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Taking Team Loyalty To A Whole New Depth of Depravity

Several years ago, while a midlife graduate student, I worked part-time for a specialty breads bakery. Often I accompanied the owner to home & garden shows and the like where she would have a booth. I helped slice the breads into bite-size samples and put toothpicks into them.

I won’t get into the disgusting behavior of people who would reuse toothpicks for other pieces, drop their toothpicks everywhere, and the sample vultures who would clear a tray out and never buy.

But I can’t forget one non-customer.

I live in a state that loves college basketball, and the loyalties and rivalries are devoted. The owner had purchased, as a Christmas gift for her husband, a large framed and matted photo taken after their favorite team’s recent championship victory. She had it propped up in the rear of the booth, but anyone could see it, and we received a handful of good-natured comments.

One very tall, robustly built man came up to the booth accompanying his wife. As the owner chatted with the wife, I saw the husband eyeing the photo. I was at the opening between the booth and the walkway where he was standing. I made a passing comment along the lines of, “Oh, I see you’re wearing a ____ shirt, did you enjoy seeing the game?”

In response, he grabbed me and drew me to him. I’m five feet tall and came up to his sternum at best. My face got mashed into his chest. Over my head, he said, “This is NOT a ____ shirt. Do you see the logo? It’s different!”

He let go and I backed away. Calmly, I said, “No, I guess I missed it.” (The color was about the same, and the logo was pretty faded. It bore a resemblance to the university’s logo.) He stalked off and the wife hastened after him, as if used to this sort of thing.

We were busy with other customers, and I don’t think the owner saw the exchange, so I just let it go. But it still creeps me out. 0821-10

Must have been a Duke fan.  hee hee hee!


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Green123 October 26, 2011, 5:58 am

    This isn’t an etiquette issue, this is a description of a criminal activity. The man assaulted you. You would have been quite within your rights to call the police – you’d have had a lot of witnesses.

  • Mabel October 26, 2011, 7:33 am

    O_O Whoa, scary! That was totally uncalled for. Like Judge Judy always says, “Keep your hands to yourself!”

    I have never understood the crazy behavior some people get into over sports teams. It’s a game. Why lose your mind over it?

  • Amanda October 26, 2011, 8:51 am

    That is creepy and a little scary. Who grabs strangers like that? Be glad you were in a well-populated public place.

  • LovleAnjel October 26, 2011, 8:53 am

    That’s assault, brotha! I can’t believe he did that. Must have been a Michigan fan.

  • Amber October 26, 2011, 8:59 am

    Wow. I’ve never had a stranger grab me that way. I think I’d start screaming involuntarily from such roughness.

    Never, never okay to grab someone, unless they’re about to come to great harm.

  • Phoebe161 October 26, 2011, 9:27 am

    As a long-suffering Oklahoma State Cowboys fan (& I’ve also worked many a sporting event), I see sadly see this kind of over-the-top behavior often, especially from one particular university’s fans. However, this story deals with OSU’s head football coach. A contractor alleges that the coach fired him for wearing an University of Oklahoma t-shirt to the coach’s home. Read it here:

    All I can say to all those sports fanatics: GET A LIFE!

  • WildIrishRose October 26, 2011, 9:49 am

    Can you spell “assault”? He had no business touching you for any reason, and the first thing I would have done is call security. I wonder if he makes a habit of doing this type of thing? I’m glad he didn’t hurt you!

  • Serenity S October 26, 2011, 10:03 am

    I think the man was definitely creepy. People should keep their hands to themselves and not touch strangers. That man was odd.

  • Hemi Halliwell October 26, 2011, 10:04 am

    So rude! It is so disgusting to be mashed up against a strangers chest !
    If this took place in the South, I can sympathize. Some fans take college sports ( basketball & football, in particular) to a whole new level.

  • Enna October 26, 2011, 10:18 am

    That man was lucky a police constable was not walking by – he would at the least got a “legal tounge-lashing” a.k.a warning about assault. Stupid man no need to get crankey about it just politely correct you that’s all that was needed.

  • Just Laura October 26, 2011, 10:32 am

    I had no idea there was another person who works OSU games on this forum (I do ADA compliance). My worst experience was the OSU/OU game last year, where fans from both sides embarrassed themselves. I had to ask the police to get involved more than once.

    Thanks for posting that story.
    [sorry if this is a double post. The website says there was an error the first time]

  • Enna October 26, 2011, 10:48 am

    @ Amber – you are spot on the only time to grab someone is if they are going to hurt themsleves or someone else.

    I don’t know if the OP is female or male – doesn’t matter which but the man is lucky the OP didn’t kick him were it REALLY hurts in self denfence. If someone grabs you like that espcially if it is a man grabbing a woman you don’t know what he’s going to do. Feel sorry for the wife, hope he doesn’t lay his hands on her.

