On Sunday night, after the New England Patriots lost Super Bowl XLVI (46, in Arabic numerals), the students of UMass Amherst, or ZooMass to those in the know, somewhat predictably staged an angry riot. Fights broke out. Fireworks exploded. Bottles smashed. Eventually, police shooed away a crowd of over a thousand agitated students.
At this point, sports riots are becoming kind of humdrum. Every time a Canadian hockey team loses, there’s a riot. Any time a New England sports team loses or wins or makes a trade or doesn’t make a trade, it’s pandemonium. Mass hysteria. Dogs and cats, living together as Peter Venkman might say.
Come on, North America. We can do better than this. It seems like every country in the Middle East is throwing a kick-ass riot every week. Deposing leaders. Overthrowing regimes. The kind of civil disobedience that Henry David Thoreau could get behind.
Not to sound like a grumpy old man, but what exactly do people hope to accomplish with a post-Super Bowl display of violence? Do people really, for one moment, think that if they flip over enough cars, the referees will retroactively declare a pass interference penalty on Tom Brady’s last second Hail Mary throw and reconvene the Giants and Patriots for one last snap? That’s dumb. If you think that, then you’re a dummy. And if you’re rioting for any other reason, then you’re also a dummy.
When I was a kid, riots were goal-oriented. In 1992, when a Los Angeles jury acquitted the police officers accused of the beating of Rodney King, six days of looting, arson, and violence ensued. Now that was a riot. A city full of people, up in arms over a racially charged court decision, took to the streets to directly protest their displeasure with a court decision.
Was much of the destruction wrought unnecessarily on innocent bystanders? Yes. Did much of the looting and violence have only a tangential relationship to the actual issue of institutional racism? Without a doubt. But at least those riots started as a response to a perceived injustice with the hope of change for the future. There’s no way that a melee after a sporting event could ever bring about meaningful reform.
Aaron Hernandez will not see the headlines and realize the importance of his dropped third down pass. Rob Ninkovich will not hear of the destruction and vow to never commit an inopportune offsides penalty in the fourth quarter of a championship game.
Let’s save rioting for decisions that we can reverse through public outcry. Women (and men) got upset that Komen for the Cure pulled mammogram funding from Planned Parenthood locations. Yes, they achieved their goal of restored grants through a swift and targeted online campaign. But maybe they would have gotten results faster had they thrown some pink bricks through some windows. Probably not. But maybe! Upset that Shame and Michael Fassbender got snubbed by the Oscar nominating committee? Take to the streets! Yes, that second example is as frivolous as raising hell over a football score, but at least they haven’t given the award out yet!
Here are some additional times to riot that would be more appropriate/ effective than immediately following the Super Bowl:
Upon finding out that TGI Fridays has discontinued its popular Oreo Madness dessert option.
After one complete listening of Weezer’s last album.
The eight zillionth time universal health care is derided as “socialism” by anyone who has attended a public school or driven on an interstate highway.
When receiving a parking ticket as you are on your way back to your car.
In the event anyone, in the year 2012, makes a Charlie Sheen “Winning!” reference.
A sporting event is possibly the least appropriate time to unleash mayhem across a city. The Patriots lost. You’re mad. I get it. I’m mad too. But let’s not act like a bunch of dumb, emotionally stunted husbands from yogurt commercials about it. Let’s just take a deep breath and focus on hockey or basketball or UFC or learning needlepoint or writing that novel. There are a thousand ways to blow off steam that don’t involve explosions or pepper spray.
We, as a nation, are becoming the boy who rioted wolf. Part of the failure of the Occupy movement is that it couldn’t even generate the same amount of turmoil that a Red Sox World Series victory entails. The success of a riot isn’t the amount of storefronts demolished or the number of civilians cut down by rubber bullets. It’s the efficacy in forcing a larger group to take notice of a problem that they can then mobilize against.
Flipping a car after a sporting event to commemorate a loss is like knocking over a tombstone to protest the death of a grandparent. It doesn’t help, and it ruins someone else’s property. Instead of going totally bananas over things we can’t change, let’s pick our battles and make every tear gas grenade count.
Come on, people. We need to riot smarter, not harder.