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November 26, 2007
Do the Drunken
Misogynists of Giants Stadium Now Rule Sports?
Last week was one of those moments when a not-so-savory, under-the-radar
cultural phenomenon that many, many people already knew about broke out
into the mainstream in a big way, thanks to a well-timed New York
Times article. Usually when this happens it's something related to
music, fashion or culture, but this time it was a very off-putting
During halftime of the November 18 Jets-Steelers game at Giants Stadium
in East Rutherford, New Jersey, “several hundred men” reportedly
gathered at the stadium’s Gate D, where they spent the entire halftime
period yelling at women below a crude three-word phrase that translates
to “show us your breasts.” Some women – vindicating the entire thesis of
Ariel Levy’s book “Female Chauvinist Pigs” – happily obliged.
But some didn’t – which, according to the Times account, led to
beer bottles and other implements to be thrown at them from the deck
above. Security guards on hand didn’t acquit themselves much better. Ten
in the vicinity did nothing to stop the men chanting, and when asked
about it, cited an inability to do so due to “free speech laws.” One
reporter, apparently not subject to another provision of the First
Amendment, was even detained in a stadium holding room after he
attempted to probe further.
These sorts of chants and harassment have been known to happen, in that
same section of that same stadium and others like it, for a long time.
I’ve also seen it happen at pro wrestling events, rock concerts, and the
annual “Wing Bowl” competitive eating event in Philadelphia. However,
“Show Your Tits” chants never really made mainstream news until a New
York Times reporter happened to be at the game and witnessed one in
person. In the opinion of that reporter, David Picker, this is because
reporters covering games rarely leave the press box during halftime.
Reaction was swift. One politician – New Jersey Senate President and
former Governor Richard Codey – called for a crackdown, along with the
less-than-clever pun that “Gate D stands for drunk and disgusting.”
Others have called for a quicker hook when it comes to kicking people
out of the stadium, an outright ban or an earlier cutoff for beer sales
(most stadiums now stop serving alcohol after the second or third
quarter.) And, those looking for a chance to tar Jets fans as drunken,
ignorant yahoos were given new ammunition.
But what can really be done about this? Probably not much. Banning
alcohol will serve only to make the crowds even more angry, and chances
are they'll find a way to bring beer in regardless. And kicking all the
loud, inebriated misogynists out of an NFL game would be like kicking
all the adulterers out of Congress – you’d end up with not very many
people in the stands at all.
There’s more to it than that, though. Football, much as I love it, is a
game of violence and aggression that can tend to bring out the worst in
people. Listen to any sports talk radio show to hear fans talk about
certain players and teams in the same hateful and bloodthirsty tones
that their conservative talk friends down the dial devote to Al Gore and
And besides, it’s not always the beer. I covered a high school
basketball game last year, at which not a drop of alcohol was served,
and in which vicious, vulgar, personalized heckling by fans of the road
team continued throughout the game, even though the home team's
principal – a nun – was seated directly in front of them the entire
time. As for college football crowds, in some parts of the country, they
make pro fans look subdued and polite by comparison.
There's no question that fan behavior is very much out of control in
many places, to the point where more and more fans are refusing to bring
their children to games. And now that everyone knows about the Jet fans’
tradition, perhaps we can add wives, girlfriends and sisters to that
list. In these days of HDTV, the notion of spending football Sundays in
front of the TV at home is more and more tempting all the time.
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