Skip to content

Sports Culture Is Getting Seriously Ugly These Days

Has anyone else noticed that the culture of sports has gotten increasingly coarse and unpleasant lately? Simply put, too many of the athletes, coaches, and fans are behaving like jerks and/or like 12-year-olds, and the pattern of misbehavior seems to be escalating. Here’s a sampling of what’s taken place just in the past month or so (note that the first five items on this list took place just in the past two days):

March 10: The LSU and South Carolina women’s basketball teams have an on-court fight (shown above), resulting in six players being ejected. One player’s brother, watching from courtside, jumps into the melee and ends up handcuffed.

March 10: The coach of a Serie A team (that’s the top tier of Italian soccer) head-butts an opposing player, knocking him down.

March 9: Flyers coach John Tortorella is ejected from a game against the Lightning but refuses to leave the bench, telling the ref, “Not a fucking chance” and “Fuck off” and “I’m not fucking going.” (He is later suspended for two games and fined as a result of this incident.)

March 9: Pistons GM Troy Weaver, after being heckled by a fan, responds with an expletive-filled tirade and has the fan ejected.

March 9: After the North Carolina men’s basketball team defeats Duke and then taunts the hometown Duke fans, the fans respond by throwing beverages and bottles at the UNC players.

March 8: Timberwolves player Rudy Gobert, unhappy with the officiating after fouling out of a game, rubs his fingers together before leaving the court, promoting a conspiracy theory that the refs have taken bribes from gamblers. (He is later fined $100,000 as a result of this incident.)

Feb. 26: Former NFL player Cam Newton participates in a brawl at a 7-on-7 youth football tournament. (This isn’t the only recent example of poor behavior on Newton’s part.)

Feb. 26: Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, responding to fans taunting him by chanting the name of his longtime rival, Lionel Messi, makes an obscene gesture toward the crowd. (He later receives a one-match suspension from the Saudi Football Federation for this incident.)

Feb. 24: Four NBA players are ejected after a brawl breaks out during a Heat/Pelicans game. (Five players are later suspended as a result of this incident.)

Feb. 24: Duke men’s basketball star Kyle Filipowski is injured when Wake Forest fans storm the court following a game.

Feb. 19: A young fan and a student manager are injured in a brawl that breaks out during postgame handshakes following a men’s basketball game between Texas A&M-Commerce and Incarnate Word.

Feb 14: Pistons player Isaiah Stewart is arrested and charged with assault after punching Suns player Drew Eubanks at the arena three hours before their game. Happy Valentine’s Day! (Stewart is later suspended for three games as a result of this incident, although the criminal charges are dropped.)

Feb. 11: Golfers and fans — many of the latter apparently drunk — openly squabble with each other during the PGA’s Phoenix Open tournament.

Feb. 8: Georgetown men’s basketball coach Ed Cooley responds to a heckling fan by saying, “You know what, I’m rich as a motherfucker. I’m rich as shit.”

And that’s just in the past month! If I extended the timeline just a little bit more, there would be plenty of other incidents to include. (And of course, this list doesn’t include all the hockey fights, which the NHL absurdly continues to allow, nor does it include all the racist and anti-gay slurs from soccer fans.)

Obviously, I realize that brawls, unruly fans, and unsportsmanlike behavior have been part of sports forever. But it seems like the frequency of such incidents is much greater nowadays. And before you say that this is all due to people capturing everything on cell phones, consider this: I don’t think soccer coaches have been head-butting opposing players all along and we just never noticed, nor do I think a cell phone had anything to do with bringing yesterday’s LSU/South Carolina scuffle to our attention. To me, this all seems more like a reflection of how people now seem to think that behaving like a “grown-up,” for lack of a better term — whether in sports or elsewhere in our society — is now an option instead of a default.

I know, I know, these things are not about uniforms or visual aesthetics. But I think they’re related — at least tangentially, and maybe directly — to the type of showboat-y, “Look at me” style that we often discuss here at Uni Watch. A uniform signifies, among other things, a sense of order, occasion, civility, and dignity, and those things seem like they’re in increasingly short supply in today’s sports world. You don’t have to be a stickler for “unwritten rules” or playing the game “the right way” to know that there’s something seriously messed up about a coach head-butting an opposing player. Similarly, you don’t have to be an old man yelling at a cloud to know that adults should never have a brawl at a youth game.

I’m not sure what to do about this, but I do know that it’s made me much less likely to attend a live sporting event. It also makes me think that being a ref or ump — a largely thankless task under the best of circumstances — must be particularly miserable these days. It’s like being the designated grown-up in a sea of children.

What do you folks think?

Comments (112)

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but the some details falling out of the Cam Newton brawl was that he was jumped by a rival group of league promoters, and he was generally defending himself?

    Newton himself has blamed himself: link

    But whatever — even if it’s someone else’s fault, adults brawling at a youth event is still unacceptable.

    I completely agree with you! I was of the impression that he was less involved in the incident than what the facts appear to have bore out. He’s certainly not blameless.

    It isn’t just the sports world. People are just more selfish and angry these days.
    Especially on the roads. In the past few years it’s become common to see people run red lights well after they’ve turned. I’m not talking about an “orange” light when you’re trying to beat a yellow. I’m talking three or four drivers after the guy going through the orange.
    On the highways, it’s also common now to see a dozen-plus cars going 85 in a 55 during a ten minute drive. And on a two-lane road with a double yellow line, if you go five miles over the limit you’re sure to have a car on your tail threatening to pass you. More and more people just don’t care about law and order any more.

    Agree completely Jim. This is the response I was composing in my head as I was reading the post and you said it perfectly.

