Love Will Tear Us Apart

There’s a depressing inevitability to it. The stadium’s full, the game in full flow, the atmosphere incredible… and then with a rush of blood to the head some godless cretin shouts something racist or decides to throw something in the direction of the pitch. The cameras and the microphones pick it up and before you know it the whole section is hit with a match ban. Some 9,000 season ticket holders forced to watch the next one at home because of a few mouth-breathing dickheads.
And it’s not just football. Most sports nowadays have a small but determined band of followers suffering from a great moronic malaise. Which is why the Italian for fan – tifoso – is so perfectly fitting. It’s root is the Greek typhos, from the fever, referring to the way in which the most intense supporters seem to resemble the infected with their delirium.
Just like the Rickettsia bacteria that causes Typhus, love for a sport can overwhelm the infected, an obligate parasite that thrives in the host body of the madding crowd. But instead of a fever and a rash, they develop the insatiable need to act like idiots.
Cycling fans are for the most part incredible. For the most part. Unfortunately, that still leaves room for the stupid costumes, the mankinis and the idiotic compulsion to run alongside their idols, screaming into their faces. And it stills leaves room for that clown minority to ruin a bike race for the rest of us.
Poor Sergey Firsanov was flying the Giro d’Italia’s Stage 15 cronoscalata to Alpe di Siusi, only to narrowly avoid running into the back of a Tinkoff car that was stuck in a swarm of fans. The Gazprom–RusVelo rider swerved and managed to stay upright, but he could easily have come a cropper and been forced home by injury. And considering he only finished 30 seconds behind the stage-winner, his teammate Alexander Foligorov, he must be cursing his misfortune.
And then there’s Vincenzo Nibali. The Sicilian wasn’t having the best of days anyway and a dropped chain and bike change ended up ruining his effort, but the lunatics who showed up to ostensibly cheer him on didn’t help, either. Lo Squalo dello Stretto, the Shark of the Strait, was forced into some almost impossibly tight spots by the choking masses. He zig-zagged, he swatted at least one of them away, but the damage was done. However bad his time was going to be – it was, in his own words, a “black day” – it was only made worse by people who are supposed to be on his side. Where’s the sense in that?
The contiguity of fans and riders has long been one of cycling’s great selling points. And though it might just be the improvement of coverage and social media’s morbid obsession with idiots, but it feels as if the fools are propagating. There are more topless drunks, more blow-up dolls, more running beside riders like mad dogs chasing a car wheel. More monkey see, more monkey do. But in indulging their derangement, those tifosi risk ruining what they love. And if professional cyclists become more like other professional athletes, and if race organisers and local authorities start policing fans more stringently, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

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