Short For 'Fanatic'

The last calendar year has been strange for sports. Many events have been played in empty stadiums, and practically all of the ones that allowed fans were at limited capacity. But thankfully that has been changing in recent months. The college softball and baseball postseasons are being played in front of thousands of fans while most NBA arenas were rocking during the first round of the Playoffs. It was a welcome sight for fans watching at home.

But unfortunately, some athletes have felt differently. 

Over the past month we have seen a barrage of incidents of fans interfering with sporting events. A fan dumped popcorn on an injured Russell Westbrook. Trae Young was spit on. A water bottle was thrown at Kyrie Irving. All of these took place in the span of a week. Things culminated at the USA-Mexico CONCACAF Final Sunday night when the game was temporarily halted due to an audible homophobic chant. The chaos didn't stop there as players from both teams were later struck by drinks being thrown onto the field.

Fan incidents are nothing new, but a large number of them in such a short time does raise questions about why they are so frequent all of a sudden. Did a year away from stadiums make many fans forget their manners? That's probably a factor. Did the virality of the popcorn dump catch the eyes of many fans who hoped to achieve 24 hours of internet fame? Perhaps. But what's troubling is the way some have been making excuses for these fans' inexcusable behavior. 

Some have shrugged off the Westbrook incident as "it's just popcorn." I doubt any person who said that would enjoy a stranger dumping popcorn on them at work, especially if he or she was dealing with an injury. It's likely the fans who  interfered with Young and Irving were retaliating for their on the court taunting. Guess what? You're not there to interact with the players in the game. They're not playing you, they're playing the other team. You're only there to observe. 

The decisions to permanently ban these fans from the stadiums has also received some criticism, but it's the right decision. You cannot give an inch when it comes to fan disruptions. Because if a fan sees dumping popcorn being allowed, he might throw something a whole lot worse.

Professional athletes are incredible. They are the best in the world at what they do. Interfering or attacking them is robbing everyone of a joyful experience. If you run onto or throw something onto the playing area, you're making it about yourself, and nobody in that stadium paid to see you out there.