U fans’ arson crimes should not be rewarded with victory

Although I’m a University graduate and have been a dedicated fan of University sports, I’m pulling for the Gophers hockey team to lose every game.

My change in allegiance is prompted by the riots that followed the last two NCAA hockey championships, which resulted in thousands of fans running amok, destroying property, burning buildings, destroying police cars and even throwing a concrete block through the window of a fire truck summoned to the scene to fight the fires in Dinkytown. The public response to these wanton acts of violence has been as disgraceful as the acts themselves – smug and apathetic.

Both Twin Cities newspapers gave these incidents a quick brush once-over whitewash; the police arrested only two of an estimated 2,000 rioters last year and seemed pleased that the number of rioters was down by half (4,000 to 2,000) from the scene the year before.

University President Bob Bruininks, as ineffectual as he had been at stopping the riots the year before, promised to talk to incoming first-years to tell them he didn’t appreciate such behavior. By comparison, Ohio State University expelled students who were caught on film rioting after their 2002 football victory over Michigan, and they weren’t even burning buildings!

Imagine any high school principal in Minnesota, following destructive riots by his or her school’s students after a big victory, promising to talk to incoming first-year students about such behavior. Fortunately, none of our high school principals would dare to sound that pathetic!

Partly thanks to such student riots, arson is now apparently considered a joke in Minnesota instead of a dangerous felony – more akin to panty raids and toilet papering buildings. Minnesota State-Mankato students staged their own arson riot last fall and students compared themselves to the University, promising to “do better next time.”

The Twin Cities police perhaps swept a triple-arson murder of three University students on Sept. 20 under the rug by declaring the cause of the fire “unknown forever,” despite rumors that circulated about the event. Recently, Kyle Rousseau torched a Burnsville, Minn., church to the tune of more than $1 million in damage but church members and law enforcement officials forgave him because he said he was sorry. But Rousseau will do four years in prison – not for arson, but for violating the “no drugs” deal he made following his hearing!

I used to think arson was a crime. Since Minnesota has apparently changed the rules in that regard, I’ll throw my support behind the women’s basketball and hockey teams and hope their victories won’t incite publicly condoned arson riots. With regard to men’s hockey, go Duluth or North Dakota – maybe these areas can handle victory more gracefully!

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