Friday, April 6, 2007

Why freezing is better than a bash in the noggin

It never fails - once you're at the ballgame in SF you always wish you had worn one more layer. Or that you had a blanket, or a pair of electric socks. You wish the guy in front of you would spontaneously combust to generate a little heat. Last night at the game (Giants 5, Padres 3) I considering asking the hot chocolate vendor to how much he would charge to drench me in the stuff. Freezing is just part of the Phone Company Park baseball experience, along with the big Coke bottle, $8 beer, and loving/hating Bonds. And drunk people, of course. Always drunk people, somebody wants to fight, somebody gets tossed. All part of the experience, and mostly harmless. True as well with the NFL. Even Raiders fans, as scary as they may be, are a lot of bark and very little bite.

But there's something extremely different going on across the pond. This week, more reports of outrageous fan violence and blood in the streets. It's becoming the norm that any major soccer match, whether between league rivals or in international play, may include riots, racist chanting, even Fascist reactionary politics. I've heard about people who can't go out on a Saturday night without ending the evening with a fistfight, but what's happening in Europe is more than just a few of the boys having a good time. This is tribal warfare we're witnessing, at its base no different than genocide in Uganda or ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. Hate based on national origin, religion, and race, acted out with the sporting event as the stage. As the frequency and intensity of the fan violence grows, you begin to see stronger police response, and then you have the fans battling the cops.

Bottom line, there are many disturbing currents swirling under the surface of these frequent stories. Why are so many young men in Europe so angry and lusting for violence? Last night we had a 9-month old baby with us for the Giants game, and I had no hesitation (although if they were playing the Dodgers it would have been a different story.) Can you imagine people taking their little children to see Man U vs. AS Roma? Not bloody likely, mate, and that's sad.

More reading on this topic: How Soccer Explains the World: An Unlikely Theory of Globalization

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