Peace, Brother

The recent mob violence plaguing Italian soccer, which has left one police officer dead, has prompted the authors of Freakonomics to speculate as to why European soccer fans are so much more violent than American sports fans, when our country has such a higher incidence of violent crime. Their answers—rivals are more proximate overseas, we have better security, ticket prices here keep out the riff-raff, our sports act as proxies for actual violence—aren’t very satisfying. (Even distant rivalries cause problems in Europe; their security is often extremely tight; prices for tickets are no higher than for baseball games, etc.) In any case, the subject seems especially pertinent here, a space where fans of America’s most prominent rivals participate in a constructive, respectful, and highly enjoyable dialogue. (Mostly.) Why are soccer fans more violent? A constellation of cultural and logistical factors are no doubt responsible. Those factors don’t align themselves here as they do overseas, though it is, I think, foolish to think this is because we are somehow more advanced as a culture or less devoted as fans. Whatever the case—and feel free to debate it here—it’s nice to think that this site contributes in some tiny, modest way to making interaction with the rivals something that’s a great pleasure and not a great danger.

16 comments… add one
  • I think alot of it has to do with the way politics and other cultural issues are intermingled with fan support in Europe. These types of things tend to stir up emotion in a deeper, perhaps more violent fashion. The two soccer teams of Milan, Italy are an example of this. AC Milan is regarded as the working class’ team while crosstown rival Inter Milan has more middle and upper class fans. One can imagine the issues this type of allegiance can raise. Then you get into teams that associate with a particular religion preference such as the scottish team, the Rangers, who have Protestant support. Hostility that can arise from this type of situation is hardly surprising. These examples just scratch the surface.
    For most of us in the states, our allegiances are based on where we live or grew up. As a native NY’er being a YF is only natural…

    sam YF February 11, 2007, 12:02 am
  • yy

    Anonymous February 11, 2007, 2:27 am
  • Hey, there is nothing like a good Yankee-Red Sox basebrawl. Some of the most memorable moments in sports have occurred between the Red Sox and Yankees like:
    -The Pedro throwdown of Don Zimmer.
    -A-Rod slapping at Brandon … er Bronson Arroyo.
    -Karim Garcia and Jeff Nelson tangling with an off-duty Red Sox groundscrew member.
    -A-Rod mouthing “f-you” at Jason Varitek and then grappling with him.
    -Gary Sheffield threatening to punch a Red Sox fan who swiped at a ball in play, before being held back by a nimble Red Sox employee.
    Good times.

    Devil Rays' Fan February 11, 2007, 6:02 am
  • Yeah, I do remember Tek’s pussy shot at A-Rod. Try punching someone without full catcher’s gear on.
    Also Manny’s drama queenyness at a high fastball from Clemens, which set off the whole thing. Good times, I wonder if Clemens still has a thing against Manny?
    I also wonder if Schilling will let Clemens borrow his red magic marker if the Sox make the playoffs. Ah, memories.

    Andrew February 11, 2007, 12:48 pm
  • What was that about “a constructive, respectful, and highly enjoyable dialogue?”

    pastorsteve February 11, 2007, 12:56 pm
  • Andrews is always willing to provide us the alternative if things get to civil around here…

    Paul SF February 11, 2007, 1:11 pm
  • Sorry, that should be Andrew with no “s”.

    Paul SF February 11, 2007, 1:12 pm
  • Oh please. I was simply offering another perspective on the matter.

    Andrew February 11, 2007, 3:31 pm
  • Haha, right. Clearly, in calling Tek a pussy, Schilling a liar, and Manny a drama queen you weren’t shooting for another pissing match about whether the blood was real, or if Varitek should have said, “You, sir, are out of line. We shall settle this with fisticuffs, just sit tight while I remove my gear,” before taking a swing. Of course not.

    desturbd1 February 11, 2007, 4:07 pm
  • Hey, it’s what I saw and thought. I would post the same on any blog, regardless if there were any Red Sox fans or not. If someone wants to start a pissing match, that’s their business.

    Andrew February 11, 2007, 4:24 pm
  • nice. that’s a bit like saying “I just threw a punch at the guy. If he wants to start a fight, that’s his business.”
    but hey, all in good fun.
    Sox fans and Yanks fans are pretty passionate about the game, but the emotional investment of european soccer fans seems much higher to me. More passion, more violence.
    I would also wager that sports is more of a proxy for real violence in international soccer than in american baseball/football- particularly in games between countries (i.e., world cup, etc) where there is a real history of violence. New York and Boston never went to war, but plenty of European countries have.

    joshSF February 11, 2007, 9:37 pm
  • I don’t know if it’s more passion, but there’s certainly more history. There’s no history of New York invading Boston and occupying the city (Germany/France) or Chicago bombing the shit out of Milwaukee for months on end (Germany/England), all within the last 65 years. We just don’t have the international history of violence that European clubs have, the Civil War notwithstanding. Add in the aforementioned religious issues that Sam cites and there’s really no surprise that there are deeper-seated reasons behind the violence in European football than behind a rivalry like Sox/Yanks.

    SF February 11, 2007, 9:45 pm
  • Nationalism + sports fans + beer, and lots of it.
    City rivalries just aren’t the same.

    Rob (Middletown, CT) February 12, 2007, 8:47 am
  • “There’s no history of … Chicago bombing the shit out of Milwaukee for months on end.”
    Which is really too bad, when you think about it…

    Paul SF February 12, 2007, 9:43 am
  • But the worst violence is often intranational, so the our-city-bombed-your-city explanation can’t always explain things. nor can history. the nl is older than the fa. anyway, it’s not like the guys throwing the punches have degrees in urban history. There’s culture, politics, religion, alcohol, proximity, racism—the works—at play in all of these incidents. There are no easy answers.

    YF February 13, 2007, 2:15 am
  • Who said there are easy answers? I was only trying to supplement the explanation, not offer an umbrella answer to the question. The international and domestic histories of each nation surely play a massive role in the violence in football; cultural differences are magnified when religion and politics enter the mix, and many football clubs are allied (or WERE allied) with specific religious and political affiliations. That’s a very different trait: how many of our franchises have ever been specifically affiliated with a sect of christianity or with a political party? It’s certainly a major contributor, if not the only defining one. I am certainly not suggesting that this is the answer, but it IS one of many answers.

    SF February 13, 2007, 6:21 am

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