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Losing with grace in sports - Greg Gelpi

Flames leaping from buildings and cars overturned.

No, it's not a scene from the latest action thriller from Hollywood. It's an all too common scene following the finish of a major sporting event.

Win, lose or draw, the results tend to be the same n pandemonium in the streets as animal mentality takes over.

Born and raised in the bayous of Louisiana, I've grown accustomed to my local sports teams dropping the ball late in the season and never even approaching a championship. My beloved New Orleans Saints are a case in point.

Back home, we rejoice with a playoff appearance. Then, we plug our ears and divert our eyes from the inevitable playoff slaughter.

And part of me likes that.

Watching the Chicago Cubs and Atlanta Braves duke it out this past week, my mind recalled how hometowns celebrate big wins and losses n rioting.

Armed police officers lined the streets outside Chicago's Wrigley Field during Saturday's game, anticipating the violence and mayhem to come if the Cubs would have clinched the series after that particular game.

I've done my share of celebrating in my 25 years, but I'm still scouring the crevices of my brain to comprehend why some fans consider Molotov cocktails and vandalism part of post-game activities.

Even crazier, after a big game, fans in the losing city also mourn the loss by rioting, while fans in the winning city do the same thing to celebrate winning.

If you're going to lose, lose big like the teams I have been raised on. At least that way fans remain comatose and lack the emotional intensity to take a brick to a window.

It's sad that a team's hard work preparing for the season and team's success during a season receives a black eye from a few rowdy fans.

I must commend Braves fans, though. Looking outside my apartment after dropping the series to the Cubs, I checked the skyline for flames and billowing smoke and found none.

Rushing down stairs to protect my car from being tossed around like a rag doll, I found no angry mobs charging for me.

In short, the Braves fans took the game as a game.

They enjoyed the ride to the playoffs, cheering often and jeering on occasion, but, on the whole, realizing that when all is said and done, baseball is a game.

Whether restraint from the fans themselves or a well-planned police presence, a violent ending to an arguably good season was averted.

Greg Gelpi covers government and school issues in Clayton County and can be reached at ggelpi@news-daily.com or (770) 478-5753 Ext. 247.