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Updated Mar 31, 2014 - 10:26 am

Rob's 5 On It: Worst riots after a sporting event

Fifteen people were arrested in Tucson Saturday after Arizona lost to Wisconsin in this year's NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Police used pepper shot and tear gas to disperse crowds that had gathered on University Boulevard. Some in that crowd threw beer cans and other things at Tucson Police. That's never a good idea. All was calm again by late Saturday night.

Riots aren't new to sports. Here's a list of five of the worst to take place.

1) Vancouver, 2011

After the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup finals to the Boston Bruins, fans began to throw bottles at the outdoor large screens they were watching the game on. From there, it turned into a full-fledged riot. Buildings were damaged, stores were looted and destroyed. Close to 150 people were injured and almost 100 were arrested.

(AP Photo)

Nine Vancouver Police officers were also injured after Game 7, including one who received 14 stitches after he was hit with a brick.

This wasn't Vancouver's first sports riot either. Canucks fans (and others) did the same thing 17 years earlier after their team lost the 1994 Stanley Cup finals to the New York Rangers. That riot caused over $1 million in damages.

2) Boston, 2004

Ninety minutes after the Boston Red Sox defeated the New York Yankees in dramatic fashion to reach the World Series, Victoria Snelgrove was killed as fans were celebrating in the streets. Police were trying to break up the crowds around Fenway Park when they started firing pepper balls at revelers. Victornia was shot in the eye by one of those pepper balls. She was pronounced dead 12 hours later.

Her death put a damper on what should have been a great celebration. Either way though, it wasn't enough to stop fans from going back to the streets a few nights later after the Red Sox won their first World Series title in 86 years.

3) Chicago, 1979

July 12 to be exact. This was the night of the infamous disco-demolition night at Comiskey Park in Chicago, home of the White Sox. A local rock radio DJ was enlisted to help the White Sox sell tickets. They offered reduced admission of 98 cents to anyone who brought a disco record (yes, vinyl) to the ballpark. That turned out to be a huge mistake.

Initially they expected 20,000 people to show up. The plan was the have the DJ destroy the disco records between games of a double-header. Things got out of control when 50,000 people showed up and even more continued to sneak into the stadium after it was "sold out." They went ahead with the promotion anyways and destroyed the records. Once that was concluded, thousands of people rushed the field. They stayed on the field until riot police were finally able to break it up.

The second game of the double-header was never played as the White Sox had to forfeit after the riot.

4) Detroit, 1984

After the Detroit Tigers won the World Series, the celebrations quickly turned ugly. That night has become one of the more infamous sports riots in American history. People were dancing on cars then they flipped them over and lit them on fire. Even Tigers stadium was vandalized.

It was well before the time of instantaneous media and one photograph tell this night's tale. A man in white sweat pants can be seen holding up a Detroit Tigers World Series pennant while a police car burns behind him as others can be seen climbing on it. Not only did this photo show America the post-World Series riots, it probably shaped people's opinions of the Motor City for years to come.

(AP Photo)

In addition to all the vandalism, one person was murdered during that celebration and three people were raped in Detroit that night during the "celebration."

5) Egypt, 2012

(AP Photo)

Just a year after President Hosni Mubarak was removed from office after protests in Tahir Square, 79 people were killed and over 1,000 were injured at Port Said Stadium in Egypt after Al-Masry soccer fans stormed the stadium after their team's victory over Al Ahly. They brought knives, swords and clubs with them to the match and after it was over they stabbed and beat people right there in the stadium.

The New York Times wrote:

Politicians, fans and Egyptian soccer officials all faulted the police for failing to conduct the standard gate searches to prevent fans from bringing knives, clubs or other weapons into the match…The police around the stadium appeared unable or unwilling to control the violence, and video footage showed officers standing idle as the melee exploded.

Sports riots happen when teams win or lose. Why? Maybe this will shed some light:

"Fans become passionate about their team and try to find personal satisfaction in their team's wins," said Allyce Najimy, senior associate director at the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University in Boston. "You add the adrenaline, the alcohol that's often being consumed and in a highly charged atmosphere things tend to set people off more than they would in a calmer environment," she said.

And add in this:

Christian End, of Xavier, notes that people in a crowd experience a process of "de-individuation," in which individual accountability diminishes.

"When we're less accountable we tend to behave in ways we wouldn't," he said. "If I'm among thousands of celebrating people and I were to throw a beer bottle against a brick wall, you'd have a hard time picking me out."


About the Author

Rob spent his formative years growing up in Massachusetts, but after graduating from Emerson College in Boston, he's had the privilege of living in Florida, New Orleans and New Mexico. Rob & his wife Amy have lived in Phoenix since 2006 when he joined KTAR. Rob is passionate about our freedom and rights -- something he learned to love while growing up in the Boston area.


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