  • Cat October 26, 2011, 10:52 am

    That’s the perfect time to scream for help. If nothing else, it would make your the bully very aware of his behavior.
    I do not think this behavior is limited to the South or to supporters of sports’ teams. There are crazy people everywhere. It shows an unhealthy bigotry to ascribe a behavior to a certain group. I have one black friend who refuses to dance because he has been told he “dances like a white boy” and another who is totally tone deaf-can’t sing a note.

  • Ashley October 26, 2011, 11:34 am

    It’s stuff like that which makes me dislike sports 99% of the time. I am sorry, but I have encountered more people like the one OP encountered than nice normal people who can be human about it all. One time when I happened to be at a hockey game, I was sitting in front of these to guys who were fans of the opposing team. Any time their team scored they made it a point to get as close to us as possible and just start cheering “YEAHHHHHH WHAT NOW?? WHAT NOW???” One of them screamed directly in my ear at one point. Our team did manage to win, and I will admit that what I turned around and said to those guys was not one of my prouder moments, but after several hours of someone shouting in your ear and no one who works at the stadium being able to witness this fact, I am sorry, but I didn’t really care.

  • ElegantErica October 26, 2011, 11:43 am

    That once happened to me a party… though the guy was drunk as a lord. I forget what I said to anger him and “make” him grab me by the shirt to tell me off.

    I shouted the first thing that came to my mind, “DON’T TOUCH ME THERE!”

    Technically, he was grabbing me by the shoulder/upper arm (not an inappropriate place)… but he let me go quickly. Shortly after that, someone took him home.

    People, *especially* strangers should keep their hands to themselves… and when they fail to do that *and* say something in a threatening manner then they are crossing into criminal territory.

  • Lucy October 26, 2011, 11:50 am

    I was thinking Texas A&M.

  • Another Laura October 26, 2011, 11:52 am

    Up until the assault, I thought the guy was going to swipe or attempt to swipe the picture.

  • Chocobo October 26, 2011, 12:22 pm


    Couldn’t help it. But seriously, that was both scary and wrong. I’m trying to figure out which two university logos could be that similar, and that rivalrous to mistake, and coming up blank.

  • GoTwins October 26, 2011, 12:24 pm

    Very scary. I was driving my little Saturn coupe on the freeway in a neighboring state when some fans of their NFL team (in a pickup truck) decided they didn’t like my license plate frame supporting my state’s NFL team so they continued yelling, swerving, tailgaiting and trying to run me off the road for several miles until I could shoot off an exit.
    I love my Twins (obviously), but I have no idea what prompts aggressive behavior over a sports team.

  • Cobbs October 26, 2011, 12:36 pm

    I agree with the rest of the posters. A pat anywhere on the body of a woman has led to fights and death. It was assault, clearly. The woman touched had a duty to report him. It will get worse until he is arrested. Think of the victims to come.
    Also, placing that photo in the booth was provocative. Keep it at home.

  • Emmerton October 26, 2011, 12:46 pm

    That is downright scary.

    I would never have been able to tolerate that, I am the kind of person who’s really uncomfortable with physical interaction even between good friends-A hug from another gal friend of mine usually takes me off guard and I nervously stiffen up. It’s just my natural reaction to even good natured affection from friends , if a strange man tried to do that to me I’d likely start to panic and freak out.

    There would be no way in hell I’d ever let him walk away without telling someone. I’d be scared out of my mind!

  • Catrunning October 26, 2011, 1:11 pm

    I would have called either the police or security – there is no excuse for that type of behavior. Even though the OP wasn’t physically hurt, she was still violently assulted.

  • Kat October 26, 2011, 1:47 pm

    I’m a college basketball fan, and I haven’t experienced this at all. In the league I support, when your team is eliminated for the year it’s standard practice to throw your loyalty to one of the other teams.

    Sorry you had to come face to…sternum…with the dark side of being a fan!

  • NotCinderell October 26, 2011, 2:07 pm

    I’m a native Midwesterner who has lived in the Providence, RI area for the last few years. My anthropological observation, living in the no-man’s land between Boston and NYC, is that it appears that many fans of the Yankees and Red Sox make more of an effort to hate the other team (and its fans) than support their own.

  • ellesee October 26, 2011, 2:21 pm

    I’ll never understand the fanatism and violent behavior that goes with sports. A simple “No, it is _____, not _____” would have been suffice. This is just wrong.

    I would have screamed. Keep your hands and body parts to yourself!!

  • A October 26, 2011, 2:39 pm

    Eeek! I’m not sure how the OP was able to keep calm during that situation.

  • Thel October 26, 2011, 3:01 pm

    Of course I agree with everyone else, what a scary experience for the OP!

