The Globe pulled a column and issued an apology today after it managed to offend both sides of the famed Celtic-Rangers rivalry, no mean feat. Now Scotland has it out for the writer, the paper, and the city of Boston.
First a quick, oversimplified history. The rivalry is one of sports' oldest and most intense. The annual matches between the Glasgow clubs was, in the old days, a proxy for much bigger issues: the largely Catholic and Republican Celtic vs. the Protestant and Loyalist Rangers. A lot of that has given way to a more purely sporting rivalry in recent years, though bad blood still remains, and violence isn't unheard of.
With both teams playing friendlies in America this summer, there's a proposal to have the two play each other at Fenway Park. Mark Stokes of the Globe wrote a not-unreasonable column yesterday arguing that because of the potential of violence, the game should be moved to Gillette Stadium — outside the city. But one little factual error in his piece led to a firestorm.
Most notably, disaster struck at Rangers' Ibrox Stadium in 1971 following a crush-barrier failure, but it is widely accepted that the tensions between Celtic and Rangers fans played a major part in the 66 deaths that day (many of whom were children).
Well, the problem is, it's not "widely accepted." A combination of overcrowding and poor stadium design are blamed for the Ibrox disaster, and not tensions among fans. It was, by all accounts, simply a horrible accident.
Rangers has lodged a complaint with the paper, and the column's comment section was besieged by fans of both teams, savaging the writer, the city of Boston, the American media, and, predictably, each other.
It's a pretty severe reaction to an honest mistake. If we had to print a retraction every time we got something wrong about soccer, we'd run out of server space.
Message from Mark Stokes regarding Celtic-Rangers column [Boston Globe]