Of all the depressing sports stories so far this year, one of the ugliest has been that of Bryan Stow. Stow is a 42-year old paramedic father of two and San Francisco Giants fan who attended the season-opening game between the Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, only to be attacked by drunken Dodgers fans after the game and beaten so badly that doctors have had to induce a medical coma to save his life. It’s tragic stuff, one of the most brutal examples of sports bringing out the worst in people this country has seen in a long time.
Now I’m just a sophomore journalism student. The only true newspaper I’ve ever worked for on a regular basis is this one and I just happen to like to blog about sports as well. But even I know enough about what is and isn’t good journalism to know that the column John Steigerwald wrote on the situation for a Pittsburgh-area newspaper in Washington, Pa. called the Observer-Reporter blatantly violated those rules and those of good taste for that matter.
I won’t link to the column here because I don’t want to be directly responsible in that way for Steigerwald getting any pageviews. I know this kind of defeats the point I just made but if you really want to see the column, there are plenty of other blogs and media outlets who’ve criticized the story so I’m sure you can find a link that way.
Anyhow, the gist of Steigerwald’s column is that Stow’s decision to wear a Giants jersey to Dodger Stadium wasn’t just a vaguely bad idea and an easily ignored provocation, which is what it actually was. No, according to Steigerwald, Stow more or less had it coming to him, in part because as an adult fan wearing any kind of team jersey at all was juvenile, pathetic and an attempt to identify himself as a member of a sports team when he clearly was not.
By this logic, I should have burned the Ryan Miller and Jason Pominville Sabres jerseys my mom bought me last year as soon as possible. By this logic, Detroit Red Wings fans who throw octopi on the ice at road games aren’t just slightly obnoxious, they should be stoned to death.
It’s an annoying (for the home fans, anyhow) but unavoidable part of modern sports that if you go to a sports game, eventually you’re going to see a fan from the road team wearing that team’s jersey and cheering them on. It might seem obnoxious but it happens and it’s never worth violence.
I once went to a preseason New York Giants-Carolina Panthers game at Giants Stadium where a Washington Redskins fan kept rooting against the Giants all game long. And you know what? I didn’t beat him up. Neither did any of the other Giants fans surrounding him, even though I’m sure at least some of them had at least a couple drinks that night. The Giants won that game on the very last play and to be perfectly honest, it was much more satisfying to jump in the air in celebration in full view of that fan at game’s end than beating him up or watching someone else beat him up ever could have been. And I certainly didn’t think he was immature because he wore a jersey.
Bryan Stow’s story raises plenty of good ethical questions involving sports that are worth thinking about. The only questions John Steigerwald’s column raise are how on Earth Steigerwald thought that column was a good idea and why Steigerwald’s editors ever thought it was worth publishing. If I ever write something that tasteless and wrong-headed, I can only hope someone does a post like this on me.