The Minnesota All Stars played an away bout last Saturday. We were all excited to be traveling together for the weekend to play some derby. We even got surprised at the venue by some of our biggest fans from Minnesota – two young boys and their family who had come to see us play. We were all in good spirits and excited for some derby!
However, once our bout started there was a small group of fans – ones that were, of course, right next to the track – that started yelling pretty awful things at us during the bout (e.g., yelling “Cheater!” as we headed to the box; yelling “I hope you get hurt!” when we fell or were knocked down; yelling “This is boring!” as we skated through the pack).
And sure, yelling like this happens. It sucks, but I can deal with it. After the first few times of hearing the unruly fans, I was able to tune them out and move on, even though it was aggravating. And I assume that’s the fans’ goal – they’re trying to throw off our team by making us angry. Whatever. It’s fine.
As I was skating around at the end of the bout, giving high fives, I was feeling OK. My anger had subsided, there were lots of kids waiting for high-fives, and I saw lots of smiling faces.
But then I came around to the section of the track where the men had been yelling, and I hear: “F*ck you!” as I high five. It wasn’t a subtle, under-the-breath “f*ck you…” it was a “I want you to hear me say F*CK YOU to your face” kind of “f*ck you”.
I couldn’t believe it. It was such a shock that I dropped my hand for a second and just kept skating. I immediately regained my outward composure, but inside, I was devastated. How can someone be so cruel to another human being? During the heat of the bout, I can understand fans being unruly, but after the bout? How can they feel like this is OK? Did the children around them hear it? Will anyone correct his behavior?
Sure, fan aggression is a part of a lot of sports. However, many sports don’t allow spectators to be so close to the fans, especially giving fans the opportunity to high five the athletes after the competition. So although fans can yell all kind of horrible things at athletes, many aren’t able to yell obscenities right in an athlete’s face.
On the 6 hour drive home, I kept thinking about 2×4 roller derby, the team from Argentina, who had played the same team the night before. It made my stomach hurt to think that they could have come all the way to the U.S. and had to endure the same fans -the same disrespect – as our team had endured.’
And what about the young Minneapolis fans who had driven to the bout with their family – did they hear these words? Did it make them angry? Will they remember this in the future? Will their mom not allow them to come to the next bout?
It makes me so sad to think that a fan like that can show up at another bout, and possibly throw horrible insults at another visiting team. So cheer for your team! Cheer against the other team! But PLEASE never think verbal bullying is acceptable – in roller derby or in life.