Commentary

Stripping our jerseys isn't the answer

Updated: April 20, 2011, 1:37 AM ET
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the horrific event that befell Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Stow wore his Giants gear to Dodger Stadium on Opening Day, and was put into a coma after getting brutally beaten by two knuckleheads after the game in the parking lot.

I believe that rivalry between fans, when done with respect and the honor of the game clearly planted as the place-setter, is one of the most healthy and fun things around. I may not be a New York Yankees fan (let's face it, they have kept every American League team, with a couple of exceptions, out of the World Series over the past 15 years or so), but I do definitely respect that team and its fan base. Same thing with Pittsburgh Steelers fans. Yes, they are the "enemy" if you are a Seattle Seahawks fan like me, but it's just fun and games, right?

Except of course, when something like what happened to Stow comes along.

I happened upon an article a few days ago by John Steigerwald, who has a regular Sunday sports column for the Observer-Reporter in Pennsylvania. He and some others out on the Internet question the judgment of Bryan Stow, and all of us adults who choose to wear our jerseys and team accoutrements to games. Whether at home or visiting.

For example, here's a snippet of Steigerwald's line of thought:

"Are there really 40-something men who think that wearing the jersey makes them part of the team? It was cute when a 10-year-old kid got that feeling by showing up at Three Rivers Stadium in a Pirates jersey, but when did little boys stop growing out of that?

"Here's tip for you if you actually think that wearing your team's jersey makes you a part of the team:

"It doesn't. …

"If you don't put that jersey on in the locker room with them and have your own name on your jersey, you're not one of them.

"Let's review: If you're sitting in the stands, you're a spectator, a fan. If you're down on the field, you're part of the team."

I think Steigerwald is way off of the mark here. He doesn't take into account that most of us sports fans out here are not some pathetic, drooling mouth-breathers who think we are somehow on the team just because we are wearing a darn jersey or hat. Personally, I feel pride of my city, and proud about the fact that I've stuck with my teams through all of the good, but mostly bad seasons. And as I recounted in a previous article, I do wear my Seattle Mariners hat when I go into "enemy" stadiums and have only been met with a sort of "Oh, beautiful city … are you from Seattle? I went there on business last year … blah, blah, etc. …" You know what I mean? Grown-up talk.

I sat in the middle of a huge group of Steelers fans when I went to the Seahawks-Steelers Super Bowl in Detroit a few years back. And yes, I wore a 'Hawks jersey. I did not get one iota of crap from any of those Steelers fans. They were nice folks to be sure.

Steigerwald's paper, The Observer-Reporter, is based in Washington, Pa., not far from Pittsburgh, so I was left scratching my head, when I read this next bit written by him:

[+] EnlargeJamey Carroll
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesIf these guys can get along, then the rest of us wearing their gear surely can as well.

"If you're one of two or three guys wearing Steelers jerseys sitting in the middle of the Dawg Pound in Cleveland, guess what? The Steelers players can't see you and even if they could, they're not really getting a lot of inspiration from you.

"If you're set upon by a bunch of drunken adults wearing dog costumes, you probably shouldn't expect any help from the guys on the field who are wearing the jerseys that look just like yours."

From my experience of being a sports fan who also travels a bunch, and therefore goes to games all over the country, I think this type of thinking might just be adding to the problem here.

I think what is probably better called for here, is for a reminder to watch out for our visiting team fans when we are at our home stadiums. Sports in this country, is a great conversation piece and also a place where we can feel just a modicum of pride and "ownership" for our home teams. Nothing less, and nothing more.

I don't believe there is a new "mob mentality" brewing, as Steigerwald went on to say. No, hopefully we just saw a very isolated incident nearly three weeks ago in that L.A. Dodgers parking lot. One, that none of us, wants to see repeated.

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."