Devils fans booed Zach Parise every time he touched the puck last night, in the star winger's first return to New Jersey since he signed with the Wild in 2012. So the mood was predictable hostile, but according to one Minnesota fan, the venom extended into the stands in an ugly way.
The fan, a Minnesota native now living in New York, shared his story on Reddit. (Update: And now the user has deleted his account, after someone posted his photo. This is a bad look all around.) He says he wasn't going out of his way to piss anyone off—he wore a Parise Team USA Olympic jersey, which isn't as antagonistic as a Wild jersey, but people should be free to wear whatever they want—but from the second he got on the train to Newark he started being harassed.
He says it got worse when he took his seat, near the "Diablos" fan section—the uppermost few rows of the Prudential Center where self-proclaimed superfans sit. Some lowlights:
After entering the arena and finding my seats, I was greeted by a resounding chant from everyone in section 122. "Who's a faggot? He's a faggot! Who's a faggot? Parise is a faggot!"
The Devils score and go up 1-0. The Dad (who has three 6-10 year old kids including a young girl) turns around and starts a "Parise swallows" chant. Section 122 & 123 join in. I stand up and start clapping until they stop chanting...
I then ask, very very very loudly. "Why don't you explain to your children what it means to swallow? Why don't you explain to your children what you mean by "Parise is a faggot?"
Dad, looking flustered, looks at me, looks at his kids and says "Meet me in the parking lot and I will kick your fucking teeth in faggot."
After the Devils score, a Mom 5 seats to my left came over and said that I am a 'disgrace to Jersey' and that if I 'can't handle the verbal abuse, don't sit with the diablos.'
After walking to the top of the section to leave, a gentleman in a Devils coat came over, shouldered me and said, "Next time sit in section 123 and it will be your life that you lose."
A woman then grabbed my hat ripped my necklace off my chest and attempted to push my another Wild fan down the stairs. Security then decided to escort us out the building.
This is obviously hearsay (Update: here and here are conflicting accounts claiming to be from Devils fans sitting nearby, who say this guy as just as much a drunken asshole as anyone else), though anyone who's ever been to a sporting event won't find any of this fan behavior far-fetched. And there is video of security asking him to leave his seat because he was (in his words) "provoking violence" on the part of Devils fans.
(The Youtube comments on that video are, well, like sitting in the upper bowl at a hockey game.)
Without judging the veracity of the presented version of events, what sort of mental disorder do sports fans (any sports fans) have to have to lead them to wish or threaten physical violence on someone for being a fan of the wrong team? Just a few years ago, Zach Parise was posing for photos with the Diablos and was a hero. Now, just because he took a different job for more money and to be closer to his family, anyone wearing his jersey is subject to abuse?
Sports fans, please be cool to each other, regardless of fandom. We're all human beings, so try to act like it.