    I see this all the time working downtown. The amount of asshole behaviour is off the charts.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head. What we’re seeing in sports is just society in microcosm. For reasons I can’t explain, we in America (especially) have seemed to have lost our decency and, sadly, our humanity. Lawlessness has run amok. We’ve become a self-centered “look-at-me” society, hell bent on getting there first (speeding) and not giving a damn about the other person. Has an overemphasis on “empowerment” and “individualism” created this monster? Perhaps.

    This isn’t just a US phenomenon either – its happened in the UK as well.
    Just last week I saw someone accelerate through a red light when I was about to cross with my kids, and this morning I saw someone going through a red light some time after it had changed – the worst I’ve seen in years, so can’t just be a coincidence!
    In my son’s U12 football match a couple of weeks ago, the opposing manager had his team walk off and refuse to finish the game as he thought the (neutral) referee was too biased. Great way to teach kids whether the priority is winning or playing the game.
    And not just Ronaldo – my team Leicester City had Jamie Vardy making obscene gestures at the Hull fans this weekend.
    In fact, it has been very noticeable that society has changed since lock downs for Covid. Whether it is people having got used to acting how they please, pent up frustration or other factors I don’t know, but the timing of this article certainly strikes a chord on this side of the pond.

    Anger and fear – and the lashing-out that they engender – are just everywhere.

    A few weeks ago someone actually did pass me on the left over a double-yellow line… only to *immediately* get all the way over to the right and make a right-turn into the very next side street. And this was a Detroit “wide-2” surface street, wide enough to be a full four-lane road, and I was close enough to the center lines that there was more than enough room for the person to go by on the right (and I’ve had that happen a number of times).

    Bingo, JV.
    It’s like everybody suddenly believes they have an unlimited audience to share every loose impulsive thought in their head. Many of these would have been reserved for intimate company in a different time. I hope that my children’s generation will see the error of our ways and rein in social media behavior. We didn’t.

    Poor behavior on the part of fans is explained by alcohol, and a sense of entitlement that usually begins, “Hey, these tickets weren’t cheap, and I paid for them.” Among the other brawlers you mentioned, I’ll posit that there are fewer rewards nowadays for behaving like an adult, and more for public tantrums and saying, “Me first, gimme gimme gimme!” Adulting is hard, and requires restraint. Money times asshole equals headlines, and to some there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Thought?

    Echoing what Jim said. It’s not just sports. Our entire culture is ugly. Obviously your examples stretch beyond the US, but I feel like the US has exported a ton of ugliness in the last decade that is spreading to other countries.

    I would only take exception to John Tortorella in your mentions above. That’s not new. That’s VINTAGE Torts.

    Saturday in Tampa, they were honouring the 2004 Stanley Cup champions that Torts coached. My personal theory is that Torts got himself ejected so he could go hang in the owners box with his old team and then took it too far.

    Also, it was in in Game 6.

    Paul, you bring up excellent point and it is exactly the increasing frequency of such moronic behavior that makes me less inclined to want to attend live sporting events any more. When we see routine fights occurring in the stands at PRE-SEASON football games I just shake my head. I mean, a Pre-Season NFL game may be, frankly, the most worthless event anyone could possibly want to attend and, yet, we see these polyester-shirt clad idiots brawling in their seats. Honestly, how big of a clown must you be to get so fired up at one of those games that you have to mix it up with other similarly-situated asshats? Simply and sadly put, this is where we are as a society and this is just a microcosm of where things are now. It’s just sad.

    Agree. This goes far beyond sports. Lots of angry, bitter, miserable, selfish people with a general “F*** you if you don’t like it” attitude about everything. Drivers, parents, politicians, dog owners, etc. Boorish behavior has infected all aspects of life. No manners. No civility. No class. It has gotten worse and worse. And it’s not going to get better. Sadly, genie is already out of the bottle.

    Dog owners reminds me…
    For the past five years I’ve been walking in the cemetery near my parents’ house. Partly because it’s cheaper than going to the gym, but mostly to avoid all the dogs (many off leash, a violation of the rules) at the park. Each entrance to the cemetery has a sign that clearly says “No dogs allowed” and “Bicycling prohibited.” And yet I see some people riding bikes, and a lot more walking their dogs. When I politely point out the signs, for every person that thanks me and leaves, there are ten more who yell at me as if I’m the bad guy. People tell me to mind my own business. Well, it is my business to expect other people to follow the rules. And it *really* becomes my business if a dog does its business anywhere near my mother’s grave. I’ve seen other graves get “marked” and I don’t get how some people don’t realize how incredibly disrespectful that is.

    Hmm. I’m no sociologist, but maybe it’s that people in general feel they’re more “in the right” about most things nowadays? And that inappropriate actions in conflicts are therefor justified.

    I also see more athletes playing the “they didn’t respect us” card, which is tiresome and part-and-parcel with the whole thing. It’s being antagonistic with anybody who doesn’t support them. (I think I’ve seen that outside of the sporting realm, too.)

    I generally only attend sporting events in a friendly environment (that is, I go to home games for MY team.) As a (for instance) Saints fan, I’d never go to a game in Atlanta in full Saints battle rattle. I’ve been to enough LSU football games as a fan of the visiting team to know I don’t ever want to do that again. People have gone from usually friendly heckling to verbally abusive.

    I live in Chicago, and I’ve worn opposing team gear at Sox, Cubs, and Blackhawks games. No one said anything. But I would NOT wear opposing team gear to a Bears game (or any football game). Football crowds seem much more rowdier and drunker and tribalistic than other sports.

