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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Why So Serious?

Those people who really know me well are well aware that I am a diehard sports fan. I am passionate about my teams, whether it is the Saints, Hornets, Colonels or Tigers and I will support them win, lose or draw. I have been known to celebrate wildly in victory and not to take defeat very well. One of the most interesting dynamics in sports is not necessarily the rivalry between sports teams, but the rivalry between their fans.

Being a former athlete at Nicholls State University, I have been a fixture at Colonel athletic events since I enrolled at N.S.U. I am currently a board member of the Colonel Athletic Association, which raises funds for Nicholls athletics. (If you are interested in joining, please let me know!) During my time in school, my teammates and I had great times at various events and had an even better time heckling opposing players and fans. We were pretty rowdy then and pretty funny too! I once yelled to a Southeastern catcher, after overthrowing second base, “Hey sha, you threw dat one half way to Vacherie!” But it was always in fun and without malice.

Despite getting heated at times, 99.9 percent of the time we would share a laugh and a handshake with the opposition afterwards and be on our way, whether it in victory or defeat.

Despite my love for NSU, my true sports passion is the New Orleans Saints. As a young fan, I watched in agony as the Saints lost heartbreaking games on several occasions. The Saints played memorable games and had heated rivals, such as the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons. More often than not, especially in the mid to late ‘90s, the Saints came up short in these games.

Over the years, I developed a distaste for certain opposing fans, especially Falcon fans. I always thought poorly of Falcon fans. I remember the Georgia Dome being empty when they were terrible. I remember them going crazy as Bobby Hebert, our Bobby Hebert, ran around like an airplane in red and black after beating the Saints. I remember them doing the dirty bird dance all throughout the Superdome in 1998, their lone Super Bowl season. They were cocky bandwagoners. And I hated it.

Hate is a strong word, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel some degree of extreme dislike towards Falcons fans throughout the years. After Major League Baseball’s opening day, however, my stance has softened for the long term.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants have one of the most storied rivalries in baseball. It’s an in-state rivalry that has produced multiple memorable moments throughout the years. The teams and the fans, don’t like each other. On April 5, two idiots, posing as Dodger fans, took this to a whole new level.

Bryan Stow had been looking forward to opening day for months. He bought his tickets well in advance, donned his Giant gear and made the trip to L.A. for his first game in Dodger Stadium. After the game, Stow and his friend were walking through a dimly lit parking lot toward their vehicle. Two men wearing Dodger clothing followed them, taunting them at first before hitting Stow from behind. Stow hit his head on the pavement and was kicked repeatedly in the head and body. The men jumped into a car and sped off as help arrived.

Stow, a paramedic, is a 42-year-old father of two. Now, he also has evidence of brain injury and dysfunction due to the unwarranted and cowardly attack that resulted in a severe skull fracture and bruising of the frontal lobe of his brain. A section of his skull had to be removed to relieve pressure from the swelling of his brain. The injury will take months of recovery and rehab. It will possibly result in loss of memory, thinking ability and even personality. There is a $100,000 reward for the capture of the suspects.

The Giants dedicated their home opener to Bryan Stow. Before the first pitch, the teams came together for a joint message on behalf of both teams, “This rivalry must stay on the field, without violence or hatred.”

This is a motto that we must carry into our own sports rivalries. Whether it is a Northwestern fan, an Alabama fan, or even a dirty Falcon fan invading our turf, no matter how passionate we may be about our team, it is just a game in the grand scheme of things.

Feel free to give those opposing fans a hard time, just remember to follow it up by giving them a smile, a handshake and maybe even a cold beer.

** Donate to Bryan Stow's foundation @**

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