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By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Should you be able to wear a Ronde Barber jersey in Philadelphia without worrying about taking a blow to the back of the head?

Now, fortunately, that has never happened to me to that degree, but it's a question worth asking.

Being a fan of another team, a team not from your town, and being able to show it is hard. And not just hard in the places with reputations for abusing those who don't tow the home-team line.

Two quick examples:

I'm in the stands in Seattle watching the Buccaneers play the Seahawks. The expected rain is coming down, but it's not water. It's beer, popcorn, French fries, etc. all being thrown at the guy wearing the Bucs jersey.

Go back a few years, to the old Sombrero in Tampa, the Buccaneers are playing the Detroit Lions. On the field, Barry Sanders is running over and around helpless Bucs defenders on the way to 200-plus yards and a Detroit win. In the stands, a fan wearing a Sanders jersey is getting the tar kicked out of him by an irate Bucs fans. Fists and beer are flying.

In both cases, me and the poor sap cheering for Sanders, came away unscathed. The Sanders fellow was a little worse off, but turned out to be fine.

But we, especially me, were lucky.

Others haven't been as lucky.

Fans have been shot, beaten near death, harassed, cursed, you name it, and rooting for the other side can be quite dangerous. Regardless of sport, this craziness happens all over. And let's not even talk about soccer, or futbol, across the pond.

My question is why? Another question is how many have been turned off by what they've seen or had to go through?

A gang mentality is often the case. How dare you come to our turf wearing the other's colors? It's the old strength-in-numbers thing where the majority knows there won't be any retribution for being a jerk.

Alcohol doesn't help, either, and don't expect teams to stop selling it. The morons get lubed up, out come the beer muscles, and trouble can start. That's why I'll never take my son or daughter to a professional sporting event where we're rooting for the away team. That's a sad statement, but it's also the truth.

And, yes, I'm well aware that it's only a few bad apples that spoil everything, but those bad apples always seem to crop up when you don't want them to.

I wish it was just a case where you could laugh at these bozos and let it slide, but when it escalates to violence, it becomes so much more than that.

It starts with the foul language - language that makes you feel sorry for the kids of these idiots because you know they're hearing the same things at home - and goes downhill from there. And if the home team starts losing, duck. I doubt if we'll ever find a solution.

Do teams create an away-team zone, a section of the stands just for folks who want to cheer for their team?

That wouldn't work. All you'd be doing is putting a bigger target on their backs.

Do you eject every fan that starts something?

That would be nice, but you would need a ton more security and also the cooperation of others to finger the ones who started it.

Do others do what I, and I'm sure many, many more have done, and just stay home because it's not worth the potential hassle?

That stinks, but it's the best bet, sad as it sounds.

The real solution is for the "tough guys" to grow up, try and remember that it is just a game, watch their team and try to see the bigger picture.

Nah, that won't work, either.



Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

Copyright 2012