Thursday, November 16, 2006

How is This OK?

I want to talk about the fan behavior at Ohio State. And I want to know why the national media doesn't make a bigger issue out of it.

Everyone knows the story about how an email was sent out to Michigan students this week, warning them about things to do and things not to do down in Columbus this weekend. What I want to know is how did it get to the point that an email became necessary? How did it get to the point that Ann Arbor needs to send campus police down to Columbus so the natives have someone to call if they need to? And why isn't anyone talking about it?

Ask any Michigan fan who has been to Columbus if they've had a positive experience and the answer will undoubtedly come back, "No". The M Zone alone detailed a half dozen instances of behavior that goes beyond what normal human beings should exhibit. Dave Shand talked of getting spit on in the stadium because he was wearing a Michigan jacket. We had full cans of beer thrown at us (unprovoked) in 2002. The band has eggs thrown at their bus. It's not an isolated incident here and there.

Ask any Texas fan who was there last year if they enjoyed the experience. Ask any Notre Dame fan who had the "pleasure" of dealing with these animals at the Fiesta Bowl last year if they'd ever trek down to C-Bus. The answers would come back: No, and no. I met several ND fans this year who told me they were really rooting for us to beat OSU based on how they were treated at the bowl game last year. Texas fans on various message boards have echoed that sentiment. Those aren't rivalry's not isolated to just when Michigan goes down there. Those fan bases aren't looking to cause trouble. There goes the "Michigan fans are just asking for it" excuse. Frankly, the Texas fans and Notre Dame fans were classy enough when I attended games that I actually root for Texas now (as long as they aren't playing Michigan) and I've become one of the few Wolverine fans that harbors no ill will toward the Irish and their program.

The fans in Columbus seem bound and determined to create an atmosphere so hostile that opposing fans won't want to come there, thus increasing home-field advantage for their team. Either that or they're just pricks. And it's working. I can't tell you how many people I've talked to that say they will never go down there again. Or that if they go, they're not wearing Michigan clothing.

So why aren't we talking about it? Especially considering that college hockey is a niche sport, it seems absurd to me that it seems the fan behavior at Yost, which basically amounts to swearing, draws more negative attention nationally than the violence in Columbus. Even Rick Reilly cracked on Yost in a recent column:

We have become a nation of !#$%&ers. Michigan hockey fans serenade each opponent sent to the penalty box with a dozen elegant words: "Chump! D---! Wuss! Douche bag! A------! P----! Cheater! Bitch! Whore! Slut! C---------!"

Higher education at its finest.

He wrote an entire column about swearing (the main focus of the column was about what BU is doing to try and prevent it). Where's the column about people attacking other fans en masse? Wouldn't you think that that would be a little more worthy of mention?

Then there's Jim Carty, who stopped jerking off to his photo and portfolio long enough to contribute this pearl of wisdom in response to Reilly's column:

Every time the Michigan football team travels to Ohio Stadium, we're treated to a litany of stories about how badly the Ohio State crowd harasses Wolverine players, coaches and fans. The kids are cursed at. Their parents are cursed at. Senior citizens wearing Michigan gear are cursed at.

Terrible stuff, just terrible.

Unless, of course, you're doing it at Yost, where the C-Ya - nothing more than organized and tacitly university approved name-calling - has been going on for years.

Sorry Jim, but the swearing is just the tip of the iceberg when Michigan fans talk about how badly they are treated down in Columbus. Frankly, I don't care if someone walks up to me and says "F--- Michigan". I'd prefer it not be every other person. I'd prefer that every photo I have of my trip to the Horseshoe not contain someone flipping the bird in the background. But I can deal. Swearing doesn't bother me. Getting full cans of beer thrown at me on the other hand? That bothers me. Knowing that these people are willing to tackle a crippled person without any provocation? That bothers me. The fact that cops will pull over any car with Michigan plates who dares to go 1 mph over the speed limit bothers me. The fact that I had to back into a parking spot out of fear that my Michigan plates would get my car keyed? That bothers me. The fact that my boss's friend had $1,500 worth of damage to his car after a recent foray to The Game? That bothers me.

Paula Weston (who hails from Columbus of all places), talks about the fan behavior at Yost roughly 13 times a season. After another column in January of 2005, she posted this response to emails from Michigan fans:

I've received a good number of messages that take me to task for not denouncing the behavior of OSU fans at football games.

