Tearing down traditions

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Just wrapping up a day of exploring the city so nice, there’s two of them — Sault Ste. Marie. They’re the twin cities in Ontario and Michigan separated by St. Mary’s River.

After I got to see the freighter Argontario pass through the MacArthur Lock with its cargo of grain, I walked over to the restaurant at the local Ramada. My eye passed over a portion of the CBS Evening News. CBS presented the news in a way that was an interesting juxtaposition. First, they had a report on the dreadful hunting incident in Wisconsin where a trespassing hunter decided to gun down five people dead and injuring several others. Then, the next story was about the brawl that broke out between the players and the fans at Saturday’s Pistons-Pacers game in Auburn Hills.

The other three customers in the bar and I were disgusted and disturbed by both of those incidents — they transcend the boundaries of the law and ethics and breach the traditions that many of us hold dear. These traditions include professional sports and hunting — which is a tradition to many if a somewhat dubious endeavor to others.

For many years, I was quite proud of how many Americans conduct themselves during sporting events. I could hold America up on a pedestal while the football-mad Europe tore themselves up into a riotous frenzy over a match.

No longer. I never thought that American fans were genteel when it came to rooting for the home team or razzing the opposition, but I thought that we were generally well-mannered when it came to playing by the rules on and off the field. The NBA incident and the several other acts of violence in recent years gives me pause. I think that we need to question who we are as fans of the sport and take the necessary steps toward maintaining the dignity that most professional sports deserve.