“Ladies and gentlemen, please do not throw anything on the field.”
That was the plea from a stadium official at the Superdome in New Orleans after the hometown Saints lost to the Minnesota Vikings in crushing fashion Sunday in the first round of the NFL playoffs. The reason: Some fans were throwing trash on the field — and in the direction of the referees — after the game.
The fact that such an announcement had to be made at all is a sad example of how some sports fans choose to act in moments of disappointment and defeat.
This is the second year in a row that the Saints and their fans have endured an overtime playoff loss with a blown call from the referees factoring significantly in the result. Last year’s officiating blunder was worse, with referees missing a clear defensive pass interference penalty that almost surely cost New Orleans a trip to the Super Bowl. On Sunday, the officials did not call offensive pass interference on the Vikings’ game-winning touchdown, though it appeared that the receiver did in fact push off of the defender to make the catch.
In both cases, New Orleans had legitimate reason to be frustrated with the officials. Heck, there’s been no shortage of reasons to be frustrated with NFL officiating across the league as of late. But to allow that frustration to turn into an aggressive act like throwing things onto the field is downright disgraceful.
It certainly was not all of the New Orleans fans acting less than saintly on Sunday, but it only takes a few bad ingredients to spoil the gumbo. The stadium official making the announcement sounded incredulous as they implored people not to throw things on the field, as if they couldn’t believe it was happening. And for good reason.
Blaming the refs is a time honored tradition for many sports fans, but the folks in New Orleans crossed a line on Sunday. Football is an inherently aggressive game, and confrontations — both verbal and physical — are nothing new among its fans. But the majority of us NFL fans are able to make it through a season without throwing things at each other. It’s not that hard.
There’s a dangerous mob mentality, and dehumanization of the referees, on display in a group act like this trash toss. Should we expect better refereeing and review process from a league that brings in billions of dollars in revenue each year? Sure. But more importantly, we should expect better behavior from a group of (mostly) adults who are fortunate enough (and work hard enough) to be able to afford tickets to watch grown men play a game.
We’re not asking fans to put their passion aside. We’re not even asking people not to yell or even make a fool of themselves. We’re just asking for people to maintain a basic appreciation for the safety and humanity of others, and to not be such sore losers.
Just as a team’s victory shouldn’t be an excuse to cause mayhem and destroy property in the name of celebration, a tough loss and bad officiating shouldn’t be an excuse to act like a garbage person.