    But I do have a question about another part of the post: Is it disgusting to reuse a toothpick if you only use it for the portions you are going to eat yourself, ie, no contact with other people’s food? (I’m thinking more about parties with hors d’oeuvre rather than samples). Because if so, I have been disgusting all my life :P. I think it is wasteful to use a new toothpick for every portion, and especially for drier food, or things like olives, I see no need to use a new one each time. If it’s perceived as rude and/or disgusting, though, I’m prepared to cease and desist! Please enlighten me!

  • Gracie C. October 26, 2011, 3:16 pm

    NotCinderell, I’ve noticed that many fans of many teams behave that way. I’ve also noticed that most sports fans think the fans of their rivals are ill-behaved while not recognizing similar behaviour in their own “sainted” fans. There are many great fans in the world, and there are an equal number of horrible fans. And there is an in between group that often gets sucked into mob mentality.

    In the case of the OP, I don’t think I would have been able to stop myself from shouting out or physically struggling in a way that would have drawn all sorts of attention to the situation.

  • Jamesy October 26, 2011, 3:31 pm

    What’s bizarre to me is that this happened at a Home and Garden show. A HOME AND GARDEN SHOW! Isn’t this the kind of place where wannabe Martha Stewarts hang with their ladies or drag their husbands around looking for new ideas and tasting samples? The contrast of this image juxtaposed against the violent one of this man grabbing a woman (?) and shoving her around is totally mind blowing and, like I said, bizarre.

    I love my Alma Mater and it hurts my soul when they are so close to winning and they lose (which just happened at an important game this past weekend), but myself nor any of my fellow alumni go around shoving people. Bah!

  • Phoebe161 October 26, 2011, 3:32 pm

    @Just Laura. Yes I’m an OSU employee, but I prefer my anonymity here–I am easily identified if I posted my dept. Now if I met you in person, I’d have no problem identifying myself as a poster & an employee. 🙂 (Yeah, I’m a little weird that way…)

    I must be getting soft in the head that I didn’t initially realize that the “fan” was assaulting & bullying the OP. It’s “fans” like him who give other fans a bad name.

  • Iris October 26, 2011, 3:45 pm

    @Cobbs – a photo at the back of a booth is provocative? By that logic anyone who wears a t-shirt supporting a team must be looking for a fight. I can’t agree with that at all. It’s a sport, it’s not like they had a poster supporting one side of a current and heated political debate or something. If someone is so unbalanced that the sight of a photo propped up in a booth can move them to violence then they have no business being in a public place.

    For the OP – I know you were probably in shock and unable to react, but if anything like this happens again as soon as someone touches you without your permission use a firm carrying voice to say “DON’T TOUCH ME”. It doesn’t have to be shouted, just assertive. It has the twin merits of attracting the attention of nearby people and making your wishes very clear. Often the touchee will let go in shock and embarrassment.

  • 1st time commenter October 26, 2011, 4:02 pm

    This comment may not get approved to be posted, but I felt compelled to make it.
    I have been visiting this site for awhile now but this is my first comment:
    @ Cat (10:52am)- I think part of your comment-“It shows an unhealthy bigotry to ascribe a behavior to a certain group. I have one black friend who refuses to dance because he has been told he “dances like a white boy” and another who is totally tone deaf-can’t sing a note”, shows you as an “unhealthy” bigot. After *assuming* someone was making a bigoted comment you launch straight into the “I have a black friend” speech and the white boy part- not cool.
    I have noticed that many commenters relate some of their personal experiences in their comments and sometimes people just rip into them. I love this site, but this is one of the reasons I have never commented before. But to call someone bigoted and then go for the “I have a black friend” angle just really bothered me.

  • Just Laura October 26, 2011, 5:57 pm

    Phoebe161 – My apologies! Didn’t mean to imply you should reveal yourself to me on the internet! Perhaps I’ll see you at the homecoming game Saturday. I wear a B Access pass if you feel like saying hi. 🙂

  • David October 26, 2011, 6:03 pm

    My father was a very obnoxious, rabid fan of a particular team, and I always found myself rooting for the other team to win just so he would quiet down. I know it wasn’t the team’s fault, but the knee jerk reaction has stayed with me into middle age.

    So, with apologies to Chocobo; “Go Cougs!”

    If I had been the OP I would have called security. That was assault pure and simple.

  • Snowy October 26, 2011, 6:34 pm

    I will never understand why people look down on Star Trek fans and Harry Potter devotees, or even fans of anime or some video games, but see no problem with being over-the-top fanatical about a sports team. Trek and Potter have good lessons, great stories, and are lengthy narratives. I know there’s a lot to be said about the competition and athletics in football, but look at it another way and it’s just grown men smashing into each other while wearing tight pants. As for morals and role models? Give me and my (hypothetical) kids Captain Kirk over Michael Vick any day.

