In the realm of sport, there is a constant observance of the two games, football and soccer. Seemingly, these two games repeatedly are seen as total opposites of each other. One played with feet, one with hands. One demands constant replays and call reviews, while one cherishes the controversial decisions in the heat of the moment. Both sports, to me, are very entertaining. Another difference that has appeared in recent weeks is the dealing with fan interference.
This last December, in a Dutch match between AZ Alkmaar and Ajax, a wild fan leapt onto the field and lunged at the goalie, Esteban Alvarado. In response the goalie attempted a leaping kick and then proceeded to kick the man while he was on the ground. The referee came over and pulled out a red card for the goalie and he was sent off. In a ridiculous turn of events, the manager of Alkmaar pulled his entire team off of the field and the game was cancelled. Nothing like a good moment of controversy, is there?
Contrast this to last week, when an overly-excited Green Bay Packer fan ran onto to the field. All the cameras pulled away from the fan and the only video of the incident comes in the form of a shaky hand-held video shot by a fan in the stands. The 15 year old intruder ran around in glee, and as security members struggled to capture him, Packers linebacker, Brad Jones, wrapped his arms around the boy and threw him to the ground. The crowd erupted in cheers and the lad was taken away. The game resumed and no one outside of the stadium even knew the event took place until hours after the game when the video surfaced. Brad Jones was not punished.
So why did these events produce such contrasting reactions? Well, in truth, they were entirely different events. In the soccer match, the pitch invader was clearly looking for a fight as he approached the opposition’s goalie. In the football game, the fan was simply enjoying a jolly lap around the field. But why was there punishment for the goalie? He decided to fight back. He kicked the man when he was down, and players simply cannot do that to fans. Brad Jones left the scene immediately after bringing down the fan, as he simply wanted to get the game going again because he was cold.
So what did we learn here? I feel that these events reflect the opposing feelings on moments of debate within the two sports: Was the ref in the right? Maybe the goalie should have strangled the player, I mean, he was an opposing fan. Or maybe the goalie could have been punished with a fine after the game. It is tough, how can an away player who attacked a fan be allowed to stay in a game? Not surprisingly, his one game suspension for the red card was lifted in the wake of the ensuing drama and fans had tons to argue about after the match. Soccer thrives on this stuff.
Contrastingly, football is entirely about the sport. Clearly Brad Jones’ assault was much less violent, but it amazes me how the incident wasn’t even covered at all, because in actuality it is a non-event. People don’t watch football to see fans do silly things; they want to see touchdowns and exciting hits. The decisions of controversy are clearly something that instills interest in soccer, and something that the NFL wishes not to deal with.