    Jets fan with the Jetsiest story there is: my buddy and i went to a game, both wearing Jets gear. but it was December, and snowing, so my buddy was wearing his black winter coat. The Jets were playing the Raiders that day. Fans a few rows behind us starting throwing snowballs in our direction. when we realized what was happening we turned around to see what the deal was. when my buddy opened his coat to show that he was indeed a Jets fan (despite the black coat), they told us to sit down and threw more snow. I don’t know why i root for that team. they are awful and their fans are worse

    “It also makes me think that being a ref or ump … [is] like being the designated grown-up in a sea of children.”

    Except Angel Hernandez. When he’s involved, he’s the child.

    FWIW Angel Hernandez ejected Lance Lynn twice yesterday. Once from the game for arguing balls and strikes (fair) and once from the bullpen where he went to finish his daily pitching routine. So the ump show continues.

    You missed former NBA player Matt Barnes at his son’s high school basketball game, going on the court, calling the ref a “bitch” many times, and putting his hands on another high school kid who was announcing the game.

    I feel everything is ramping up whether its sports or everyday life. It more or less feels like a free-for-all out here.
    Anecdotally, I even witnessed my first in-person bar brawl recently!

    I don’t know what the problem is, or how to fix it. Just mind your business, and keep your head on a swivel.


    I temper my own impression that things are getting worse in this regard by memories of when I moved to Amsterdam in 2003. Back then, it was de rigueur for new expats to attend a local English-language comedy troupe that put on a sort of “orientation to living in Holland” show that was both a hilarious mix of improv and sketch comedy and also very useful and informative. And one of the issues the show addressed was local soccer fan culture. As in, you’re attending your first soccer match at the local stadium, and you notice all the fans in that one side of the stadium alternately chanting “Yoda!” and hissing. They’re not fans of the little green mystic nymph from Star Wars! Don’t join them in praising the puppet Jedi! They’re chanting “Jews!” and making a sound meant to be reminiscent of the Nazi gas chambers. Dutch soccer and government leaders have been struggling for decades to deal with that phenomenon, and I understand that the overt anti-Semitism of Dutch soccer fandom has been significantly reduced. But racist and homophobic fan chants have been and remain common. Just two seasons ago, a homophobic remark by an opposing player led San Diego Loyal (RIP) of the USL championship to forfeit a match. And fan-involved violence on and around NBA courts has been a fairly common problem with high-profile incidents and punishments this whole century. Is that all bad? Absolutely. Is it getting worse? I don’t know; when Hank Aaron hit his 715th homer, Aaron says he had some worry that the fans who ran onto the field might be looking to assassinate him. This was six years, almost to the day, after MLK was murdered. One could go on with examples; I just worry that concluding too readily that the bad things we notice today are worse than before can tend to valorize and romanticize the past. That risks both blinding ourselves to aspects of the past that we ought not accept today, and also inculcating an unproductive and unjustified pessimism. I mean, things might be worse! But I try not to reach that conclusion based on an anecdotal list of recent bad things, as opposed to some amount of apples-to-apples statistical comparison.

    if you ever want to lose faith in humanity, attend pretty much any youth sports event. a couple years ago when my son was 11 he played for a travel soccer team. he was fouled in the box, pretty hard, fell and hit his head. when the referee blew the whistle for the foul and ensuing PK, parents for the opposing team booed. reminder, that the kids were 11. and my son had to sit the rest of the game because they had to check him for a concussion.

    I have been athlete, coach, and referee – and over the last 10 years have become increasing disturbed by the culture of sports. I’ve witnessed too many amateur and professional athletes sacrifice physical, mental, emotional, and financial wellbeing beyond the marginal benefit of whatever they were pursing. The number of adults who profit from young athletes is truly disturbing. The entitlement of fans has never been greater. I still love to play, and I encourage my children to play individual and team sports, but we have over-inflated the perceived value of sports, athletes, scholarships, and championships compared to the actual value(s) they have on people’s lives. The gap between sports marginal costs and the marginal benefits is driving the frustration and we will continue to see this friction be as long as there is a significant gap between the two.

    “It also makes me think that being a ref or ump — a largely thankless task under the best of circumstances — must be particularly miserable these days.”

    A good friend of mine is an ump for travel league / college / high school baseball, and based on her stories, I would say you’re correct in your assumption. Aside from the general shitty-ness of entitled, raging parents, she has to fight the persistent misogyny that comes with being a woman in a “man’s job.”

    There is a massive shortage of officials where I live. My dad has done it for over 50 years, I did it for like 3 or 4 years (baseball and softball), and stopped because of the sportsmanship issue (players, coaches, and parents). And that was over 10 years ago.
    I coach my nephew’s football team, and scheduling games is a nightmare because of the availability of officials. I don’t know why anyone would want to be an official now, the pay certainly isn’t worth it. Civility is in the toilet.

    My cousin umps baseball games and gets $100 for two hours’ work.
    Dad asked me if I’d like to do that. I said no way. Decent money but it isn’t worth the abuse.

    I stopped officiating youth soccer because soccer parents are the worst. Being Americans, they barely have a grasp on the rules of the game as it is, and their demand for everything to be a foul would affect the kids. In one game, I extended half time because 14-16 year old girls were too upset by the parents constantly calling for anything they considered a foul. I gathered the parents are midfield on the sideline and told them what was going on, and that they could as a group quietly watch and cheer or I would kick them all off the field to watch the game from their cars where they can say what they wanted. To their credit, the coaches had my back in this and in most circumstances.

    I can’t remember if it was John Wooden or Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar credited with the aphorism, “You can’t learn how to win until you learn how to lose.” What we have here is whole generations of young Americans who have never learned how to lose, in the sense that “learning how to lose” means learning the right lessons from losing, and applying them to your game and to your life. Among the right lessons to learn from losing are that you should look to yourself first, before looking to others or to external factors, for the reasons why you lost.

