On Fans’ Double Standards
Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 25, 2013 00:01
After the Baltimore Ravens’ victory over the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game, Ray Lewis is continuing to make waves — and not just because of the impending retirement of an all-time great. Rather, Lewis’ farewell tour is causing a stir due to his two murder charges in 2000, which were dropped in exchange for a guilty plea to obstruction of justice and testimony against his friends, who were ultimately acquitted. His white suit from that night has never been found, and reports in the aftermath of the incident surfaced that indicate Lewis had intimidated witnesses. Many believe that Lewis ordered the murders or at least was indirectly involved.
These days, though, Ray Lewis is one of the greatest humanitarians in sports, despite his demeanor on the football field that makes professional wrestlers seem calm and gentle. He works to keep kids in West Baltimore — one of the toughest areas in the country — out of trouble, he runs and personally attends exercise programs out of his own pocket and his donations to charity are abundant, to say the least.
And yet, many fans won’t forgive him for his possible role that night. It’s something they can’t let go. When judging Ray Lewis, and when choosing who to root for in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3rd, much of the country suddenly abandons the same principles that it preaches.
Of course, I understand that fans create any number of reasons for judging a player and rooting against his team, many pettier than this one. After all, I am rooting against the Ravens because safety Bernard Pollard has injured my beloved New England Patriots’ top quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end within the past five years. Maybe my reasoning for rooting against the Ravens is worse than others’ reasons for rooting against them, but I guess I just feel that if someone’s opinions and rooting interests are going to be based on a guy’s character, they should be based on his character as a whole, not just on isolated incidents.
In fact, I feel there are many circumstances in which the fans don’t sufficiently empathize with and understand a player’s character. The last time Baltimore and New England met, in September, Ravens receiver Torrey Smith submitted an amazing performance only 18 hours after being woken up in the middle of the night to learn that his brother had died in a car crash.
Fast forward, then, to this past Sunday’s game, which I was able to watch in person. In the third quarter, Torrey Smith blatantly got away with offensive pass interference. (I’m biased — but right.) As I was busy yelling at the ref for how bad he was doing his job, pretending that the ref a) could hear me and b) would actually care, some drunken fan behind me yelled, “Torrey Smith, I killed your brother!”
I may have preached forgiveness just a little while ago, but if Smith had heard the fan, charged into the stands and beat him to a pulp, I would have completely understood. Comments like those make me not only question possible exceptions to the First Amendment but also human nature in general.
The fan probably felt as if he could yell whatever he wanted at the players that he paid to watch. If the tables were turned, however, it’s obvious that that same fan wouldn’t have supported someone saying that about his own dead brother. What that means, therefore, is that Smith is fair game for those remarks while a fan isn’t simply because Smith is the professional athlete and the fan is the fan. And you wonder why sports fans are so badly stereotyped.
We love watching sports because they’re played by humans like us. It’s about time that fans actually started treating athletes that way.
Tom Hoff is a sophomore in the McDonough School of Business. DOWN TO THE WIRE appears every Friday.