Fan Violence: Who's to Blame?

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  • Topic: Beer, Violence, College rivalry
  • Pages : 7 (2514 words )
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  • Published : October 8, 1999
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"These people want to hurt you. It's frightening. You feel like you're in a cage out there". Reggie Smith, (Berger, 1990). Spectator violence at sporting events has been recorded throughout history. People who have power over the events, often team owners, indirectly influence the amount of spectator violence by encouraging the factors contributing to violence, in order to benefit themselves. Sale of alcohol, encouraging crowd intensity, creating rivalries, and targeting social groups, are factors affecting the degree of spectator violence and can be proven to be influenced by the owner's actions. Therefore the blame for spectator violence can be attributed to whoever has power over the sport.

Many historians suggest that an increase in spectator violence coincides with the commercialization of sports. Anthropologists agree that in societies where games were not for profit, they were enjoyed as celebrations of physical skill without competitiveness or violence between players or spectators (Berger, 1990). However, when people gained power or financially from the sporting events, spectator violence increased (Berger, 1990). Public spectacles and games were part of the Roman Empire. Each emperor had an amphitheater and the size of the crowd reflected the emperor's wealth or power. The emperor through crowd excitement could influence spectator violence to such an extent that gladiators could be killed or freed depending on the crowd's effect on the emperor (Robinson, 1998). The emperor encouraged the Roman working class, "to forget their own suffering, by seeing others suffer," while the senators, and emperor would benefit financially from gambling profits (Robinson, 1998).

With the commercialization of sports, owners' profits increased with alcohol sales. Beer drinking has been an integral part of sports since the late 1870's. Chris van der Alie noticed that his saloon did well when St. Louis Brown Stockings were in town. As a result, he decided to sell beer at the games. On February 12, 1880, Alie signed a contract with the Browns allowing him to sell alcohol on their property (Johnson, 1988). During a game on July 6, 1881, the first alcohol related brawl broke out in the crowd, injuring twenty spectators and killing two (Johnson, 1998). The signed contract with the Browns' was a financial bonus for the owner, however permitting alcohol to be sold, might have indirectly contributed to the injuries and deaths. Alcohol sales contribute financial support to teams. "Without beer companies as sponsors, the teams would have trouble making ends meet." Bob Whitsitt, president of Seattle Supersonics, (Berger, 1990). The more alcohol consumed, the more revenue for the owners. During the 1987-1988 season the Cincinnati Reds sold 12,610 half-barrels and 35,365 cases of beer. The amount of beer consumed averages out to a pint for every man, woman, and child who attended the 81 games the team played at home (Johnson, 1988). The team's owner benefited with a financial profit of over 1 million dollars.

Sponsorship or ownership of teams by alcohol manufacturers, increases the alcohol sales. The first major partnership of beer and baseball dates from the 1953 purchase of the Cardinals by August A. Busch, Jr., president of the Anheuser-Busch brewery (Johnson, 1988). In twenty-five years its' sales soared from fewer than 6 million barrels a year to more than 35 million (Johnson, 1988). In addition to direct profit, alcohol also indirectly increases profit through increased attendance. In 1974, when the Cleveland Indians' fan attendance was down, the owner implemented "Beer Night" where they sold beers for 10 cents at the first game of a three game series against the Texas Rangers (Berger, 1990). Attendance was up by 3500. The night turned out to be the first and last "Beer Night". When a brawl occurred during the 5th inning, hundreds of Indian fans charged the field and beat up the Texas Ranger players. Seventy-six...
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