It was October 14, 1984 in Detroit, Michigan. Detroit, once called the City of Champions, was on the low-end of the downward slope as major industries continued to vacate and leave thousands without jobs. Infant mortality was higher than almost any other state, crime ranged in the top three, and any hope the city had was crushed upon each days as news of the latest financial losses, boarded up signs on buildings, and incomes slashed. Yet, it was in this year that a cacophony of noise, the sharp pop of small explosions, and sirens cut through the chilly Detroit night. Those that were eyewitness to the series of terrible events that occurred that night remember crazed multitudes carrying fixtures, bleacher seats, and other physical memorabilia that was meant to stay fastened into place. One eyewitness remembers the hysteria that washed through the pack of individuals, numbering in the hundreds, who were pouring out of the Tiger Stadium.
The first thing that hit us was the blinding glare and radiating heat from the car and trash fires — the kind that makes you instinctively put your hand up over your face for protection. Blinded for a moment, the only thing that registered was the ominous clip-clop pounding coming from what sounded like an army of police horses. Their strategy, I guess, was to line up and squeeze the crowd off until it panicked, burst and dispersed. Instead the stampede of horses was soon drowned out by the thud and jingle of shattering beer bottles raining down onto the cement in front of us.
Obviously, in a strained and dying city, Detroit must have met with a dramatic loss against San Diego Padres. The hopes of the people, numerous financial bets and their clinging pride to a suffocating city must have snapped when the Padres blew their final hopes of winning the World Series in 1984. However, that is not the case. The Tigers did win and the destructive zeal that would try to burn down half of Detroit was not done with anger and revenge. Detroit had won and this riot that looked like the events of a post Rodney King beating in L.A. was actually a celebration.
Sadly, one inebriated man became the photo-mascot that symbolized this frenzied celebration of a winning team. His name was Bubba Helms. Quickly, over the next several weeks, Helms who had vowed to his sister that he would get on TV and get his picture taken, was bombarded by phone calls and messages, some telling his mother that “she should be sterilized.”
Shamed and having become the symbol for what was wrong in Detroit, Bubba moved to Florida where he would live with his sister. Here he would begin a career of meth abuse, became addicted to painkillers, and caught hepatitis from a dirty needle.
He would marry a girl 10 years his younger and they would have a kid the very year Tiger Stadium would close down in Detroit. His marriage fell apart, he was fired from every job he had, claimed to be affected with bi-polar disease, and eventually he would pack his bags and move back home. In April of 2001 Bubba Helms, just prior to the start of the baseball season, sitting in front of his 2-year old son being held in the arms of his grandfather, would place a double barrel shotgun in his mouth and end his life. Later, while rummaging through the closets and belongings of the late Bubba Helms they would find the article with his photo taken during the 1984 riot. Out of his entire life…this was his highlighted moment.
I would love to say that riots and these acts of violence only took place during the 1984 “celebration” in Detroit but I would be grossly incorrect and remiss. On January 25, 1998 in San Diego the Denver Bronco’s defeated the great giant, the Green Bay Packers. Tears of joy soon became tears produced by tear gas as 10,000 fans began flipping cars, breaking windows, looting, and destroying the Mile High City. “The results of this riot after it was all done and finished were twenty-two arrests, sixty people injured, thirty broken windows, two overturned cars, and fifteen damaged patrol cars.” (Bleacher Report)
The Greek Cup in 2007 in Athens when fans stormed the basketball court, tearing seats and other things apart. Police had to use stun grenades to contain the mayhem. By the time all had subsided and the place looked like a war zone, the cries of agony and pleas for medical assistance lifted above the din of disbelief, A 25-year-old fan died after being stabbed numerous times and beaten on the head with a bat.
The Argentine Soccer Riot of 2007: The story is that the teams hated each other going into this one and so did the fans. I guess one of the teams was awarded a penalty kick while a player from the team that was not from the team that got the penalty kick was injured. After that all hell broke loose. The fans rushed the field before the penalty kick could even be taken. “The rival soccer fans swung steel pipes and tossed rocks at each other in support of their teams. As they continued brawling, the fight spilled out into the rush-hour freeway traffic outside the stadium.” (Bleacher Report) Once the riot and brawls were over forty-one people were injured, seventy-eight were arrested and fortunately only one person was killed.
The Pacers-Pistons Brawl: November 19, 2004 and known as “Malice in the Palace.” Ron Artest, a player for the Pacers, and Ben Wallace of the Pistons started to get into it. Artest went over to the scorer’s table to complain about Wallace. When Artest was complaining a person in the stands threw a drink right at Artest and it hit him right in the chest. That was a big mistake. Artest jump into the stands after the guy who threw the drink at him, suddenly both teams were involved and it was chaos.