    Whether it’s losing in sports or getting bad grades in school or any other failures and disappointments that young people inevitably go through, for at least 30 years now the adults in their lives have been teaching them that nothing is ever their fault; that their feelings matter but their choices don’t; that if things don’t go their way then there must have been something wrong with the things and not with themselves. For years, when I was a teacher, I worked at a summer camp where I’d be pressed into service reffing or umpiring games during this thing called “color war” that happened at the end of every summer. Even 25 years ago it was clear that as far as the kids and their college-age counselors/coaches were concerned, no one ever lost a game; either they won, or they were unfairly cheated out of winning by the officials, the other team, the “splits” (division of campers between the teams), the field or weather conditions, or whatever. It never occurs to anyone to think that they lost because they played poorly, made the wrong decisions, made mistakes, or because the other team simply played better and beat them. No; their first (and often only) instinct is to assume and look for some sort of inequity, something (or someone) unfair or biased but for which they would certainly have won.

    Now, we’re seeing this play out on a national scale.

    This is the most composed and nuanced comment yet posted today. It crystallized my feelings about the subject beautifully.
    It’s also worth bringing up, one of the week’s biggest stories concerns the high school basketball team who went to court to get their loss overturned because of a bad call. It never came up that blown calls ARE A PART OF THE GAME and living with such misfortune is called sportsmanship.

    Beautifully said and I could not agree more.
    I was prepared by my parents for the road of life. To be self-sufficient, responsible and resilient. To win and lose with grace.
    Somewhere it all changed. These kids have tons of (undeserved) self-esteem more than we had but they crumble at the first sign of disagreement, failure or struggle. The next generations had the road prepared for them by their parents and I think we are all worse for it.

    “These kids” are now 20-40 years old. And the following Generation is set to be no better, and quite possibly even more anti-social because of being raised with iPads in hand. The hope for a corrective or a pendulum swing is now in Millennials and Gen Z raising kids who learn how to lose, how to introspect, and how to be a part of society.

    I don’t mean to oversimplify because human behavior is complex, especially when big emotions are involved, and internet forums aren’t often a great place for nuance. But (commence oversimplification) this seems like an example of the phenomenon where older people think that younger generations are more [negative things] or less [positive things] than previous generations were. Complicated by disruptive forces and generational divides over things like social media, omnipresent media, ease of creating videos, etc. Ultimately, people, being people, do shitty things.

    That’s not to say that bad behavior should be accepted, just that I think it’s less of a new trend than a new perspective.

    Plus with social media, cell phones, and the 24/7 news cycle, we’re much more aware of these things when they happen.

    I am saying this in the most respectable way possible and from personal experience, not talking on behalf of anyone but myself. My side hustle is reffing soccer at youth, high school, and semi professional level. There is an art to keeping the integrity of the game alive and ultimately giving back. Anticipating player emotions and helping regulating is very rewarding.
    As someone who grew up with family in Marseille, crazy aggressiveness and passion has always been part of professional world soccer. We as Americans our relatively new to this subculture.
    As for eliminating fighting from hockey, this perspective is confusing to me when boxing and ufc are as popular as they are. There are unwritten rules in hockey and fighting has its codes and nuances also. Lastly, I do think there is a societal issue with sports gambling, not implying anything with the particular situation, but just in general I see a lot of people struggle with the addictiveness of it.
    Thanks Paul, I respect and see your point of views also.

    Just to be clear: I’m generally opposed to sports gambling, for a variety of reasons. But that doesn’t justify anyone floating baseless conspiracy theories, like suggesting without evidence that refs are in cahoots with gamblers.

    People are gonna hate hearing this, but there’s some studies showing that even “mild” COVID infections can leave a mark on the frontal and temporal lobes — the parts of the brain that, if damaged, can lead to impaired judgement and a loss of empathy:


    This problem isn’t exclusive to Millennials or Gen Zers. Nope. I’ve witnessed plenty of older folks who should know better acting like obnoxious idiots. Whether it’s in a sports arena, theater, or airplane. This was a growing problem pre-COVID, but it’s certainly worse today. Most of us have seen the depressing videos from NFL and MLB games…usually a bunch of drunken, vulgar, morbidly obese fans—both male and female—throwing wild haymakers. Did people forget how to act in public after two years in lockdown? No idea.

    “I don’t think soccer coaches have been head-butting opposing players all along and we just never noticed…” – reminder that Zinedine Zidane literally headbutted an opposing player in a World Cup final. Obviously this, in no way disproves your thesis (and I’m not trying to) but it’s a very famous incident for soccer fans. Obviously everyone needs to be better and there needs to be more accountability for everybody.

    It is a reflection of society itself. The combination of years of internet / social media (non-face to face interactions) leading people to think they can talk to others like they are garbage, the pandemic, and overall just a general lessening of manners being taught. I have many relatives and friends who are teachers, and if you think sporting events are bad, spend time in schools.
    It is even worse in my closest sports town of Philly, where they were already notoriously bad (and that rep is well deserved). I don’t like going to games anymore, as I think there is certainly an extra sense of rowdiness, part of that can be attributed to drunkenness being considered the normal and accepted behavior at games. Also, I think the millennial and younger generation partially view attending sporting events as a “be there for the moment / party type thing” where there is much less actual enthusiasm coming from being a habitually watching fan of the team, more so the excitement of being there for a big game people are talking about. I think that contributes to decreases in civility, people aren’t there to watch the game as much as get caught up in the moment, so if you are there for an emotional rush, your emotions easily get the better of you in bad situations.
    I definitely disassociate myself from Philly fans now because they have gotten so much worse, and am highly disappointed their boorish actions led to the cancelation of Dollar Dogs game for the Phillies.

