Last Sunday, the East Lansing police marched like a phalanx, with a hoplite-intensity against rioting Spartan basketball fans whose rioting was triggered by a loss to Texas in the NCAA Tournament. As the rioters raged on, the police cracked down on the Michigan State sports fan insurrection and arrested 18 individuals, at least five of whom were Michigan State students.
Riots like these are becoming common on campuses nationwide. From The Ohio State University to the University of Maryland to the University of Washington, nihilistic riots have become an expected element of campus life following both losses and victories. It is an unfortunate reality, not only because it displays the least mature behavior the college population possesses, but because police departments, city governments and college administrations are imposing tough measures that clampdown on legitimate fan conduct. For example, because couches are often burned in these riots, there is now a ban against having couches on porches on game days in college towns like East Lansing.
Other examples of restrictions include fans not being allowed to bring flags and paraphernalia into the stadium, and police often enforce the law, making little distinction between those that are harmlessly showing their team loyalty and those who pose a threat to the greater good. At the University of Florida at Gainesville, an intimidating display reaches out to spectators: the campus police stations German shepherds at both ends of the football stadium. Other schools have pumped up video surveillance, a possible threat to students’ civil liberties. Riots like these give the police a reason to enforce such harsh measures. And because of this latest riot, the rioters not only blemished the reputation of college sports fans everywhere, but they have done a disservice to Spartan fans that express their loyalty within the boundaries of the law.
While such immature and uncivilized behavior is often expected from the likes of Michigan State fans – sports riots have not been seen in the streets of Ann Arbor for years – it is still an embarrassment to the University that our counterparts in East Lansing have yet again taken part in mindless violence. Perhaps Michigan State students should display the same level of energy on matters of national and international significance. Instead, however, it is all too obvious that athletic events are the sole force that arouses the passions of Spartan fans. In 1999, following another NCAA Tournament loss, 71 Michigan State students were arrested for their involvement in a riot that caused approximately 250,000 dollars in damages.
Hopefully, the police clampdown on sporting events will not spread to Ann Arbor, as University students have shown themselves to be responsible. It would be most tragic if milder Michigan sports fans had to suffer the consequences of a school with less respect for decency and decorum. Unfortunately, Michigan State students’ record would lead the typical observer to assume otherwise.