Stupid people have a tendency to make menial decisions look like terrible ideas; they take an idea or object and turn it into something completely different than what it was originally intended for. Those things that stupid people do make us ask ourselves, “What could I have done differently to prevent this ridiculous action from have taken place?” And I’m not talking about lack-of-book-smarts-stupid people; I’m talking about douchebags who ruin everything for those who choose to be respectful.
That’s exactly what happened in last night’s Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning. No, I’m not talking about Ryan Malone’s head-scratching decision to trip up Patrice Bergeron, who was way behind the play, for no reason midway through the first after Milan Lucic tied the game at 1. I’m not talking about the Bruins powerplay (sorry Bruins fans, but it’s terrible). I’m not talking about a few of the Bruins players who decided to goon it up at the end of the game after they failed to tie it. I’m not even talking about what any of the players, refs, coaches, training staff memebers, announcers, mascots, or anybody employed by the Tampa Bay organization (although they themself had much to do with it) or Boston organization did that night. I’m talking about what a few of the Lightning fans did, whos’ single action makes all Lightning fans by association look like schmucks. The douchey fans that make all hockey fans look like hoolagins. The classless fans that make me question why I put so much stock into being a hockey fan, or even a sports fan for that matter, if it might put me in the same category.
For those of you that haven’t heard, Nathan Horton of the Bruins grabbed a water bottle from a bench, squirted it at a fan who was leaning a little too far over the bleachers and then threw it at him (scroll to around the 1:30 mark). That action within itself looks very mischiveous and irresponsible. But let’s look at this escapade further: what would cause one to lose their self-control and attack a fan who did not directly play a role into a team’s loss, a loss that could have eliminated a team from contention and moved one’s team to the next round?
Let’s take that one step further: what could a fan, or a fanbase, do to agitate a player so intensely that he physically engaged the crowd? The blame starts with the Tampa Bay organization, who thought it would be a good idea to hand out free clappers (I don’t know what the hell you would even call them) to all fans in attendance. First of all (unrelated to the issue at hand), what the eff are those things? From what I’ve gathered, the giveaways were noise-makers that simulated some kind of clapping noise. Does the Lightning front office assume the common Lightning fan does not know, or is unwilling to, give applause to their team? Just a terrible thing to hand out, and I would be offended if someone gave me this monstrosity at the front gates and told me, “Hey guy, when you like something you see, wave this thing around like a madman! Show your team support by engaging in this crazy new technique called ‘clapping’! It’s the new craze in the NHL!” Next time you give something out, Tampa Bay Lightning organization, make it…(I have no words) not terrible.
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. Most fan giveaways are something simple, like a towel, poster, scorecard, hat, shirt, thundersticks (another stupid giveaway) or program: all light objects that one would have a difficult time inflicting harm upon another person. But Tampa decides to be different and hand out solid, aerodynamic clapper things that can be thrown with decent accuracy and can actually have an impact on the target. Of course, the fact that the object can be thrown easily and inflict moderate damage should not need to be taken into consideration when giving something away to fans. Then again, these are sports fans — specifically, hockey fans — that were talking about, so maybe these factors should be considered?
You see where I’m going with this. A few moronic fans thought it would be clever to throw this stupid clap-clap crap at the Boston Bruins players as they were leaving the ice after an emotional loss that really heated up at the end of the game (see: playoff hockey). Horton would have none of it. Now, I don’t know if the fan that Horton went after actually threw his clapper at the Bruins, nor do I know if Horton actually got hit with one of those things or went after the fan solely because of the incoming objects; what I do know is that the Tampa Bay Lightning fans (not all of them, I know it was a small minority) were way out of line in throwing their free junk at the players, let alone any stranger at all. That being said, Horton is not entirely justified in going after the fan (who was really asking for it by leaning so far over to taunt the Bruins while the adrenaline was still pumping, which also raises questions about the competency of Lightning security) and engaging him physically. Honestly, I may have done something similar; I would have at least considered it, that’s for sure, and I’m sure people who play sports or have been exposed to intense situations would agree. However, Horton should have done everything he could to not touch the fan in any tangible way; professional athletes are paid not only to play the game at a high level, but also to exert a level of, well, professionalism on a daily basis.
So who is really at fault for this entire water bottle-throwing fiasco? It can easily be narrowed down to three suspects: the Tampa Bay organization, for handing out something so stupid and embarassing; Nathan Horton, for losing his cool and going after the provoking fan; or the few Lightning fans who hurled their crap at the players. While all three are at fault, the blame can mostly be attributed to the moronic crappler-hurling fans; they have no reason to act that way and need to show a level of respect to other human beings.
But it’s deeper than that. As tough-guy sports fans, we are taught that being loud and obnoxious and verbally going after the other team and their players — directly or indirectly — makes you a true, loyal fan. Furthermore, there’s this idea of a one-way barrier that allows fans to harass opposing players, but should a player or other team personel go after a fan, it’s a huge issue and unacceptable (New York Rangers coach John Tortorella was suspended one game in the 2008 playoffs against the Washington Capitals for squirting water at a fan who was verbally tormenting him most of the game). We can yell at, scream at, taunt, and mock other players like absolute fools, and they’re supposed to just take it. We sit in clustered rows of uncomfortable seats, stained with beer depending on how far you go up, and that enables us the right to criticize players’ performances and attempt to make them feel terrible about themselves. Fans are not taught respect. Fans don’t show respect, and, under the current circumstances, why should they? There’s no repurcussions for a portion of a fanbase throwing objects at players; how is an organization (or law-enforcing agency) going to single out each and every fan and punish them accordingly? You can’t stop fans from verbally engaging with the players. And if these types of actions have the potential to get players off their games, or possibly even SUSPENDED during a playoff series, why shouldn’t you do it? Isn’t that what a good fan would do?