The New England Patriots may have lost a football game on Sunday night, but longtime season ticket holder Dale Mooney was far less fortunate. The 53-year-old from Newmarket, N.H. died while attending the Sunday Night Football game. The situation is still under investigation and the cause of death is yet unknown. But it is known that Mooney was involved in an altercation with a Miami Dolphins fan in the stands on Sunday. That altercation preceded the need for medical assistance.
This cannot be stated clearly enough: Something needs to change regarding fan violence at sporting events. This is abnormal behavior, which has managed to become normalized. It needs to stop.
Officials originally said Mooney died from a “medical incident” during the game. While this is technically true, both eyewitness reports and video footage make it clear the altercation directly led to whatever medical incident occurred.
Fighting in the stands at sporting events, specifically NFL games, has sadly become commonplace. On social media, videos of massive brawls are taking over timelines. Everyone can video these events on phones, and plenty are doing just that. Then they are posting them to social media. Then larger media outlets are picking them up and posting them. Suddenly a very abnormal event seems completely normal to many.
This past week alone, in addition to multiple incidents in Foxboro, there were vicious viral clips from brawls in Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Houston, Dallas and Carolina. There were likely plenty of other incidents around the NFL as well, which haven’t found their way into the algorithm just yet.
So why are there so many ferocious fights taking place in sports stadiums? There are several factors.
As stated, the social media component is one aspect. Seeing these fights taking place on a regular basis makes it appear as though this is somehow normal behavior. A fan who witnessed the altercation involving Mooney said it “wasn’t something crazy or out of the ordinary until, 30 seconds later, the guy wasn’t getting up.” The idea that it took Dale Mooney not getting up for 30 seconds for this situation to seem abnormal is disturbing.
Another disturbing factor is how many fans first instinct isn’t to help. Many people either join in the fighting themselves, or simply begin recording it to post to social media. The New England Patriots have a text number for fans to use to report inappropriate behavior at Gillette Stadium. Fans can anonymously text 50894 for security assistance. Other NFL stadiums around the league, and throughout other sports, likely have something similar. Find out this number for security assistance before attending a game and use it when needed.
A key ingredient is alcohol. Whether or not Dale Mooney and/or the Miami Dolphins fan were drinking Sunday, there’s no question intoxication is a factor in many of these melees. This is going to be the case even more often when the games begin at night. People attending sporting events, overall, are simply getting too drunk. It is fine to have a few drinks at a sporting event, just like at most other social events. It is not okay however, to be legless and belligerent.
Who is responsible for keeping fans from getting obnoxiously intoxicated at sporting events? Everybody.
Obviously, everyone is ultimately responsible for their own behavior. People need to know their limits, drink water and act in a way that will not embarrass themselves or their company. Friends and family need to encourage people to slow down, calm down, and respect the fact that they are in a public environment around many people not interested in their shenanigans. And other fans can use the appropriate avenue of reporting out of control fans. Confronting them is unnecessary, there are other people paid to do that. While there is no need to kick every happy, harmless drunk out of an NFL stadium, there is a need to address people making disruptive and disturbing decisions (whether alcohol is a factor or not).
There are quite a few things NFL franchises can do to help avoid fan violence. For starters, the text number mentioned above should be reiterated throughout each game. At Gillette Stadium for example, everyone should know to quickly text 50894 if there are signs of trouble. And staff at the games should actively be looking for potential trouble as well. Not suggesting this doesn’t already happen, but as Mac Jones suggested about the New England Patriots players, everyone needs to do a little extra. As far as the excessive drinking is concerned, this needs to be monitored closely. It is fine to cut off people who appear too drunk. Fans need to accept that a few people who might be okay to have another drink will get prematurely cutoff in order to ensure others do not have one too many.
New England Patriots fan Dale Mooney died on Sunday night, and he didn’t have to. The situation was avoidable. It does not help to blame this tragedy on Mr. Mooney, the Miami Dolphins fan, or anyone else. The most important thing at this point for the NFL, and other major sports leagues, is to be proactive in preventing any other tragedies like this one from happening again.