I haven't lived in Atlanta very long, so I'm not sure how newsworthy it is that two guys were shot in an Applebee's parking lot just outside of town over the weekend. But consider the fact that those two men were allegedly shot for cheering for the 49ers, it's not only newsworthy, but quite disturbing.
Donald Ray Aryo, 31, stormed out of an Applebee's in nearby Duluth while the Saints and 49ers played on Saturday night. When two other patrons there cheered for a 49ers touchdown, Aryo expressed his displeasure and, according to one report, said he'd be back.
He did come back, meeting the two men in the restaurant's parking lot and opening fire. Both men were hit and one remains in critical condition.
That New Orleans Saints fan surely must be out of practice in taking criticism. The team has been a media darling ever since their city went underwater in 2005. While the city continues to recover from the damage set in motion by Hurricane Katrina, the Saints have served as a symbol of hope, not only for those still in New Orleans, but for those displaced by the damage.
The Saints' critical immunity isn't news to anyone that cares about the Falcons. When the Superdome reopened in 2006, the Falcons played the Washington Generals to Drew Brees' Harlem Globetrotters. An entire nation cheered on the defeat of a team that, to that point, had never made the playoffs in consecutive seasons. When national commentators proclaimed that "Everyone in America is rooting for the Saints!" they could not have been more disingenuous.
I won't be breaking any news in opining that our collective consciousness has become both more tolerant and more intolerant. Our society is fractured, we have no manners, the internet is ruining everything and so forth. Even people that claim to be "tolerant" of human issues can turn downright nasty to others whose views appear, in their infinite wisdom, misaligned.
Fans of the NFL aren't immune to this, and I'm making the distinction here between "NFL fans" and "football fans." NFL fans will, even on a busy weekend when they're stuck at Bed Bath and Wherever will at least catch the weekend highlights on "SportsCenter" so they know what to discuss at the water cooler on Monday morning. Same goes for big-time college football fans. For a lot of us, it's part of our national dialogue and it beats the hell out of discussing the Republican primaries, which make baby dolphins cry.
I can get down with a man or woman that follows the NFL. Hey, the NFL is awesome. What I grow tired with is when a guy talks about how great his team is and what abominations other players are.
Look, if you want to wear the jersey from a team that you spent your whole life watching and you have $300 to put toward that end, hey, knock yourself out. But don't walk around with your chest puffed out like you had anything to do with those six Lombardi trophies sitting in that team's trophy case.
When somebody mocks the faith of one team's quarterback and then runs to the TV to cheer on your guy who spent his off-seasons traveling the nation in search of bathroom sex with college-aged girls, that person looks like an ass. If you're whining about a guy being so demonstrative when you're spending half the game spinning a damn towel over your head, you look like an ass. And I find that bothersome.
I've hoed this row before, but it's worth repeating in light of a guy who decided to shoot two people in a restaurant parking lot because he cheered for a different team. Why would you show allegiance to an organization that shows almost no allegiance to you?
Few other organizations outside the world of sports garner such fanaticism, but they're out there. If you work downtown in your city, you probably saw demonstrations against corporate greed by the same twentysomething fools that would spend five hours waiting in line to spend $500 on an iPhone. I suppose Apple uses petroleum products and child labor in more charismatic and humanist ways than other firms. And don't get me started on those Nissan Leaf ads that gloss over the fact that their vehicles are powered by burning coal.
In an age where information and knowledge are so readily available, perspective is an attribute sorely lacking. While most of us would never express our fandom in such violent ways, the passion with which we express our tastes—and the disdain we harbor for those that don't share them—might be more similar than you think. Not everyone cares about the same things that we care about, and instead of expressing that opposition with violence, a sharp tongue, or even just a nose in the air, maybe we could just take a second to chill.
Josh Zerkle is the Lead NFL Writer at B/R and editor of "The GO Route." He can be reached via email at TheGORoute at bleacherreport dot you-know-what.