Football Fanaticism: Insanity or Madness?

Patrick Johnston@PJSoccerJunkieCorrespondent IJune 12, 2009

While the title shares synonymous terms, the distinction to consider is that one may be considered permanent (insanity) and the other temporary.


Having attended matches throughout the world, I can sincerely say that the nation that has the fans with the closest thing to a proper perspective is the good old US of A. 


Not uncommon is the sight of a block of Yankee fans surrounded by a sea of Red Sox red, or an island of Carolina Blue swallowed up by the masses of Cameron Crazies. 


Of course, there are moments of violence and stupidity amongst the American fans, but nothing to rival the absolutely disgraceful behavior of the supporters of European Football. 


To sweep all supporters with a broad brush would be a gross injustice to the majority of the civil and urbane supporters of their selective clubs.


Just for the record, my Central and South American experiences have left a sour taste, but I have much more experience in Europe.


But the degree of violence and distasteful actions tolerated at most matches in England and Italy (not exclusively) is something I find alarming.


Personal experiences I have had which rival the madness of Europe include the crowd at a Miami Dolphin-New York Jets American crash helmet football game.


While we were not sequestered to our sections, the mixing of rival fans is usually done with no incident. But I have witnessed drunken brawls and moments of madness within these confines. 


What separates these incidents from the European disgraces is the fact that they truly are the exception and not the norm. And consider the fact that we are not separated.


While I am no prude, the language and actions of too many supporters at an English match are much baser than those of the American nature. 


The tone of this article is somber, but I am able to put a comical light to the grave issue being addressed.


I attended a match at Goodison Park with my 11-year-old son.  Securing tickets and taking our seats prior to the match, we were the unfortunate witnesses of several Evertonians hurling the most base and crude of verbal barrages at the Toon Army on the opposite side of the ground!


As kids are prone to do, my son asked me two piercing and relative questions: “Dad, why are they yelling like that at the Toon," and "Don’t they know that they cannot hear them?”


“Good question, let’s ask them.”


So I turned to the perpetrators and asked the simplest of questions first, “Why are you screaming at them like that?”


Stunned into silence, it was a good 30 seconds before one responded in a heavy Mersey accent, “They’re subhuman! They have gills and webs between their toes and fingers.” 


As he said this, spittle flew from his frenzied lips and his mates all shook their heads and nodded in affirmation.


It was our turn to exhibit stunned silence, and after what seemed like a minute my son said, “Dad, don’t bother with the second.”


We both laughed and gave the “carry on” to our previous antagonists. The barrage resumed and only concluded with our departure at the final whistle.


While this was a benign event in an explosive environment, there could have been serious consequences had these people known we were in support of Newcastle. My thought is it should not have to be like that


How American of me.


Did these young men truly believe the Geordies were subhuman? Did they behave like this on a 24/7 basis? 

I have to conclude no to both and ask, “Why is it okay for them to behave so at select moments (like football matches) then?” 


And that is the answer I truly seek. 


Is there a way for this madness to end? Why is it tolerated in the first place, and what is it about the U.S. that keeps it toned down on our side of the pond?


So many questions, but relevant and certainly worth asking.


My naïve conclusion is that the only way to instill civil behavior is to punish those who cross the line. The line in Europe is much more difficult to reach than in the States. 


Should the European authorities intervene in a more proactive manner? Is it too late because the threshold of tolerance has been where it is for so long (and crossed more than they care to admit)? 


Again, more questions than answers. 


One last question: Am I, as an American, off base here, or is the behavior embarrassing to the upstanding supporters of European Football as well?


While having some other ideas, I truly would like to know what the B/R community thinks.