    (YMMV. I don’t really look down on football at all, I just think it’s silly that people think Trek/Potter/whatever fans are losers, while accepting the kind of abhorrent behavior shown in the OP.)

  • Anderlie October 26, 2011, 10:37 pm

    Snowy to be fair I think a super obnoxious, way-too-into-it fan of ANYTHING is a loser. Moderation, y’know? You have to be a balanced human 😉

  • Angeldrac October 27, 2011, 7:26 am

    To all those people saying “you should have called security” etc:
    It’s very easy to know what to do after an event like this, but it’s usually so shocking at the time you don’t think clearly until after the event (and hence, the moment for the guy being found and prosecuted has passed).
    I was assaulted on a train once be a crazy person (silly me was just being friendly with the poor chap, but he had a tantrum when I corrected him on Brazil being in South America). He ran off the train and it wasn’t until several stops later that I thought “I should have done something about that”, and then not until I got home did I have a cry.
    Heartiest sympathy to you, OP – crazy people are everywhere!

  • Chocobo October 27, 2011, 9:26 am


    Technically, yes. You should not touch anything that has been used to transport food to your mouth to a communal platter — toothpicks, forks, your fingers, the same potato chip. But you can take comfort that it was not you who made the first error. Toothpicks should not be the only utensil used to transport food from platter to mouth. The hosts should have put out some kind of serving utensil, like an olive fork, a cheese fork, small tongs, a spoon, etc. (depending on what’s being served) in order for you to transport the food from the communal platter onto your own personal dish, and then you may reuse your toothpick as many times as you want on your own plate.

  • LovleAnjel October 27, 2011, 9:38 am

    @ 1st time commentor

    I’m assuming Cat is a troll, since this post had absolutely nothing to do with racial bigotry and yet they spewed a bunch of slurs at us. Ignore them & please continue to post with us.

  • Wink-n-Smile October 27, 2011, 1:46 pm

    LovleAnjel and 1st time commenter:

    Cat is a regular, and usually quite nice. That is why I was shocked at your reaction. Cat did not “spew a bunch of slurs at us.” Cat pointed out that to a black person, being told he dances “like a white person” is not cool. It’s a racial slur against white people, because it claims that no white person can dance. Meanwhile, it also generalizes that blacks can all dance well. In short, it’s a racial generalization that is simply silly to make, and can be quite offensive.

    Likewise, stating that x-group of fans behaves one way or another is another generalization that is silly to make, and may be offensive to many.

    Stating “That fan behaved inappropriately,” however, is just as apt as saying “That man can’t dance,” and leaving his race out of it.

    I’m certain Cat didn’t mean to slur against anyone. And saying that she has a black friend is not playing some sort of race card. It’s merely illustrating that she knows, from seeing her friend’s pain, that racial slurs are painful, and should be avoided.

    She was telling us to *avoid* slurs, not spewing them, herself. She was, in fact, pointing out the exceptions to the generalizations (such as the idea that all blacks can sing and dance – her black friends cannot).

    When you are offended by a poster here, my advice is to take three deep breaths, and read it again. You might find that you missed a word or two, which would change the whole meaning of the post.

  • Jamesy October 27, 2011, 4:33 pm

    @LovleAnjel: Unless I’m reading the wrong comment, I don’t believe “Cat” used any racial slurs in his or her comment.

  • Lovleanjel October 28, 2011, 4:12 pm

    I guess I wasn’t following Cat’s logic. All I saw was s0omeone alluding to several nasty stereotypes.

  • Stitchin November 21, 2011, 7:31 am

    @GoTwins: It’s scary to think that something as innocuous as the frame around your license plate can apparently trigger an irrational response like the one you were subjected to by “fans”: the yelling, swerving, tailgaiting and trying to run you off the road are NOT appropriate ways of showing “support” for a team, they’re a cue for you to get the police on the phone and report them for criminal actions.

    ANY circumstances under which someone deliberately tries to run you (ANYONE) off the road, or otherwise cause an accident, are circumstances when you need to dial 911 and get police assistance, because the people you’re dealing with don’t care if you live or die.

  • RockyMtnMac February 3, 2012, 9:50 am

    I must agree with Wink-n-Smile.
    “Likewise, stating that x-group of fans behaves one way or another is another generalization that is silly to make, and may be offensive to many.”
    And contrary to the Hosts offensive statement, not all of us Duke fans are rude enough to say or do something like that.
    🙂 BlueDevils!

  • femmefan1946 April 19, 2012, 12:18 pm

    I would worry about his wife’s safety if he treats perfect strangers like that.

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