    This *might* track with something I’ve noticed more in the past few months: more ESPN app notifications on my phone about brawls. Now, what I don’t know if whether there are actually more brawls/fights/etc.; or if there are more ways to know these are happening (more games being streamed and such); or if ESPN (and probably other media) looking at their analytics and seeing that people tend to click/tap on such stories more frequently, so they’re going to highlight those videoclips more (and, thus, get more revenue from those ad pre-rolls before the fight videos). And, like above, this is completely anecdotal — maybe *I’m* noticing it more often?

    And the video titles are hyped, too. I’ll see something like “Tensions rise as scuffle breaks out” and it will be just a little pushing after the whistle, nothing uncommon in a contact sport.

    As a teacher, I can attest to this. Even youth in our schools don’t seem to care too much about personal conduct and how they should behave. And some of them probably see this sort of garbage on television and think if these people can do it, I can act like this too. It’s a shame.

    In the UK, in the ’70s this sort of bad behaviour by fans at soccer games got worse and worse until it became the reason why a significant minority went to the game. Not to watch it, but to fight with the other teams’ fans and generally destroy stuff. Teams had to put metal fences up to prevent repeated pitch invasions until fans were effectively imprisoned within the stadium! Complete segregation between teams’ fans became the norm and away fans had to be escorted to and from train stations by the Police for their safety. In the end it took a number of horrific events, ending with the Hillsborough Disaster in the UK when nearly 100 were killed and more than 750 injured before people realised it had gone too far. I’ve always been impressed by the relative calmness and inclusiveness of US sports audience at stadiums. You still see road fans sitting in the middle of home fans at NFL games and there are far more women and children than you ever see at a British Soccer game which is still very male oriented (although this is gradually changing). I would hate to see the same thing happen in the US.

    A whole lot of people are all about MY TRUTH these days. Society works a lot better when everyone is just dealing with THE TRUTH.

    I would love to put that toothpaste back in the tube but in a world where you are. Internet connection away from a microphone to the world, I don’t know how we will regulate that. The loudest, most extreme, most strident voices draw the most attention today.

    I’m not sure how much of this has been studied yet, but I’ve heard/read of some evidence suggesting that we’re experiencing the fallout from a global pandemic in this regard. Many people spent a year or more isolated from social interactions, and the societal and political reactions to the pandemic and subsequent pandemic policies pushed many people towards a more individualistic mindset (particularly, but not exclusively, in the United States). One would hope this isn’t a long-term shift is society, but it very well may be a factor here.

    Players are overly sensitive and agitated since they have to trot out in horrible Nike Unis.

    No one really hit on this (while there were a great number of really good comments), but I think in general – we as a society are fed up. And we just break and lose our cool easier than in the good old days.

    How many fans were arrested and prosecuted? How many players were suspended and MEANINGFFULLY fined? How many students were kicked out of school? This all begins with discipline in the home, which in many areas of Gen Z is positively lacking.

    At home and at school. Sadly, if you are a star athlete even in high school, you can do whatever you want.

    Not when I was growing up. I went to a Catholic High school. Two of our star athletes were found smoking pot in the parking lot. Both were expelled. Without question. And their families were pretty big donors.

    Laws have to be enforced if you want them in some way to be punitive.

    People are acting out more these days partially because there are no consequences any more for the smaller infractions. I can’t help but always refer to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” about New York city restoring order a few decades back when they decided to enforce smaller crimes to prevent the larger ones from happening.

    Case in point – cops aren’t pulling people over for speeding – instead we have traffic cameras. But often speeding may be an indicator of a larger crime in progress.

    I’m definitely guilty of lashing out more in my car when I see people driving like a-holes. Almost taking the role of vigilante (not really – but sounding off my horn and rolling down my window and shouting make me feel better). If cops were present to do what they used to and nail these folks for the smaller things (no lights on, swerving in traffic, etc), we’d have less moronic behavior. I think this can definitely apply across the board (jumping turnstiles in the subway was the example in “Tipping Point”).

    Be kind to one another! Have that mindset before you leave your house in the morning.

    “I’m definitely guilty of lashing out more.”
    Here is another part of the problem.
    It seems like people can’t wait to tell others just how much of an ass they were.
    Notice how DaveF then blames his behavior on not enough arrests by cops.
    Adults bragging about their bad behavior, then blaming cops/others when called out on it.
    Maybe the simplest answer for why the spike in ugly incidents, is because adults just aren’t acting like adults anymore.

    Some of these comments are INSANE. I feel like sports have always been like this. The main difference being at one point it was accepted, and in some cases even allowed in rule books, whereas now it’s not. Not to mention sports coverage on the national level is way higher than it’s ever been, and sports websites will sensationalize anything for a click.

    I hate to say this, but sports culture has merged with rap culture in to almost being one in it’s own. I say that as a lifelong rap/hip-hop listener and I can tell you my dad never approved of me listening to the music I liked. He always warned me about the content of the music. It was violent, promoted gangs, drugs, oversexed and degraded women. He was scared that I would let the music influence me. I was lucky to have a dad who was concerned with those issues but also know that I was able to separate why I liked the music versus the message in the music. There are too many out there who take music and emulate it. While it’s not the sole reason, I do think it’s a large part of the issue.

    Our society as a whole is crumbling. Respect has been thrown out the door and disrespect is cheered for. We took a wrong turn somewhere and we need to right the ship before it’s too late. Social media and keyboard warriors are a huge part of the issue. People are isolated in their own worlds and don’t fear consequences. For that matter, consequences for actions have been thrown out the door too. Look at the rise in retail theft. It’s all related. No respect for anything and no consequences for actions.

    When you have best selling books about the Subtle Art of Not Giving a F%# or Zero F%^$ Given or a whole trend about F$@! Around and Find out what do people expect?

