Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On Senseless Violence

photo by Myrrienvia PhotoRee

I found myself profoundly saddened this weekend by the sickening events in Tucson, Arizona, in which 20 innocent people were shot Saturday morning, including U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  Six of those shot were killed and multiple other lives hang in the balance, all due to the actions of a lone deranged gunman.  I was saddened not only by the shocking and senseless loss of life which occurred, but also by the horrific new low we've reached in our public discourse: if you don't like your opponent, it's acceptable in today's world to hurl ugly invective and hatred at them, even to the point of wishing -- or more dangerously committing -- acts of violence in the name of supporting your cause.

That there is hatred in this world is not new.  Political violence has occurred in this country in the past, and will unfortunately occur again in our future.  But that does not mean we have to accept it or encourage it in any way through our thoughts, language or action.  And the same evil which has infiltrated our daily dialog is also present in sport, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't reject it there, as well, and demand better of ourselves and others.

It's alright to dislike our opponent in sport; it's built into the very nature of the beast.  In a zero sum game there can be only one winner, and if you wish the best for your opponent you are necessarily wishing less than the best for your own team.  But we must distinguish between a dislike for our opponent and a wish for ill will or violence.  Two events from this weekend's FA Cup clash at Old Trafford stand out in my mind. That they both occurred as actions of Liverpool fans is meaningless; I am certain Manchester United fans have been guilty in the past of similar invective and physical damage.

The first incident relates to Steven Gerrard's shockingly poor tackle on Michael Carrick.  In the immediate aftermath, Twitter was filled with dozens of people not only excoriating Howard Webb for calling the foul, but expressing their displeasure that Carrick's leg was not snapped by the force of the tackle.  There can be no place in this world for a wish of physical harm to an opponent.

The second incident involves physical damage at Old Trafford in the East Stand, perpetrated by an unknown Liverpool supporter who trashed a bathroom in the stadium so badly it appeared as if a demolition crew had gone through with a wrecking ball, causing flooding to occur in the Superstore and offices below.  The kind of hatred which prompted a "supporter" of his team to commit this needless act of vandalism is unimaginable (click on the link for a picture), and must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.

We as a society have to demand better of both ourselves and others, for our sake and for the sake of our children, who bear witness to the legacy we are leaving.  We should be willing to settle for nothing less than the best we are capable of giving; we can and must do better.  There is room for disagreement and dislike, even 'hatred,' in sports.  There can be no room for violence, in sport or in life.

This is farlieonfootie for January 13.

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