Long before the Super Bowl popped up XLII years ago, sports, fans and spirits went hand in hand. But too often of late, the situation has gotten out of hand.
Binge drinking and public displays of intoxication, lewdness and violence have jumped to frightening levels, particularly during the daylong party atmosphere of the NFL.
Cardinals games at University of Phoenix Stadium have been part of the problem — and the problem is finally getting more attention.
The most recent addition of “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which continues to air this month on HBO, sent cameras to NFL tailgate parties in Buffalo and Washington showing fans, four or five hours before the 1 p.m. Sunday kickoffs, downing liquor shots and slamming multiple beers through a construction cone.
Some fans are too sloshed to even complete the walk into the stadium, but those who do are the bigger problem. Police in the piece estimated that 99 percent of their incident calls during games are alcohol-related.
At a DUI checkpoint leaving an Oakland Raiders game, police made 20 DUI arrests — at one exit.
In Miami, a fan that tested two times the legal limit leaving a Dolphins game in 2006 slammed into an SUV, killing a father and one of the five young children with him in the car.
Commentator Bob Costas, who also works for HBO on “Inside The NFL,” said a close look at the topic was overdue and that “too much of sports has become the province of louts and imbeciles” and it is up to leagues like the NFL to give the issue more attention.
“Sports is supposed to be fun,” Costas said. “But it shouldn’t be reserved for people who just want to act like fools and spoil the experience. Football games are becoming places where regular fans don’t have sanctuary.”
It’s not restricted to football — witness what happened in basketball in Detroit (the Ron Artest incident) when the fans went out of their minds — but it’s going to happen more in football because of its once-a-week, let’s-get-out-and-tailgate nature.”
The NFL has denounced binge drinking and applauded measures taken by teams to deal with dangerous fans. But they also have high-dollar sponsorships with beer companies and Costas says some of what is seen in the stands is only parroting what’s seen on the field.
“It is partially a result of the excessive promotion of violence and even the promotion and embracing of all the showboating, belligerence and unsportsmanlike behavior,” Costas said. “Some of that has to have an effect on some of the people who watch the games.”
CALLING A SHOT …AND TAKING ONE
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady didn’t have a problem with Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress predicting a Giants victory (“I’d hate for him to think he was going to lose the game.”) But the 23-17 score? It was obvious Brady was favoring the “over” personally.
“We’re only going to score 17 points?” Brady asked incredulously. “Is Plax playing defense? I wish he would have said 45-42 or something like that. At least he’d give us a little more credit for scoring a few points.”
But beyond that, Brady wasn’t willing to venture further into the sandbox.
“We don’t make predictions; we just let our play do the talking,” he said. “I learned that lesson early in my career. No matter what you say during the week, and God knows we say a lot this entire week, we’re focused on going out there and trying to do our best.”
THIS ONE TIME … AT CAMP
So much for the importance of going through an NFL training camp.
Michael Strahan spent August in California, relaxing and contemplating retirement before returning just in time to play every game and ring up nine sacks at the age of 36.
“Look, training camp is great, a necessary evil. But I went through 14 of them,” he said. “If you think about it, training camp is a month, so I’ve spent more than a year of my life living in a college dorm, and when I left college I told myself I wasn’t going back! Now I’ve put in another year of college and I still didn’t get a degree.”
• G-strings are flying at half-staff around the Valley after the announcement that the Lingerie Bowl was cancelled for the second straight year. I sense the end of an era.
This event needs to find the right hands for promotion and execution. Might I suggest the folks over at Telemundo — judging from Media Day, they have enough ladies sitting around the sports department to form a decent backfield.
• Giants kicker Lawrence Tynes is glad there was a two-week break between his winning kick in the NFC title game in Green Bay and Sunday’s Super Bowl.
If the game had been last Sunday, he doesn’t think he could have played.
“My foot was totally black-and-blue for a week. It’s just healing now,” he said. “I have really skinny, bony feet and they were bruised from kicking that frozen ball 30 times (in practice and the game). It would have been tough to get ready in a week.”
• Mike Carey will referee his first Super Bowl on Sunday. Guess who refereed the Patriots-Giants regular-season game in New York five weeks ago? Yup.
• Does anyone else miss Giants tight end/quote machine Jeremy Shockey? I know my notebook does.
Jeremy, we know you’re hurt. We know you’re on crutches. We know you’re disappointed.
But we’re running out of questions for Jeff Feagles.