    I’ve been an umpire/referee for baseball, basketball and (these days, just) soccer for 37 years, and things have definitely changed. It was never an easy job, but it does seem that you’re dealing with far more angst and anger and indignity nowadays than before. There was always some of that, but there’s more people on the court ready to throw hands at the drop of a hat…or at least is sure seems that way.

    Not to get too deep, but broadly speaking, I think there are two main reasons…one societal, one technological…which are themselves connected. Societally speaking, I think texting, email, and the overall decline of direct interpersonal connections have made people (especially young people) less capable of communicating effectively, of dealing with disagreements/problems/etc. without resorting to anger, violence, etc. Hence you see a lot more incidents like the above these days than 30 years ago.

    The other is technological…with so many more HD cameras at every game (and the internet bringing more games to so many more people), and the accessibility for everyone watching at home to see mistakes by referees, there’s a lot more outrage at bad calls…so much more “how could you get that wrong”, when everyone watching at home can see it…which is why (to me), for the new issues it creates, replay/VAR solves more problems than it causes. It’s silly for the only people on earth to not know a mistake was made to be the officials on the field/court/rink.

    That’s a very broad over-simplification, as there’s a lot more reasons than that (money, entitlement, etc.) but across all levels (youth, amateur, collegiate, pro), I do thing those are the threads that run through all levels of sport.

    I seem to recall the South Carolina coach cancelling a matchup with the women’s BYU team over her player’s “safety concerns,” after it was already confirmed the Duke racial slur incident there was fabricated… so there seems to be a lot of irony in them having this brawl.

    The point being it feels like a lot of this is just being created out of thin air from people’s own prejudices, allegiances, jingoism, tribalism, etc. and is an ongoing symptom of division that has somehow taken root in our culture. We’re not “together” anymore even with differing opinions and tastes, it’s now “I’m right and you’re wrong” and anybody who disagrees is going to be shown how wrong they are.

    I’ve always thought of sports as a healthy adversarial outlet; a place where people can embrace fanaticism, and experience victory and loss in a healthy, relatively low consequence manner. I fear that as people deal with the threats to our modern lives (the climate crisis, social media impacting mental health, the rise of authoritarianism, and the increasing wealth gap to list a few), they’re looking for an enemy to blame, and they take it out on their most familiar adversary; the ref, or the opposing team. Sports fans are pushing their healthy outlet to its limit.

    Call me Pollyanna, but I think the vast majority of folks in the US are good, generous people. Unfortunately good deeds rarely go viral or make for click worthy content. I think we as a scoeity should heed former manager Joe Maddon’s words, to “accentuate the positive, and eliminate the negative”.

    You can call me a Pollyanna as well. There are people out there doing good in quiet and unassuming ways all the time. But you don’t remember the person who let you merge in traffic, you remember the jerk who cut you off. You don’t remember a women’s SEC game where there wasn’t a fight, you remember the fight. It’s human nature.

    And yet, over the weekend, you have two teams playing a rugby match, steeped in long term rivalry and a strong political history. England vs. Ireland, which England wins 23-22 on a last second drop goal. link

    Teams standing and singing national anthems next to each other

    And at the end of a hard fought game, the Irish congratulate the English on the win.

    Rugby culture fosters this behavior. I wish other sports took a page from rugby. No yelling at refs, and genuine sportsmanship.

    Social media has a lot to do with it. It seems that people (fans and players) do things for the clicks.

    I think in order to assess the fairly we need data rather than impressions. Hooliganism, in my impression, seems to be down across the world of soccer and of course we have the historical reputation of things like Eagles fans bombarding Santa with snowballs.

    Drew, please don’t. The snowball thing was 1968. Citing this example is reductive. It is easier to name fan bases who HAVEN’T thrown things at this point. Not saying Eagles fans don’t deserve their reputation (and I am one) but let’s stop acting like they’re the only ones.

    Makes you really wonder what happened in the last 10 or so years to add more ugliness to our culture.

    While I attribute most of this to modern culture in general, I will say that on the sports side of things, it starts at the youth level. As a high school teacher, I can attest to the fact that kids on sports teams are absolutely not held to the same standards of conduct they were even 10 years ago. There is a “win at all costs” mentality that perverts the whole purpose of youth sports and teaches kids that any behavior is ok as long as you are a great athlete.

    So now we have these kids who have never once been held accountable for bad behavior moving on to college where they are once again not held accountable (anyone who claims that Division I athletics programs are about “developing the whole person” or some nonsense rather than winning/making money for the University is deluding themself).

    Interestingly enough, I find this to be the same reason that there are so many professional athletes who subscribe to crazy conspiracies and become flat Earthers or anti-vaxxers. Again, they were told from the earliest ages that all that matters is being good at running, throwing, hitting, and the like. Critical thinking skills? Being a good person? That doesn’t even register.

    I couldn’t tell you how many students in my many years as a teacher that I was pressured to change a student’s grade so that he wouldn’t miss a game or to pass along a child who can barely read because they really need him on the team.

    I say this as someone who loves sports (I assume most people on Uni-Watch do), but for the past several years, I’ve hardly attended a game at the school where I work because of these concerns. It’s a disgrace, and school administrators and statewide athletics associations need to start making some tough choices.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

    Hey now, aesthetics and unruliness do intersect! Those fighting straps in hockey are a near little uniform quirk

    Fortunately, being a teacher has gotten easier.
    Now that’s sarcasm.
    We are constantly trying to get kids to consider the mantra, “What if everyone did that?” It’s a great philosophy, but sadly, there aren’t enough adults modeling such behavior.
    The way I see it, every generation wants their kids to have an easier time than they had. It’s sounds nice in theory, but I feel like it’s led us to the Golden Age of Entitlement.
    I’d give anything to go back to the Golden Age of Hip Hop.

