Why Do Fans of Winning Sports Teams Riot? Chalk It Up to Mob Mentality.

The San Francisco Giants are World Series champions. To celebrate, hundreds of fans took to the streets to vandalize their city. One expert explains the riots by describing how individuals take advantage of a "cloak of crowd anonymity" to behave badly.

As is so often the case (and puzzlingly so), fans of a championship team took to the streets last night to torch furniture, break windows, and commit acts of vandalism across their city. While Madison Bumgarner and the San Francisco Giants celebrated their World Series Game 7 victory in Kansas City, revelers back in California were not only causing a ruckus, but posting about it on social media:


Currently getting ready to go riot in San Francisco for the Giants.

— Zik Krtly (@ZacharyKirtley) October 30, 2014

Photo my buddy sent me from last night in San Francisco during #GIANTSWIN celebration/ riot/ confusion pic.twitter.com/ThfOEhu3I7

— Danny Rivero (@TooMuchMe) October 30, 2014

The riot cops are out in San Francisco. TIME FOR RIOT COP SELFIES (via @sfkale, @jmariephotog) http://t.co/BJNc5d1SnR pic.twitter.com/atF6YQqI87

— SB Nation (@SBNation) October 30, 2014

As Gloria Goodale writes over at CSM, the night featured rioters swinging from power lines, setting bonfires, smashing municipal bus windows, and being all-around lousy people. One person was shot. Police made multiple arrests. It was all rather quite messy.

Similar events have broken out in the past decade in cities such as Boston, Los Angeles, and Vancouver (though the home team actually lost the championship there -- not that that makes it any better). Goodale asked Dan Lebowitz of the Center for the Study of Sport and Society why sports fans behave this way:

“People take the cloak of crowd anonymity to allow themselves to do things they would not normally do if they were actually being accountable for themselves,” he says. This is accelerated when the individuals have already taken on a strong group identification by being a loyal team fan, he points out, adding “there is a very thin line between being a sports fan and a sports fanatic.”

Lebowitz also notes that night-time mobs promote an abandonment of social norms, comparing championship riots to partying on New Year's Eve or at Mardi Gras. There's often alcohol involved and all it takes is one act of debauchery to ignite a powder keg of elation and assumed-invincibility. That's what we saw last night in San Francisco and will continue to see in cities around the world until people learn to grow up.

So, probably never.

Read more at The Christian Science Monitor

Photo credit: pogonici / Shutterstock

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