In Sports, Every Day is Ultimatum Day — For Better or Worse

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[Originally posted to Aerys Sports, a blog I used to contribute to. Backdated to the original date it was written with very light editing. Part I is here.]

Earlier, I wrote a piece on the intensity and fierce passion sports can bring out in people. I love the way sports motivate athletes to reach greater heights and provide a cathartic outlet for die-hard fans. Last night’s fiasco in Vancouver reminds us of the uglier side of that coin: it’s true, in sports, every day is Ultimatum Day– for better or for worse.

On March 31, a San Francisco Giants fan was beaten for wearing his Giants gear to a Dodgers game. The rivalry between the two West Coast teams started in 1958 and was so heated that it incited the unprovoked assault of 42-year-old Bryan Stow. Over two-and-a-half months later, Stow remains hospitalized in a medically-induced coma on anti-seizure medication. Doctors reported he likely suffered severe brain damage that will affect his memory, thinking ability and personality.

On March 20, Ramon Aramayo was viciously attacked by Argentine police at a soccer match in Buenos Aires. Aramayo protested being searched at a security checkpoint and was subsequently beaten by the police according to witnesses:

“They used excessive force. He was taken to the ground. They hit him in the back, in the legs, they squeezed his testicles… He was able to get up and walk, but passed out.”

The San Lorenzo fan was pronounced dead minutes later, likely due to heart failure or traumatic shock. This was only the most recent episode of soccer-related brutality in Argentina; his was the country’s 13th death at a soccer match in just over a year.

And most recently, Vancouver Canucks fans ransacked their city, lighting cars on fire, shattering windows and wreaking havoc after the team lost Game 7 and the Stanley Cup Finals last night. Nearly 100 people were arrested and close to 150 required hospital treatment including nine police officers and at least three stabbing victims.

Just as sports can bring out greatness in people, all of that passion, energy and spirit can be detrimental when it takes a turn for the worst. Sometimes, it’s good to remember that at the end of the day, it’s just a game.

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