Red Sox World series Riot: The series was between the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals. The series was played at the famous Fenway Park and the Cardinal’s Stadium the series took place between October 12th and 20th. The Red Sox became the first team in Major League Baseball history to lose the first three games and come back and win the next four to win the seven games series. Game seven was played at Yankee Stadium. Once the Red Sox won the game the fans when wild. The riot broke out near Fenway Park. No one was injured or hurt, but unfortunately a student from Emerson College named Victoria Snelgrove was killed by a beanbag round that the police shot off to help stop the riot, says the Bleacher Report. (This was a celebration)
These are but a drop in the bucket in the sports world. The big “V” that once stood for victory has become a standard for violence. This does not take into the account the antics of fans when officials make a bad call and thousands of fans begin to rain down objects close to hand down on the field. In fact I remember the news of the ridiculous antics of the fans of the Cleveland Browns who began tossing plastic beer bottles as hard as they could onto the field in hopes of hitting officials and players. Many of these were full and if they were to hit anyone could serve as lethal bullets from the height and distance they had been thrown.
Here is a list of rules that now accompany Cleveland games:
- No more plastic beer bottles. Beer will be poured into cups by vendors and at concession stands. However, fans will still be able to purchase bottled soft drinks and water.
- Beer sales will be cut off following the third quarter at day games, and stopped at the conclusion of halftime during night games.
- Fans will be limited to two beers per transaction. In the past, they could buy four at one time.
- A “Ready Room” next to the field has been set up where Browns officials can more easily communicate with the league office in New York as well as security personnel in the stadium.
Don’t forget the “Beer Night,” Riot of 1974 where beer was being sold at a .10 cent promotion. Joe Tate, broadcaster, spoke about this shameful night.
“When I first heard about the 10-cent promotion, I knew it was stupid,” Joe said. “Whoever is going to show up for 10-cent Beer Night was going to be there to get drunk. If he’s not drunk before he gets there, he will be when he leaves. … We first had two streakers … then five streakers. … I think I counted about 20 by the end of the game. … Never knew why, but running around naked was a big deal back then.”
Fans were storming the field after the 9th inning call, stealing whatever they could get their hands on from the bullpen’s. Countless numbers of the fans were throwing up all over the field as the mayhem continued to gain momentum.
“Fans were swinging chains — don’t ask me where they got to chains from. They broke off pieces of chairs … [Indians manager] Ken Aspromonte led his players to the field, and you had the picture of the Indians and Texas players fighting together, retreating back into the first base dugout … [Tribe pitcher] Tom Hilgendorf had his head split open when someone threw a chair out of the upper deck and it hit him.”
THE REST OF THE STORY:
As Paul Harvey once said after the detailed trail that hooked your attention, I present now the “rest of the story.” I have presented thus far the addictions of Fantasy Football (labeled as the new Internet Porn.) I have presented the immoral conduct of players, the illegitimate children, and the pervasive promiscuity of players of every national sport. Suddenly with the introduction of the “violence” and attitude that is displayed in the sports industry I must admit the argument of “family sports,” is suddenly losing its flavor.
Clearly, what is being played on the sand lots of community neighborhoods and the grassy fields of local parks, is NOT the reality of professional sports. I remember clearly, High School Football and even Middle School, that to be the “top players” of the football team came with the equivalent of sex, parties, and riotous stupidity.
It is an industry that centers around gambling, sex, and gross immorality. We wouldn’t spend our “family times,” sitting in the center of a Sports Bar. I remember the day where we did what we could to shield our children from such influential things. I am tired of hearing the argument of “being over protective.” Somewhere along the way we got caught up in this, “they are going to see it anyway,” mentality and thus we allowed so much into our homes and lives because in all reality, “we were selfish.”
Think about childhood as a school. It is in these years that the foundational tenants of their future will be established. We have become so desensitized and “educated” that we fail to understand the malleable nature of our children. Already, my child, not even 4 years old will MIMIC what he watches or hears. I love the times he mimics our worship or my preaching. Think about it…we are so used to violence, sex, immorality, and worldliness that our society and “many of us” don’t even think twice when images of brutality flash across a screen.
God forbid that our children spend time in a “classroom” where men curse, fight, drink, smoke, and live gross immoral lives. God forbid our children grow up on a steady diet of tattooed, attitude laden “thugs,” who promote the most despicable of lifestyles. Kobe Bryant…rape? Maybe or maybe not. Ray Lewis, murder or witness to a murder? Probably. Drugs charges, manslaughter charges, rape charges, performance drug charges, DUI charges, murder charges. These are many of the hero’s of this generation.
Have you ever heard of violence, riots, drunkenness and drugs at Disney on Ice? NO! We are losing a VITAL EDGE on the education of our children. It is our responsibility to “train up a child in the way he should go.” It is our job to SHELTER them as best we can. Soon enough, the things we are fighting to keep out of our schools now will just become the objects of yesterdays losses, just like prayer and schools in the 60’s. Gradually, if we do not PROTECT and SHELTER our children, they will see hundreds of immoral men who stand on a pedestal of influence, playing their favorite games. They will want to dress like them, get tattoos like them, live like them, and express themselves just like them.
So…this is just another thoughtful essay…the other side…you DECIDE…