Couple of interesting looks at fan behaviour:
Last week, when Butler played VCU during the Final Four game, I happened to be sitting near a very loud Butler fan. And all game long he screamed at the officials. It was non-stop. “Where’s the traveling call, ref? … How could you miss that foul? … That’s over the back … When are you going to call this thing fairly? … Why won’t you let them play? … When are you going to make a call?” On and on and on and on. I’ve heard people yell at officials pretty much all my life, but I can never remember hearing anyone so determined.
At some point, I started to wonder what motivates someone like that. What could possibly keep him screaming? Is he unhappy with his life? Does he have terrible frustrations he needs to unload? Is he an amateur referee who simply cannot abide bad calls? As the game went on, it became clearer and clearer that Butler was going to win, but his anger to the referees never subsided. It never even diminished. In the last minute, with Butler up by nine, he was still yelling at the referees, just as loud, just as intently, with the same fury.
I was pretty close to going up to him to ask why he kept yelling. I was really interested. But I had work to do and anyway I suspect he wouldn’t have given me much of an answer. He might have punched me in the face. He probably would have thought I was making fun of him. But I was really curious and I am really curious: What is it that drives people to be so angry? Maybe it’s just the fog of the times. Maybe, in the end, we all just want to be heard.
Yet, in my opinion, how players goad referees pales in comparison to what players are expected to take from many fans.
As an example, we now know that swearing at a camera gets you a two-game ban but from the stands it is fine to swear at that same player, or a referee, as many times as you like.
Only last week the West Brom manager, Roy Hodgson, spoke out on this subject: “I don’t think fans think they need to show anyone respect, be it other fans, players, coaches or refs. Of course we should, as managers and players, show more respect to referees and other coaches but it would be nice if the fans were a bit nicer – are you going to show a bit more respect to the ref or are you going to abuse him every time he makes a wrong decision? Or is it just the coaches and players that have to show the respect? Maybe it should be widened, to the whole of football?”
Absolutely right. Travelling around the country every other week, the abuse seems to be coming from all corners of the ground more frequently and from nearly every demographic. My wife told me that last week two girls no older than 13 or 14 were shouting the F-word at anybody who came near them.
Apparently I came in for a particularly vicious barrage after miscontrolling a pass – a cardinal sin, admittedly, but I wouldn’t have thought deserving of back-to-back F- and C-words? It would be difficult for me to show any respect in this situation and if I reacted I bet I’d know who would be all over the papers.
All too true.