Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan

By (author) Justine Gubar

Publication date:

04 June 2015

Length of book:

254 pages


Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

ISBN-13: 9781442228924

In 2011, the San Francisco 49ers hosted the Oakland Raiders in a preseason matchup that would become a seminal moment for fan violence. During the game, seventy fans were ejected from the stadium, one person was beaten unconscious in the men’s room, and two men were shot in the parking lot after the game. This is hardly an isolated incident. At any given game, fans get kicked out and arrested for acting out. In the spring of 2014 alone, soccer headlines screamed of a fan killed in Brazil, a supporter who punched a police horse in England, and three fans shot in Italy. But why do fans resort to such violence? What drives them to abandon societal norms and act out in unimaginable ways?

Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan explores the roots of extreme fanaticism, from organized thuggery to digital hate speech. Justine Gubar divulges outrageous and often shocking incidents, including first-hand accounts from both the transgressors and victims. Gubar reaches back into ancient times, providing a history of fan violence throughout the ages before delving into events of misbehavior, violence, and hatred in the United States and around the world. She revisits several notorious riots and tragedies throughout the United States, Europe, Asia, and Latin America in order to understand mayhem on a global scale. In addition, Gubar investigates the sports leagues and the security and beverage industries so as to explain the roots of fan misbehavior and to dispel common myths that are often invoked to understand the madness.

Featuring original interviews with European football hooligans, rioting college students, stadium security experts, and many others,
Fanaticus provides a rare window into what drives human behavior. Together, these voices create the fullest picture of modern fan violence ever written.

ESPN investigative reporter and producer Gubar delivers a well-researched and shocking look at 'extreme fanaticism' throughout sports history, exploring what leads 'seemingly unremarkable people to abandon societal norms and act out in unimaginable ways.' Gubar believes that 'it’s impossible to know if fan violence is getting better or worse;' and argues that the 'current model for celebratory riots, during which Americans riot when their team wins,' is far more dominant than the older international model where soccer fans rioted after their teams lost. She lists several examples of such celebratory mayhem, such as the brutal beating of a San Francisco Giants fan by Los Angeles Dodgers fans in 2011. She looks at the influence of easily available alcohol at sporting events, the increase of negativity displayed through social media, and even the role that fantasy leagues bring in adding 'a dangerous narcissistic tendency' to fan identification and behavior . . . The strength of the book lies in her refusal to sugarcoat her . . . conclusion that 'bad behavior is part of human nature' and that we will just have to live with 'the enduring nature of violent fans.'