too intense." However, as I think about my experiences in the venues around the City, I feel that most New York fans have the perfect balance of intensity and respect.
After Stow was beaten, word started to come out of LA that Dodger Stadium had become dangerous. Reports were that there was often a gang presence throughout the outfield stands and upper deck. Having seen many games in Shea Stadium, Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Giants Stadium, Izod Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena), and Madison Square Garden, I cannot think of a time when I felt unsafe. This includes the many games I've watched from the upper deck. I remember one Met game, about ten years ago, when my father kept yelling at two drunk, obnoxious fans to quit their cursing. This eventually ended with them being thrown out of the stadium. Outside of that, I have yet to encounter or witness serious harassment at a New York sporting event.
I've always liked to observe how the NY fans treated fans of the opposing team. While I've certainly seen ribbing of Red Sox fans at Yankee games, Phillies fans at Mets games, and Nets fans at Knicks games, I have never seen anything that I would consider abusive. It was nothing compared to what I received down in Citizens Bank Park at a Mets/Phillies game dressed in my Jose Reyes jersey. I was showered in beer, and pelted with hot dog buns and popcorn while enduring as many obscenities as a marine in boot camp. And this was with the Phillies up by six runs! Only after a lackadaisical police officer came over did things calm down slightly. I've also heard horror stories of Giant fans being abused walking into Lincoln Financial Field, (home of the Eagles) and Red Sox fans are known to be overtly hostile toward Yankee fans in Fenway.
What I've come to realize is that New York sports fans are passionate but within bounds. We are prideful, confident, intense, knowledgeable, and realistic. Sure there are outliers in every group (Cliff Lee's wife claiming she was harassed by Yankees fans). But whether it's the sad story of what happened to Stow in LA, the Alabama football fan who stabbed five Auburn fans, or Philadelphia Flyers fans beating up Devils fans (then turning on each other) fan violence is increasing in many parts of the country. While New Yorkers are passionate, opinionated fans, it seems we still have sports in the proper perspective. Let's all make sure it stays that way.
Pete is a lifelong Montauk resident and former sports talk host at 88.7FM WEER. He can be reached via email at Peterfmundo@gmail.com.