    C’mon Paul, this has always happened in pro and college sports. Ty Cobb was not a better human being because he wore his uniform right when he was spiking his opponents sliding into second base, and I’d bet dollars to donuts that Kermit Washington’s jersey was tucked in when he nearly killed Rudy Tomjanovich.

    Actually, I never claimed that these types of incidents have never happened before. To the contrary, I fully acknowledged that they *have* happened before.

    What I said was that they seem to be happening more often.

    If you disagree, that’s fine, but please don’t misrepresent my position. Thanks.

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear–I was disagreeing with the premise that bad behavior in pro and college sports has anything to do with how people are dressed on the court/field. I want the players to look less sloppy (or whatever) when they’re playing, but to connect fighting in sports to any of the aesthetic stuff just doesn’t work for me.

    Appreciate you and the blog but I’m going to agree to disagree on this whole take.

    I’ll be honest, I’m always skeptical when people go into any “these days things are worse/back in my day,” type stuff. The worst and most glaring place this comes up is with crime. People think crime is way worse today and while there’s definitely been an uptick since 2020, it’s still far more safe than when the Boomers & Gen X grew up. Overall the world is still way safer than during the Cold War too despite us constantly being told we’re living in times so dangerous they’re unprecedented.

    So I’d be really curious to see if sports and by extension, society as a whole has gotten angrier and meaner as many have stated anecdotally here, or if, as with crime, it’s really just the ubiquity of media that prior generations didn’t live with. You could probably count on two hands the number of “viral,” news stories in all the 60s, 70s and 80s combined, whereas it’d take two hands just the count the number of viral bad news stories we get in a single week today. You just didn’t hear about all the bad stuff in the world prior to, really social media and cable news.

    I can tell you for a fact, at least with soccer, it was far, far, far more violent, both on the pitch and in the stands in the 70s, 80s and 90s than it is today. European football is so tame and family friendly today compared to the 20th Century.

    As for hockey, again overall, there was way more fighting last century than this. I also personally don’t have a problem with the 1 on 1 quick fist fights but that’s just me.

    Anyway my advice to everyone is to not trust anything besides hard numbers, and don’t get suckered by the media which wants you to be angry and afraid (note, I am not including you in this, Paul, I believe your report here is genuine)

    That’s my main issue with Paul’s piece. At least in basketball, the discipline standards for fighting and dangerous play are much higher now than they were a generation or two ago. In fact, the reason all those players in the LSU game cited above got ejected is because the rule about leaving the bench in an altercation was put in place to deter that kind of behavior. Those rules are designed to keep people safe and preventing altercations from escalating.

    And if we’re speaking anecdotally, there have always been poorly behaved parents in high school gyms. And rather than making broad generalizations about kids these days and parents these days in the comment section of sports uniform blogs, maybe we all should take a look inward and at the values in our own families and communities.

    I love sports, always have — but I’m also an adult and as an adult I have to conclude that net-net sports are a corrupting influence on the broader culture, including its ethics. At this point, I’m not even sure it isn’t a rout for the corrupting side.

    “Have another donut, ya fat pig!” Wherever you land on this issue, that one is classic.

    There was even a sorta high-profile incident in the normally polite and sportsmanlike game of curling this past week when a front-row fan had to be ejected after cursing at and taunting players at the Brier, the national championship of Canadian men’s curling (link). You know it’s bad when Candians are getting rude.

    Probably late to the convo (I’ve been working), but things have definitely gone more sour as of late, and not just in the ol’ sportsball realm.

    Speaking as a veteran Metal showgoer, I feel 1000 times safer standing 2-3 bodies away from the pit than I do in a cushy chair at a sporting event.

    Look at the PGA’s Phoenix Open. Golf used to be all about polite clapping and hushed tones. That event has gotten increasingly wilder over the years. And this year it was totally out of control. Insane, drunken antics. And it’s spreading to other tournaments. Seeing it in tennis too.

    Here’s a little more video context to the Carolina-Duke garbage. Pre-game student cuteness, including a death threat. link
    Oh, and Kyle Filipowski tripping Harrison Ingram helped heat things up as well.

    Kyle Filipowski must be a drama major. On one hand, he limped off the court after being bumped by a student half his size… but knowingly tripped Harrison Ingram and again limped off. And nobody said much when he raked RJ Davis in the face in the first game in Chapel Hill. Classless acts by a classless player.

    This year in Long Beach, CA, two high school basketball coaches (Wilson girls and Millikan boys) resigned before the season was over. This was due to disgusting parents, and unsupportive administrators. The Millikan coach, who I know, said that while during timeouts parents would come down by the huddle and scream to their kids to not listen to the coach. They also would follow the coach out to his car and scream at him. Threats were made. Similar bad behavior occurred towards the girls basketball coach. Kids behavior is a reflection of society, but mostly from the parents and adults around them. I don’t know why anyone would want to umpire or referee a high school sporting event. The pay is terrible, and the parents and kids behavior is atrocious. Very sad.

    As bad as these things are, they are not new. A hundred years ago, John McGraw was fighting with umpires and fans as a manager; 125 years ago he was doing the same as a player.

    We should not pretend that the type of ugly conduct listed in this piece is a phenomenon unique to our present moment. There was never a genteel golden age.

