Heckles & Rants: Quiet the riots

You know what really grinds my gears? What happens after wins (or losses) of championship games in all sports at all levels.

No, I am not talking about the losing team claiming a referee and league-based conspiracy is the reason they lost (which needs to stop too). I am talking about the riots that take place in the hometowns of the teams involved.

From the New York Daily News reporting on “15 people [who] were arrested for offenses such as resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly” in Arizona after losing in the Elite 8, to FiveThirtyEight reporting on 31 people who were arrested in Kentucky while rioting after losing in the Final 4, reactions to sporting events are getting out of control.

Fueled by alcohol and emotion, these riots often include vandalism and violence that can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Now, even though the rioters are to blame for their behavior, city officials should also shoulder some of the blame for not properly preparing for such incidents. Rather than reacting toward these situations with truckloads of police in riot gear armed with beanbag ammunition and pepper spray, city officials should expect this and take a more proactive approach.

Take Duke, for example. Developed in the ’90s, students have a huge bonfire on campus each time they win a National Championship. Rather than implement campus-wide curfews or pack the streets with shield-wielding riot cops, city officials work with a coalition of volunteer students to ensure that the bonfire goes as safely as possible.

What’s even more impressive? The fact that this whole thing was originally the idea of various city officials. After a Duke loss to Louisville in the ’80s that resulted in riots the police were unprepared to handle, they decided to take a proactive approach to dealing with the situation. According to SB Nation, “During the 1990 tournament, the Police Department opted for a more controlled option of a large screen in Cameron for the Duke vs. UNLV game, with a Duke ID card required to enter. They also sponsored a bonfire in the Card Gym parking lot.”

Not only did the police stymie the possibly dangerous and expensive riots, they created an environment in which the oftentimes emotionally-reactive student base could safely let out their frustration or celebrate their elation. How long will it take for other schools to follow their lead?

Could you imagine (and you’ll need a big imagination) what would happen if Portland State won a national championship and started a bonfire in the Park Blocks? Would the Portland Police Bureau take a proactive approach, or would they react with tear gas and rubber bullets? I truly do not know, but judging from past protests in the area, I lean toward the latter.

Either way, it is time for city officials, university administrators and student leaders from all over to step up and think outside the box when it comes to handling the almost guaranteed reactions that follow major wins and losses.