Commentary: Why Do Sports Fans Riot After a Big Win?

UConn fans show a too-typical behavior after their men’s team wins hoops title.

Posted: 04/09/2014 04:48 PM EDT

We’ve seen this scene before. Just picture it anew: A team wins a championship, and its fans rush out and make a main street look like Bourbon Street during the Mardi Gras.

What is unsettling about all of this is not the celebration but the craziness that accompanies it. When did the notion of celebrating something so beautiful turn into something so ugly?

Well, the latest example of this shear ugliness came on a main street in Storrs, Connecticut, and it followed the beauty of that breathtaking ride to a national championship that the UConn Huskies took their campus on.

Its men’s team defied the odds: No. 7 seeds don’t win national championships. Hell, they don’t even make it to the Final Four. While the odds aren’t as long as filling out a perfect bracket, you can’t make a living in Vegas betting on a No. 7 seed to win anything.

So for a surprise like this to come to a campus, students should have treated it with the dignity the moment deserved. Ticker tape and confetti; balloons and banners; cheers and high-fives … we can live with that. What we can’t live with, however, is the craziness.

March Madness is supposed to describe what happens on the court; it doesn’t describe what happens in the streets, which already give us enough craziness to last a lifetime. And in Storrs, we had that lifetime’s worth Monday night and early into Tuesday morning.

In a scene out of reality TV, UConn supporters acted a fool. They smashed windows; they broke streetlights; they overturned furniture. The craziness didn’t injure anyone seriously, but it did lead to 30 people having to spend the night in jail.

Were these instances rare in sports, it would be hardly a story at all. But we’ve seen it all too often in Europe when soccer hooligans take to the streets, smash storefronts and destroy everything they touch.

We know that Europeans treat soccer like a religion, and craziness in the name of God has left its mark on world history. But nothing is spiritual or God-like in turning a celebration into a riot. It brings shame to an occasion that should be about smiles, music and champagne toasts.

Are Americans any different?

No, fans rioted in Denver back in the day after the Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl in 1998. Remember in the spring of 2000 when folks in Los Angeles lost their commonsense after their Lakers won the NBA title? Or how about Minneapolis in 2002 and 2003 when the Minnesota Gophers won the Frozen Four? Or a few days ago in Tucson, Arizona, after the Wildcats lost to Wisconsin?

The reaction of fans: a riot.

Isn’t that the un-American way?

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(Photo: AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

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