Sports fan violence

Fan Violence and the Emergent Norm Theory There is a lot of emotion when people are trying to win for themselves or for their team. In sports, as long as there is competition and high emotion, there will always be the potential for violence. However, the violence isn’t always among the players of the sports. Violence among fans is not a new trend. I have been an athlete my entire life, so spectator violence is not a new trend to me. At many of my softball games, I have experienced angry parents yelling and screaming at the coaches and umpires, fist-fights with other parents, and the list goes on. There have been riots created by onlookers (brought on by a team loss), fights among players, mobs overturning cars, dumpsters, and so on. All humans have a need to identify with either an individual or group; it is a means by which people maintain and improve their self-esteem. A powerful source of identification, people identify with an individual athlete/team and become heavily invested in the outcomes of competitions. The primary goal of sports fans is winning. When their identified teams are losing, frustration may build and the fans may seek a different outlet – resulting in violence. When fans become frustrated, anger is the dominant emotion they feel. Fan violence may be reflective to the violence that happens in our society. In fan violence, conformity is equal to morality. There are many situations which may lead to fan violence: large crowds of a heterogeneous mix (i. e. – social class, racial/ethnic, etc.), importance of the event for the fans, alcohol consumption, neutral vs. home ground for one team, poor calls by referees, and so on. Hearing obscenities can be contagious and escalate into more swearing, name calling and fighting. An obscene cheer starts with two fans, increases to eight and soon a whole section. People in a crowd behave differently than they normally would and the ” individual” mind becomes the” collective” mind – heavily influenced by the actions of others. In the emergent norm theory, members of a crowd act in deviant ways because everyone around them is acting that way. There is a development of new norms and justifications within the group. The groups tend to amplify their differences, with each group seizing a superior position, resulting in an emotionally-charged attitude of ” us vs. them”. With the notion of group unity, fans become more susceptible to anonymity where they forget about personal responsibility, and their personal/social restraints are weakened. Individuals lose their personal sense of responsibility when they are in a group. Instead of feeling that they are morally accountable for their own actions, members somehow share the responsibility with one another, and none of them feel it as strongly as he would if he were alone. Not only does it release them of responsibility, but it also reduces the likelihood of being caught/held accountable for their actions. Fans model the aggressive behavior of ” leaders” that emerge from the crowd and other fans close to them. The leader suggests a course of action which produces a consistent change in norms and makes the violent behavior justifiable. In closing, I believe that violence in sports and violence in the name of a sport team or player will never cease to end. Players will always have short tempers and misfortunate problems and the fans will always be rowdy.