From youth league games to professional games, the sports we are supposed to enjoy have all too often led to deadly games.
And that, my friends, is a sad indictment on American society.
It has almost become common place to hear about a fan from one team assaulting a fan from another team. Sometimes, the violence turns to murder. At times, a weapon such as a gun or knife is used.
We've all seen and heard of the youth league dad who assaults another parent for some flimsy excuse. In many cases, the victim is a coach who didn't play little Johnny enough. Frequently, the official calling the game is the victim.
Earlier this year, a local high school athlete's irate parent demanded to talk to a coach after a game. The parent was unhappy about a child's playing time. The coach handled the situation as well as could be expected and, to the best of my knowledge, no threats were involved.
Fans at their worst can even turn on fans of their own team, as was the case when Alabama fan Adrian Laroze Briskey allegedly shot and killed fellow Crimson Tide fan Michelle Shepherd. Briskey allegedly was mad because she felt Shepherd wasn't upset enough that Alabama lost to Auburn in the Nov. 30 Iron Bowl.
A friend of mine, who happens to be an Alabama fan, posted on Facebook that he was looking to worship at a different church because of comments made after Auburn beat Alabama.
No game or series of games would ever cause me to kill someone or leave a church.
The closest I've ever come to fighting over a game was in the fall of 1976 when I was a University of Tennessee freshman and Florida beat the Vols. I was standing on a corner in my Gulf Breeze letter jacket, which was blue and gold, waiting for my grandparents to pick me up so we could go get a steak dinner.
An intoxicated Tennessee student approached me and, upon seeing my Gulf Breeze colors, associated me as a Gator. He told me he wanted to fight because I was from Florida. I admitted to growing up in Florida but said I attend UT.
It took a few minutes, but I finally convinced the guy I was a Tennessee student and he staggered on down the street.
Northwest Floridatends to be a melting pot for college football fans, especially fans of Southeastern Conference teams. I grew up with, or have worked with, fans of almost every SEC team.
In those relationships, there has been plenty of room for some good-natured ribbing.
Georgiabeat Tennessee on a dramatic last-minute touchdown in 2001, my first year working at the Northwest Florida Daily News.
It so happened that my fellow sports writer and good friend, Cal Powell, is a Georgia grad. When I got to the office later that afternoon, my desk was covered in black and red streamers, and Cal left a note saying something about glory, glory to old Georgia.
I'd like to think I took my medicine like a man.
I've had to deal with my share of upset parents and an occasional coach either in an email or an angry phone call.
While working at a Tennessee paper, I once ran a photo of a school's star football player being helped off the field. But in the story, I also mentioned two or three times that the player returned to the game.
My next work day, the player's father called and accused me of trying to cost his boy — who set the state record in single-season rushing yards that year — a scholarship. I assured the father that was the farthest thing from my mind.
The boy had a chance to walk on at Tennessee, but accepted a scholarship offer from a smaller school that offered him a chance to play right away. A little more than a year later, the boy was back home working for his dad and marrying his high school sweetheart.
I was a sports fan long before I was a sports writer with a byline and a column. I remain a fan today, and I understand the passion many fans express with the triumphs and defeats of their favorite team.
It troubles me when fans become too fanatical and react in a violent or mean-spirited way after a game.
Whether it is the lowest level of youth football or the Super Bowl, T-ball or the World Series, they are only games. Sadly, we have turned our games into a matter of life or death.
Sadly, many of us have forgotten that games are played. And play is supposed to be fun.
Randy Dickson is the Crestview News Bulletin’s sports editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet him @BigRandle, or call 682-6524.