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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 sports chant.

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 Hillary Clinton.


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.

© 2007 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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