I don't doubt that fan behavior in The 'Shoe is atrocious. I've never actually attended an OSU football game. I'm not a big college football fan, and although I take a passing professional interest in it — and I can't avoid having it crammed down my throat for five months of the year — I just don't care to attend a game.

But, living in Columbus, I have witnessed some shameful behavior from OSU football fans, and one incident comes to mind from 1990, after I had just relocated here from Western New York.


It's the mob mentality, the bully gene that gets me, and I have to say that what I witnessed that day in 1990, during my very first season of Buckeye football in Columbus, has soured me on the football fans here forever.

Why the Michigan hockey fans would want to stoop to the level of OSU football fans is just baffling to me.

That's the thing though. We're not stooping to the level of OSU football fans. We swear. Yes we swear a lot, but it's simply swearing. And 95% of the time it's directed to the players on the ice. Is it classy? Heck no. Does it even come close to what Buckeye fans do? Heck no. And it's absolutely absurd to make that comparison.

No one going to Yost legitimately fears for their safety. I've venture a guess that at least 75% of opposing fans who attend games at Yost come away having had a positive experience (and I'd say that guess is very conservative). I'd like to point out at this time that most of the complaints about the fan behavior at Yost stem from the "Cya chant" and not from how the opposing fans are treated. I can honestly say that I have never seen someone walking around the concourse stop to say "F--- [insert school name]" to an opposing fan. And I walk 2 laps during every intermission. But go to C-Bus and "F--- Michigan" will be heard more often than "Go Bucks!".

To the city of Columbus's credit, they seem to at least be making a token effort to curtail some of this behavior. But it won't matter. And I don't really have any suggestions to fix the problem short of having loads of police that actually give a damn. The national media calling them out on occasion might help as well. Rick Reilly's mention of the issues at Yost caused the administration to have a little chat with the students again. But the only mention of this sub-human behavior by a national figure that I have ever seen came from Kirk Herbstreit this week. And even that was just on WXYT with Doug Karsch.
"I worry about Michigan fans who are coming down to Columbus. That part of the rivalry sucks. It's embarrassing. Do you know how nice it would be for Michigan fans to come down to Ohio and sure, take a little razzing, but have some fun?"
How bout writing a column on ESPN about it, Kirk? He goes on to mention that Michigan fans can be partially at fault as well. In some instances I don't doubt that that is true, but I'd also say that no one comes out and makes statements like "I'm worried about Ohio State fans" or "I'm legitimately scared that someone might get murdered" before the Buckeyes come up to Ann Arbor.

It's sad that we have to discuss this. It's sad that these people think that behavior such as this is ok. And it's sad that seemingly no one beyond the Michigan blogosphere and message boards will talk about it.


Anonymous said...

Wow, Freakin' awesome. You should submit this to the Ann Arbor News and the Columbus Dispatch. Seriously, good work.


colin said...

Basically, it's a matter of where to draw the line. And personally, I don't see the issue with words. It has yet to incite any actual violence that I'm aware of at Yost and we are college students. Plus, I take great pride in using my college education in crafting insults.

Tom said...

I think that there is also a question of location. In my four years of having season tickets I never came across a Michigan hockey fan using foul language towards opposing fans outside of Yost. This is of course not the case in Columbus.

My point is that if the confrontations are limited to the arena of play the University can take steps to mitigate it. (Like moving the opposing players families across the ice and behind the glass where they can't hear as much).

Packer487 said...

Thanks for the comment Scott. I really do appreciate it! (I don't think the AA News would like the "Jim Carty jerking off" comment though)

Colin: I don't have a problem with words either--to a point. As long as you yell stuff at the opposing team and don't take complete low-blows then I'm fine with it. As far as opposing fans go, good natured ribbing is fine. Being vulgar, or just hateful is unnecessary. And at Yost, I don't feel that it's an issue.

Tom: I agree, the U has done a great job of lessening the chances of an incident even taking place. Since they've moved across the ice, the only incident I've seen involved a Miami (?) fan starting something with a Michigan fan.

It's just so night and day between Yost and the Horseshoe (and surrounding areas) I can't believe the comparison has even ever been made.