Sarah Goodyear is a Brooklyn-based contributing writer to CityLab. She's written about cities for a variety of publications, including Grist and Streetsblog.
Have we resigned ourselves to violence following championship games?
Unless you’re a serious sports fan, you probably don’t check the playoff schedule before you travel to another city on unrelated business or pleasure. So it was certainly helpful when guests at a downtown San Antonio hotel — who might otherwise have been oblivious to the efforts of Tim Duncan — got the following letter from management earlier this week, in advance of the concluding games in the NBA finals:
You have reached San Antonio during a unique and exciting time.
Our city’s NBA basketball team, the Spurs, is currently playing in the NBA Championship Finals against the Miami Heat. San Antonio citizens take great pride in the Spurs and take an active role in cheering them on to the championship. The Spurs are just one win away from claiming their fifth Title and have two chances to do it. Game 6 is scheduled for Tuesday and Game 7 for Thursday.
In the event the Spurs should win, fans have traditionally enjoyed participating in a festive championship season in and around the downtown area. Immediately following the game, an increased flow of vehicle and pedestrian traffic will descend into the downtown area and will fill Commerce and Market streets located immediately outside the hotels. Celebratory activities will involve vehicle honking, loud music, and loud cheering from fans. The game is estimated to end at approximately 10:30PM and the celebration could carry on for some time after.
We appreciate your understanding of our city’s celebration and hope this will provide minimum disruption to your evening.
In other words, hanging up your "Do Not Disturb" sign would be a pretty useless gesture.
Joking aside, the hours after a championship game is decided can get pretty ugly in the cities that are involved. You might think the losing side would be the one to get violent, but time and again, sports fans have proved that the thrill of victory can make them just as stupidly destructive as the agony of defeat.
Celebratory crowds caused destruction in Los Angeles after the Lakers won the NBA title in 2000, and then again, although to a lesser extent, in 2009 and 2010. In Montreal, Canadiens fans wreaked havoc after their team won the Stanley Cup in 1986 and 1993, adding to a long list of hockey riots in that city. In 1984 in Detroit, one person died as rioters smashed and burned cars to mark the victory of the Tigers over the San Diego Padres in the World Series. Victory riots have happened in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and New York. It's almost as if they've become a matter of course.
And of course, as supporters of the Vancouver Canucks made abundantly clear after the team washed out of the Stanley Cup finals in 2011, losers can be equally idiotic and destructive.
Why do sports riots happen? Analysts have blamed alcohol (in 1974, the Cleveland Indians learned the hard way that serving 10-cent beers during the game is not such a great idea). They’ve blamed testosterone. They’ve blamed sports themselves, and they’ve blamed police.
Whatever combination of factors accounts for this disturbing phenomenon, let’s hope that no matter who wins Game 7 between the Heat and the Spurs tonight, the aftermath doesn’t get any more rowdy than "vehicle honking, loud music, and loud cheering from fans," and that hotel guests will sleep with "minimum disruption."
That way, fans in San Antonio and Miami alike will really have something to celebrate.
Top image: San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan shoots over Miami Heat center Chris Bosh during Game 6 of their NBA Finals basketball playoff in Miami, Florida. (REUTERS/Kevin C. Cox/Pool)