by Laura Hutson
[Editor's Note: Chris Roberson is our artist of the month for October. For this post, Chris lets us in on his creative process by explaining research that's informing a project he's currently working on — specifically the screenshots of videotaped fights that occur during sporting events.]
One part of my current research exists in the rare moments during sports in which the separation between player and fan becomes compromised. The result of these happenings is occasionally a weird and scary mess. Documentation of the events, especially screen shots of video, can take on a mystery and struggle all their own.
Pro sports are big money. Team devotees often border on the fanatical. The combination of these elements — highly promoted, high stakes competitions and angry, irrational (occasionally intoxicated) onlookers — can at times create fireworks. Such was the case in 2005, when AC Milan goalkeeper Dida was struck in the head by a glowing flame thrown from the stands.
And this wasn’t the first time an unsuspecting goalie got lit up on the field. In 1989, the same thing happened to Chile’s Roberto Roja ... Or did it?
"Around the 70-minute mark, Rojas fell to the pitch writhing and holding his forehead. A firework, thrown from the stands by a Brazilian fan named Rosemary de Mello, was smoldering about a yard away. Rojas had deliberately cut himself with a razor hidden in his glove to attempt to get the match thrown out and possibly have Brazil penalized by FIFA. Rojas, his head bloodied, was carried off the field; his teammates then refused to return claiming conditions were unsafe. The match went unfinished."
But soccer hooligans aren’t the only ones who throw things at athletes. “Malice at the Palace,” an all-out brawl that occurred between the Pacers and Pistons in Detroit during the 2004 season, was set into motion after Ron Artest, professional basketball’s resident crazy person, was hit by a flying Big Gulp. Artest entered the crowd — attacking fans, swinging wildly, and sparking the most massive brawl in NBA history. Suspensions ensued, resulting in $11 million worth of loss by players.
A similar occurrence happened in 1979 at Madison Square Garden in New York, only the players that entered into the stands on this night were wearing ice skates instead of sneakers. It was during these minutes of chaos that Mike Milbury, a defenseman for the Boston Bruins, pummeled a New York Rangers fan with his own shoe.
Other times, the anger that is typically confined to stadiums bleeds into the streets. Vancouver experienced this first-hand after their beloved Canucks lost the final game of the Stanley Cup in 2011. Riots broke out, cars were set on fire, shops were looted, and violence filled the city center.
When the barrier between player and spectator is broken and the order of the sport dissolves, there is a release of energy from the interior of the game that permeates the area. Although it's a force that is 99% contained, the brawl phenomenon will occasionally explode. And when it does, you better hope you have a nice seat in the nosebleeds.