Sports Fandom Hits A New Low

John Steigerwald Contributor
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Sports fans can be idiots.

This is nothing new but they continue to go where no fan has gone before.

Take Tony Williams, for example.

He intercepted a pass on Sunday at the Superdome (or whatever it’s called now) in New Orleans during the Saints game with the Cincinnati Bengals. Tony doesn’t play for the Saints or the Bengals. He’s a 70-year old Saints fan who intercepted a pass intended for a Bengals fan who was sitting next to him in the end zone seats.

She (that’s right, SHE) was wearing a Bengals jersey. Bengals tight end Jermaine Gresham scored a touchdown and when he spotted Christa Barrett’s orange jersey, he went to the back of the end zone and flipped the ball to her.

Williams jumped in front of her and snatched the ball away.

When Barrett smiled and asked him for the ball, Williams shook his head no. Then she begged him to give her the ball that was intended for her and Williams still said no.

There has been way too much violence in stadiums these days, much of it precipitated by one moron in his favorite player’s jersey picking a fight with another moron wearing the jersey of a player from the opposing team. And that really needs to stop.

But this was one time when it would be hard to blame Jarrett for a violent response.

There were several men seated around Jarrett and Williams and not one of them stood up for Jarrett and demanded that Williams give the ball back.

Apparently, chivalry really is dead.

Of course, the video of the incident went viral and Williams was trashed and ridiculed around the world, but it didn’t seem to phase him. He said he wanted the ball for his grand baby.

And won’t his grandbaby be proud when 20 years from now, the video of his grandfather shamelessly stealing a ball from a woman is still out there?

This is no small thing.

It’s another example of just how far sports fandom has fallen, but, more than that, it’s a prime example of where the human race is headed.

There was a time when a man would be not only ashamed to do what Williams did, he would be afraid of what other men in the vicinity might do to him if he didn‘t give the ball back.

He still has the ball.

And this 70-year old man still thinks he did the right thing. I hope he lives long enough to explain how it was the right thing to do to his grandson.

You would think that any adult working at a major TV network would condemn and/or ridicule Williams for what he did, but 34-year old Mike Smith, co-host of ESPN’s His-Hers said, “I’m not gonna sit up here and judge Mr. Williams for being a true fan.”

“You’re a Saints fan and you got a Bengals fan trying to celebrate a touchdown and getting a souvenir ball at your home field. This is called creating a hostile environment. So, yes I would allow it.”

“She put on that jersey…you take on that responsibility of being a fan, you don’t get no kind of double standard involved here. No. You don’t get the ball. Not next to me.”

This is a grown man, working for the world’s number one sports network as a commentator and he’s telling fans that they have a right to “protect their house.”

When Smith’s co-host, Jemele Hill, asked him about chivalry, Smith said, “Hey, man, this ain’t a game here. All’s fair. This is war. You’re in the Superdome, you’re a fan. You’re a grown woman, you got a [Bengals] jersey on, you’re the enemy. Simple as that. She’s a fan. She’s the enemy. You are not there to make friends with her. You’re not there to watch her enjoy her stay.”

Once again, this is not a drunken fan in a sports bar. It’s a network commentator saying that a person rooting for the visiting team in a stadium is the “enemy.”

He said it with a straight face.

Is this the prevailing attitude among sports fans in 2014?

If so, how pathetic is that?

Pittsburgh ex-TV sportscaster, columnist and talk show host John Steigerwald is the author of the Pittsburgh sports memoir, “Just Watch The Game.” Follow him on Twitter.