In the late 1970s, an infamous photograph appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The caption read, “Creepy kiss. Cubs win!” The picture was of then Cubs catcher Carlton Fisk smooching the dirty-faced woman who was shoved into his face by the shortstop on the victorious World Series team. She was not a teammate or even an opponent, but a fan.
The photo brought back those Cubs memories for a number of fans, especially those who grew up in those years.
Now, years later, an incident involving another team has left fans in an uproar. Two Chicago Blackhawks fans got too close to their team’s player during a playoff game and had to be restrained. Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith grabbed a fan and took her by the arm in an effort to usher her away. One fan pushed Keith away and a Chicago police officer intervened.
The incident has provoked outrage from many, including two Chicago-area newspaper columnists: Isthmus’ Rob King and the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh. Both believe the incident brings to mind the infamous 1977 photo of Fisk trying to stop a fan from kissing the Cubs’ first baseman. It’s a shame the two incidents cannot be used to highlight the need for more humane fan behavior.
What happened to Keith and the fan is inexcusable. And we understand that Keith is not a perfect player and can get frustrated on the ice. He does not need to behave like a thug, or at least act like one on the ice.
We have noted in the past that there is no legitimate way to protect a player from a fan, but the question is, how often should that individual intervene?
Haugh says, “If this is a lesson from the Blackhawks, to expect rough treatment is part of the job.”
In other words, we’ve all had to deal with a fan or two who were drunk, obnoxious, acting like a gangsta, or simply unwilling to get along. Some players, particularly black players, have had to deal with numerous such incidents. Some times, it is more of a surprise to them and to us, that the attention is focused on their actions and not their character.
However, the particular scenario with Keith and the fan points to a disturbing reality for the National Hockey League. In the 1980s, problems of anti-black racism were an ongoing source of frustration and dismay for black hockey fans. Over the years, it would emerge that many black players felt that their fans would not stand up for them when they had unfortunate incidents in the stands. A decent number of black players did not have civil rights organization in place, if not a real willingness to be involved, to protect them.
At the same time, one has to wonder why one particular issue caused an uproar, whereas such behavior is not tolerated from one’s neighbor. Hawks fans have lately created less of a ruckus during the playoffs. So perhaps this incident exposed a need for better action by the Chicago Blackhawks.
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