Rowdy at Union, but title not tarnished
I was out at the Albany restaurant the Fountain on Saturday night, listening to Skip Parsons’ Riverboat Jazz Band.
Much to my delight, the TVs above the bar were turned to the NCAA hockey championship game, and I got to see Union College defeat the University of Minnesota. And it was a lot of fun: Whenever the Dutchmen scored, patrons cheered, and there was a palpable sense of satisfaction and happiness when the clock finally expired.
I went to bed soon after, but the party on campus was just getting under way.
Unsurprisingly, some of the revelers got a little rowdy, and five college students — out of a crowd that numbered between 400 and 500 — were arrested. Police allege they threw bottles and cans at officers, striking one officer and damaging a cruiser.
I won’t defend that behavior.
But as championship celebrations go, it was pretty tame.
For whatever reason, sports fans throughout the globe respond to both victory and defeat the same way — by destroying property, throwing things, jumping on cars and acting obnoxious.
Take fans of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers.
After the school’s hockey team lost to Union, 19 people were arrested. Police said there were two known incidents of arson and an “undetermined amount” of property damage. There were 300 uniformed officers on the scene, some on horseback and some in riot gear. Two days earlier, when the Gophers clinched their appearance in the title game, fans also flooded the streets. Although the gathering was largely peaceful, some fans reportedly jumped on cars and threw bottles and other objects at police; two officers were taken to the hospital with injuries.
I’ve always wondered what possesses people to respond to a big win (or big loss) by acting like jerks.
I’m a sports fan, and I simply can’t relate.
After the Red Sox won the World Series last year, I didn’t run through the streets of downtown Albany, throwing bottles at people and smashing their cars. I didn’t respond to the New England Patriots’ AFC championship game loss last year by lighting things on fire and taunting the police. After the Red Sox won, I high-fived my friends Eli and Molly. After the New England Patriots loss, I expressed my condolences to Eli and Molly and went home.
When I heard about the arrests at Union on Saturday, I looked for research that might explain fan violence. Many of the articles I stumbled across blamed a combination of alcohol and heightened emotions.
In a piece written for Connecticut’s NPR affiliate after 30 people were arrested following the University of Connecticut’s NCAA men’s basketball championship, psychology professor Jerry Lewis cautioned against blaming alcohol. He suggested — correctly, I think — that drinking gives a certain type
of fan “permission to do what they wanted to do anyway,” which is behave violently. In other words, big sports events provide an opportunity to engage in bad behavior.
After UConn’s NCAA win earlier this month, CBS reported that there was “bedlam” on campus and that “jubilant fans … smashed a window in an engineering building, broke streetlights and overturned furniture inside the school’s student union.” But the violence wasn’t limited to the victors. At the University of Kentucky, which lost to UConn, fans started couch fires, threw bottles and generally behaved like idiots.
One thing I’ve learned from reading articles about rowdy college sports celebrations: They’re very similar.
On Monday, I ran into an acquaintance who swung by the Union celebration late Saturday night and hung out with the happy students. His take: The party “wasn’t that bad.” He wondered whether the police presence made things worse, and suggested that a fraternity party he attended earlier this year was “way crazier” than the post-hockey championship partying.
I wasn’t on campus and I can only rely on other people’s accounts of what happened.
But there’s a fine line between having fun and causing trouble. Big, boisterous celebrations inevitably contain a few bad apples, which is why almost every college championship is followed by news reports about student misbehavior. Given this unfortunate track record, it only made sense that Schenectady officials wanted to keep things under control and that police responded quickly to the large crowd that gathered in the street.
The NCAA hockey championship is a great thing for Union and for the city of Schenectady.
The arrests on Saturday won’t change that.
Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at firstname.lastname@example.org or 395-3193. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Her blog is at www.dailygazette.com/weblogs/foss.