Watch out for flying lawnmowers, sports fan, they’ll kill you.
So, it’s Seattle versus New England in the Big Game. Yes, I’m going to watch it, I’ll be with friends, there’ll be booze, food, laughing, and good fellowship. But, I do not fool myself. I understand the Super Bowl isn’t all about party. There’s a rancid underbelly to the pigskin extravaganza no one talks about. The Box will say it out loud, FAN DEATH. That’s right, the carnage of good-hearted, dedicated fans left to die in cheap motel rooms because the teams they love broke their hearts.
The Vegas Line
Super Bowl 49
Before we move into full-blown Super Bowl 49 hysteria, it’s appropriate to take a moment, bow our heads, and remember those who were killed by their favorite sports team.
From legacy.com, “On Wednesday, January 14, 2015, Eleanor Miriam Gallagher, 81, of Nanticoke peacefully passed away surrounded by family and friends...
“Eleanor’s greatest passion was her family, and she provided a loving and nurturing home for multiple generations. She could always be counted on for a listening ear and was the calm and safe port in times of adversity...
“Eleanor was a devoted Pittsburgh Steelers fan, and the family firmly believes that the recent separation of Dick LeBeau (defensive coordinator) and the Steelers’ poor performance this season might have inadvertently contributed to her demise” [italics mine].
Here’s a death-by-sports-team notice in the Kansas City Star: “Loren G. ‘Sam’ Lickteig passed away on November 14, 2012, of complications from MS and heartbreak disappointment caused by the Kansas City Chiefs football team.”
From the Daily Courier-Observer: “Marylou Cunningham Belles, of Bethel, CT died July 13, 2012, after giving cancer the finger for 27 years... She loved cats, and shared her life with four rescues from Save a Sato. She was also a lifelong NY Mets fan, though, surprisingly, that wasn’t what killed her.”
From the Columbia Daily Tribune: “James H. ‘Jim’ Driver, 78, of Eagle, Colorado, formerly of Columbia, passed away Monday, March 19, 2012, at South Hampton Place in Columbia after a brief illness. An avid Broncos fan, he abhorred Manning and evidently wanted out before a deal was done.”
You see the point. Sports teams can kill. Indeed, they are a health menace. A 2013 article in Smithsonian magazine reports, “A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at just how many heart attacks occurred in Germany during the World Cup they hosted in 2006.... During the World Cup, for both men and women, ‘the incidence of cardiac emergencies was 2.66 times that during the control period.’ The authors conclude that watching a soccer game actually doubles your risk of a heart attack.”
Now then, what’s more exciting, a Super Bowl or watching a swarm of men in short pants fluff around a grassy field? Without question, Super Bowl civilian death counts must be much, much higher than those caused by fluffy-pants soccer.
And it’s not just heart attacks and strokes. Oh, no. Unseen forces lurking around every NFL stadium can suddenly appear in the sky, swoop down, and crush your skull at any moment. Unseen forces, like, for instance, a flying lawnmower.
What follows is heartbreaking. And true. An overtrusting NFL fan was murdered by a flying lawnmower. The tragedy occurred December 9, 1979. The Jets were hosting the Patriots at Shea Stadium. It was a big game, late in the season, both teams were shooting for a playoff bid. There was special entertainment during halftime as is fitting for a crucial December NFL game.
The Electronic Eagles, a valued affiliate of the Radio Control Association of Greater New York, stepped onto the field to demonstrate members’ radio-controlled airplanes. These flying machines flew around the stadium, feigning aerial dogfights for the enjoyment and edification of the crowd. As part of the show, model planes with unusual shapes joined the fray.
A spectator remarked, “They were sending those things right over the crowds. It seemed so stupid, so sick, to send this thing over these people.”
One of the model planes, piloted by a Brooklyn auto-collision repairman, was crafted to look like a lawnmower with a red lawnmower body and a big lawnmower handle. The New York Times reported, “The lawnmower circled the stadium a few times, then abruptly nose-dived into the stands about five rows behind the Patriots’ bench and struck two spectators... John Bowen of Nashua and Kevin Rourke of Lynn, Massachusetts.”
The Times described Bowen as looking “...like his head had been attacked by an ax.” The poor man died four days later. Taking the long view, maybe Bowen had to forfeit his life in order to rouse his home team. As it turned out, the Jets did win, 27 to 26.