    Man, as a teenager, this definitely felt like an old man yelling at the clouds take. Obviously I haven’t been following sports for long enough to know “how it was back then”, but all the people who think that this is a problem seem to be older folks. The Malice at the Palace far supersedes any of the events mentioned. As far as youth sports go and fans and parents being more civil during those events, I think that each event just gets around now, whereas news of the event might before have been contained to the immediate community. I also think the amount of sports we have access to greatly increases the number of events we hear about. Before a few years ago, almost no one in the United States would have heard about racist or homophobic abuse in Serie A, because no one knew what Serie A was. Soccer coaches could definitely have been headbutting players in Europe for years and no one in America would have cared. I don’t think that particular situation is extremely prevalent, but American sports fans are hearing about soccer incidents for the first time ever, in addition to all the other incidents from other sports. In a similar vein, the LSU-SC game was well watched and covered, whereas in the past, the incident would have gotten a small article written about it, because the game would have had a much smaller audience and press contingency. Now, because society has increased and improved the way we report and follow women’s sports, the incidents from those sports are added to the ones we have always covered from men’s sports. I don’t think the amount of events have increased in relation to the amount of sports we watch, i just think we have increased the visibility and awareness of sports that previously didn’t exist or suffered from a lack of coverage.

    I also think that there is an increased sensitivity to these events, for a couple of reasons. One is at the personal level, where I think as people grow older, they no longer see these events as a fun quirk of sports (many of these events definitely aren’t no matter how you categorize them, and need to be eradicated), but now see them as objectionable and, more importantly, memorable. The other is that as a society, we have grown to be less tolerant of hate and discrimination, which is great, but before then, many of these events were merely seen as a given, and were thoroughly unremarkable. Now, these events are called to the forefront and condemned every time, which is phenomenal, but could lead to a perceived increase in events.

    There are some intelligent, well-thought comments here that are pretty dead-on. There’s another element that might be missing, though: we treat 99% of our citizens like crap. For the last 20+ years, people in the US have been put through the wringer and there is no end in sight. Between the pandemic, never-ending wars, stagnant wages, a broken healthcare system, the rising cost of living, our corrupt political system, the growing wealth gap, and the constant bad news bombardment and social media manipulation, people are in pain, suffering, or just fucking frustrated over a lot of shit they can’t control (voting aside). That energy has to go someplace, and from what I’ve seen, I think it shows up in places they can control, like when they’re driving or when they’re a fan at a sporting event. Not excusing this behavior whatsoever, but I do think a little empathy and a lot less attention to this bullshit would go a long way.

    Except for those MLB uniforms. Those fucking things are a disaster. Fanatics and Michael Rubin are the fucking worst and that monopoly needs to be broken up like yesterday.

    1993 – Monica Seles stabbed in the back at tennis tournament.

    1995 – Randy Meyers attacked at Wrigley Field by fan after he blows a save (someone who had him on a fantasy team?)

    1999 – Astros right fielder Bill Spiers attacked by drunk fan in Milwaukee who wanted to jump on his back ‘to get attention’

    A lot of this is hardly new, although don’t invite me to a Cowboys v. Chargers game in LA:)

    Don’t forget the deadbeat father-son combo who attacked the Royals coach at Comiskey back in 2002.

    And regarding coaches: let’s look at the laundry list of what Bobby Knight was allowed to get away with for three decades, and how about Woody Hayes ending his collegiate coaching career by punching an opposing player in the neck.

    I’m not saying things are getting more out of hand now than before, but it is very hard to tell if incidents like this are becoming more common, or if they were always this common but now the media landscape has changed in such a way that we hear about every single one of them. It’s entirely possible that these things were always going on before the age of the internet, but they would only get reported on at a local level, if at all.

    Greece’s Superleague soccer fans JUST got back into the stadiums to watch games live after a total ban on live attendace since August of 2023. All games have been completely behind closed doors. The night before the very first game in Athens last August, one man was stabbed to death after an entire night of brawls in the streets. This in addition to plenty of problems last season.
    This is wild too: 2018 – PAOK team owner invades the pitch with a gun!

    on a tangent, and i haven’t read through the comments… but are uniforms less uniform than ever? just looking at your photo, including all the accessories, not a single player is actually wearing the same ‘uniform’.
    So if the sport has now become bathed in self expression over ‘uniformity’… and individual achievement over team achievement (the Georgetown coach saying how rich he is… while his team is awful)… what else should we expect but a breakdown in so many patterns which make teams teams and fans fans

    I think this is a reply to the above so I’ll respond here. I agree, I think we actually agree. (I’m not an Eagles fan but I am a Pennsylvanian, so that’s why the example came to mind. I was intentionally trying to cherrypick examples to show how problematic doing so can be!

    I’m in my early 20s, definitely under the median age of Uni Watchers, and from where I’m sitting it’s not a culture thing *when it comes to sports specifically*. Like the Malice at the Palace happened two decades ago, Muhammad Ali’s family tried to trademark G.O.A.T. 32 years ago (He is the GOAT, but it says something about players’ attitudes).
    While we’ve had maybe a particularly eventful couple of weeks, I really don’t think it’s substantially different from the past. Social media just means we see a lot MORE of it. The major sports, pro and college, are bigger than they’ve ever been, and microphones are in even more places to catch the boasting that players and coaches do.

    American culture as a whole is definitely more toxic, dating back to at least 2008, if not further. But that’s a different can of worms. But I also think that “incidents” get more attention than they would’ve in the past. Not to say that what Ronaldo, or Tortarella, or the Pistons GM, or any of them did was right, but I also have trouble believing that many of these stories would have received much notice in the past. It’s not the Me Too Movement, but it’s that general growing of social awareness that has been going on for the past dozen or so years. The Sports world is just catching up.

    To me there is a connection between being connected via phones to each other and the increase of aggressive behaviour. People are quick to judge each other as being weak, soft or generally inferior when they do not beat their chests, stake their claims or stand up for themselves, even when it is clear that their opinion is not based on facts, their arguments lack logic or that they lost a game according to its rules. The harvest of social media is alas anti-social behaviour in many cases and it boils over to the real world, for instance in sports. We will never be able to put the lid back on this Pandora’s box.

Comments are closed.