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Thursday, December 7

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The Mechanics
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Chicago Thu Jun 27 2013

The Problem With How We View Sports "Celebrations"

Hundreds of drunks in Wrigleyville crowded the streets more than usual on Monday night to celebrate the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. Fireworks were shot off in Wrigleyville and then the Chicago police pushed the crowds south, where windows were smashed in Lake View and Lincoln Park.

Meanwhile WGN was describing the scene in Wrigleyville as a "celebration," albeit a bit rowdy. It was a stark contrast compared to their coverage of the NATO protests in 2012, which sounded like all hell breaking loose near McCormack Place. Ultimately, the NATO protests were rather peaceful.

There is a double standard with how we view and treat sports-related riots and political protests. If sports fans are being destructive as part of their celebration, In October 2010, more than 100 people were arrested in Grant Park when Occupy Chicago tried to occupy Grant Park. By all accounts, the actions of the people who tried to occupy Grant Park on a Saturday night were very peaceful. On Monday night, 23 people were arrested during the "celebration."

Edward McClelland summed up the difference between NATO protesters and Blackhawks fans on the North Side very well:

The difference, of course, between a riot against a meeting of defense ministers and the hijinks of rowdy hockey fans is that the first would have been an embarrassment to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who had already lost the G-8 Summit after doubts about Chicago's ability to provide police protection. The second celebrated an event whose glory will reflect on Rahm. This is his first sports championship as mayor of Chicago. You can bet he'll be on stage at Friday's celebration and will pose with the Stanley Cup.

McClelland sums up why sports riots are almost accepted as part of sports culture. When a team wins and there's a riot it's related to something that is ultimately a point of pride to a city. When a group of people protest anything politics related, it reflects poorly on a government because they're being called out on their poor choices. It's actually a bit surprising no one has commented on the internet about how the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup might be distracting Chicagoans from the huge controversy involving the Chicago Public Schools and the proposed arena for DePaul University.

When things get a bit out of hand at a celebration over a sports victory, a few people will comment about the situation but a large group of people don't seem to say such behavior is uncouth.

If there's destructive behavior as the result of a sports team losing, it seems to be treated with more disdain. When riots occurred in Vancouver after the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup finals in 2011 people were disgusted by what happened. But only then does destructive behavior in sports really start to be treated as a bad thing.

When people march in the streets to protest something they view as being wrong they will likely be met with jeers, shouts of "Get a job" and possibly arrest. If cities and the media continue to freak out over protests they need to be equally concerned with behavior like this related to sports.

There is a huge difference between hugging your friends when your team wins, lifting a fake Stanley Cup over your head or dancing in the streets to "Chelsea Dagger" and rioting. But when a celebration causes more damage and disruption than a protest and very little happens to the revelers, the approach of a city has to be reevaluated.

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spudart / July 3, 2013 12:15 AM

It's amazing how bad behavior is considered ok when a sports team wins. You make insightful observations with why political protest are considered bad because of the perception of a loss of control by our government. If anything, we should be celebrating the ability to have free speech and not having speech controlled by our government.

You should check out this article by St. Xavier University's Editor in Chief of The Xavierite, Tony Bara, "Misplaced Priorities."

Dennis Fritz / August 7, 2013 1:14 PM

I agree with everything this writer says. The only thing I would add is that those "celebrating" the Hawks' victory by smashing things were mostly white people. Had they been mostly black, you can bet your bottom dollar it would have been seen as a riot...

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