Saturday, June 19, 2010

Hoodlums, Hooligans And Homies Behaving Badly

The Los Angeles Lakers are throwing themselves a victory parade Monday morning for winning the NBA championship, promised to pay for the costs and regretted the expected violence after Thursday's win, a reaction a psychologist called a spike in male testosterone.


That's right, male testosterone. Like you, my reactions mimic Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's Daily Show.

Hoodlums would be a more apt description.

Police are still assessing the post-game damage. No one was killed, 51 arrested and dozens injured, including a bicyclist bumped into by a Sheriff's car and an LAPD officer with a broken nose. At least one car was set ablaze, trash cans burned and stores vandalized. Dozens of buffoons ran onto the Interstate 10 freeway about an hour after rush-hours traffic receded.

On Friday morning Miriam Aguirre, owner of one of dozens of businesses vandalized near the game site at the Staples Center, was sweeping shards of glass instead of tallying the previous night's cash receipts.

She asked a Los Angeles Times reporter: "What kind of celebration is that?" Aguirre owns a taco shop with her husband.

Also Friday morning, Robert Reitz, office manager of a printing company, began cleaning up remains of six broken store windows by mob action.

"The Lakers cost the city more than they're worth," said Reitz, a one-time season ticket holder who has renounced the team. "I was kind of hoping the other team would win so this wouldn't happen."

Post championship game rioting is nothing new to Los Angeles and the Lakers team. This year's hooliganism was tame in comparison to past riots. In 2000, revelers burned and looted with seeming impunity because of a lack of police preparedness and presence. Last year, a greater force of LAPD still failed to stifle the crowd. And more than 1,000 LAPD and reinforcements from neighboring cities including the Sheriff's office still were pressed to the limit in this year's so-called celebration following the victory over the Boston Celtics.

You call that testosterone?

Explains psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, who has studied the behavior of sports fans, the seemingly inevitable reaction by fans on the winning side is rooted not only in the emotional connection they build to their teams but in a chemical one as well.

I'll let the Times explain it:

Fans are so heavily invested in their teams that studies have shown that their testosterone levels spike significantly after they watch a major victory, Cialdini said. Elevated levels of the hormone are known to cause increased aggression, especially in young men.

"When the team wins, we win and we feel it in a very personal way," Cialdini said. "We're likely to experience a great sense of arousal and joy even though we haven't done anything."

  The Lakers are one of the most storied franchises in the National Basketball Association with 19 championships and millions of dollars under its belt.

The 2009 victory parade after beating the Orlando Magic stuck the city with a $1.8 million tab, half of which was picked up by private donations from team fans.

Monday's parade costs will be paid for by the Lakers, the team announced. They can afford it.

Forbes ranks the Lakers the second most financially valuable professional franchise in the world at $540 million.

The Times reports the city is closing a $485 million budget shortfall by laying off hundreds of city employees and curtailing library hours, among other measures.



Violent victory celebrations are old hat in world sports culture and the Lakers incidents don't raise a zit on the mayhem compared to other sports, including soccer, known outside the U.S. as football. This website lists the 15 worst soccer disasters/riots. Ranked No. 1 occurred at National Stadium, Lima, Peru, May 24, 1964. The death toll: 318. As for the psychoanalysis by the good Dr. Cialdini, you can explain testosterone until your heart's content and your diagnosis I don't quibble with. But that mob sill was a bunch of hoodlums, hooligans and homies behaving badly.

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