Crossing the line, sports wise

I got sent a story last night from my friend here in Tampa. He's a Red Sox fan and this was about a Yankees fan... So I wasn't at all surprised when he told me "Why is this news?"

Yet this is news indeed:

Fred Slaven is convinced this makes him the victim of a hate crime. And after six years in Florida, he's going back to New York.Yankees - and their fans - are generally welcome there.

The opposite may be true on Blackstone Drive in Embassy Hills, where Slaven lives. About a month ago, someone stole the Yankees vanity plate from his Chevy Malibu.

Then, on Wednesday morning, he walked outside and saw his limited-edition Yankees flag, complete with the dates of all 26 world championships. It was still hanging from the pole attached to his garage. But someone had burned a black hole in its center.

Where do you draw the line on discontent towards opposing opinions, ideas, principles and in this case, teams? I've heard stories like this with political candidates or political ideas/principles. I've dealt with the teens in my neighborhood, while growing up, giving my family a hard time by stealing things from my yard and such... But getting on a guy for being a proud fan of the Yankees?

Getting on a guy in the Tampa Bay area for being a proud Yankees fan? Tampa Bay, the home to thousands  of New York transplants and the Yankees second home?

Nothing wins over my sympathy easier than seeing someone -- an opposing teams fan -- getting a hard time from the local fans. I was apologizing profusely at Game Seven of the Stanley Cup in 2004 to Flames fans who were harassed by a drunken idiot sitting behind us (but those Flames fans were resolute -- they hollered back "It's just him, don't sweat it!"). Hearing stories of car windshields smashed in outside Raymond James Stadium at Buc games always gets me -- how much hate can you show an opposing team? And why, especially when your team turns out the victor?

My friend tried to justify whatever happened to Fred Slaven by saying he must have done something to piss off his neighbors... But honestly, there is nothing that can justify someone going to these lengths to harass a fan of an opposing team. Slaven likens what happened to him as a hate crime, and I'm of the same opinion. There is a line and that was crossed here. The battle is on the field, not with the fans personally.