Gelf Magazine - Looking over the overlooked

Sports

March 12, 2005

Ugly Americans

At the Big East tournament, two spectators' ugly war of words had nothing to do with sports.

Carl Bialik

Syracuse 54, Rutgers 30, with 15:37 left in the second half Thursday night in the Big East quarterfinal. The crowd had thinned, so we moved down to better seats in the 300 level at Madison Square Garden. Immediately, we could sense something wasn't right. There was tension around us. We hadn't chosen the right spot.

A row in front of us sat a trio of Georgetown fans in their 20s, one of them particularly preppy and particularly drunk. All three were disappointed by the Hoyas' close loss to UConn in the first game of the night doubleheader, which probably eliminated Georgetown from the NCAA tournament. Preppy was taking out his anger on fans of Syracuse, Georgetown's traditional rival.

A row in front of us sat a 30-something Syracuse fan, mustached and also drunk. He looked a little like Keith Hernandez, if he'd let himself get fat and drunk.

Preppy and Moustache were going at it, and it wasn't pretty. Preppy was short on material, with his team eliminated and Syracuse blowing away it opponent, so he gestured to the empty arena and yelled, "Look! No one cares about your team! Everyone's left!" Mustache, befuddled by this brilliant heckling material, fell back on ugly homophobia. He called Preppy "faggot" and "homo-boy."

This was sad. And it wasn't about sports. If Moustache were a real fan, he would have sat back and enjoyed a rare laugher for his team. Here were two drunk, lonely men enacting their saga of disrespect and manliness on a public, albeit little-watched, stage.

Moutsache decided he needed backup, so he called on a crew of burly Syracuse fans sitting nearby and told them his troubled tale of Preppy and his hurtful taunts. Some of the crew slid over by Moustache and told Preppy what they thought of him. Moustache assured Preppy he'd be getting his ass kicked after the game.

All this played out near an usher, and when the usher finally stepped in with eight minutes left in the game, he was outstanding. He went to Preppy and asked to see his ticket. It's possible that Preppy had moved down, like we had, and really was in the wrong seat; or maybe the usher winked at him, as if to say, "Look, I'm giving you an out here. Move your seat and pretend it's because I made you do it."

Either way, Preppy and his crew moved back, Moustache and the burly men left soon after—with their team playing in a postseason tournament in one of the world's finest hoops arenas—and Preppy headed out with four minutes left. Surely they all went to a bar to analyze their feats of manliness.

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.







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Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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