Misbehaving Fans Mimic Players' Wrongdoings

Perhaps the abusive actions of fans that Amy Shipley wrote about in her recent article ("Abusive Fans: All the Rage," Nov. 24) are simply a reflection of the lack of sportsmanship displayed on the field.

Why should fans be expected to behave any better than their heroes? Players trash-talk and taunt other players, coaches wreck their dugouts and throw debris on the court or field to dispute a call and star players choke their coaches.

On the same day that Shipley's article appeared, a story in the Sports section said the NFL wanted to eliminate "throat-slashing," an inflammatory gesture made by players. Does it surprise anybody that fans might respond to this kind of provocation?

That's just addressing athletes' on-court behavior. How many sports stars have been busted for drugs, speeding or drunken driving? There are felons playing in major league sports today.

Maybe the fans are just taking their cue from the players.

-- Jim Tise

Bethesda

A Clear Absence of Loyalty

In a recent commentary ("Sometimes, Winning Can Be a Losing Cause," Nov. 28), Thomas Boswell asks why sports fans are so angry, especially in these flush economic times. His answer is that fans care only about winning, not about personal character or the play of the game itself. Mr. Boswell wonders how such sentiments have arisen. He attributes part of this anger to money and the fact that everyone wants to be rich, himself included.

But Mr. Boswell is only partly correct. There is another, larger reason why fans are angry, and while money is involved, it is not the total explanation. What is the larger reason? Loyalty. Or rather, lack of it.

This absence of loyalty cuts across the spectrum of American life, from the factory floor to the sports palace. Players, and owners as well, think nothing of leaving teams, or cities, for the greener pastures of the big bucks.

Fans no longer feel connected to their teams -- that they are part of the team's plans. And while winning is important, it often takes a back seat to individual achievement so that the achiever can ask for even more money next year, even though a signed contract exists.

Years ago I used to hear professional athletes say they loved their sport so much, they would pay the owners to play. Those sentiments went out with the advent of free agency and the rise of sports as mega-entertainment.

The wonder is not why sports fans are so angry. The real wonder is that the anger did not develop sooner.

-- Joseph E. Lowry

Arlington

The Washington Post Sports Department invites readers to write in and comment on issues. They should be typed and not exceed 150 words. Offerings should be submitted to The Washington Post, Sports, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, faxed to 202-334-7685, or sent via e-mail to sports@washpost.com.