76ers fans try to distract Joakim Noah during a May 2012 playoff game. (AP/Mel Evans)An argument between a Chicago Bulls fan and two young Philadelphia 76ers fans on a West Philadelphia train following the Bulls' road win over the Sixers on Wednesday night resulted in gunfire, wounding the Bulls fan and another passenger, who is reportedly also a Chicago backer.
Philly.com's Peter Mucha has the background on the violent, ugly incident:
The Bulls fan, 36, had been arguing with two teens aboard a westbound Frankford-Market El train after the Sixers lost to Chicago's NBA team, 96-89, at the Wells Fargo Center.
As the teens disembarked, about 10:39 p.m., at the 46th Street elevated stop, one turned and fired through the open train door, police said. The bullet hit the Bulls fan in the side of the stomach, went through them, and then struck another in the thigh.
The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that the other victim, a 30-year-old man whom Lt. John Walker of the Philadelphia Police Department's Southwest Detectives division identified as a fellow Bulls fan, "tried to calm things down and was shot in the thigh."
The injured parties were taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; according to a report from Philadelphia's NBC affiliate relayed to NBCChicago.com, police expect both victims to make full recoveries.
"Unfortunately, we've got two young idiots who don't know how to control their anger and don't know how to respect themselves and respect society," Walker said Wednesday night, according to Philly.com. "... Instead of just letting this argument die off, walking off the train, and doing what you're supposed to do, they take a wild shot into a train that's loaded with people of all ages, male and female."
The shooter and his associate ran from the train and were not apprehended. Philadelphia police are asking anyone with information about the case to call Southwest Detectives at 215-686-3183 or 215-686-3184, or the Philadelphia Police Department's anonymous tip line at 215-686-8477.
The on-court rivalry between the Bulls and 76ers grew more heated this spring, when the No. 8-seeded Sixers ousted top-seeded Chicago from the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs after injuries sidelined Bulls point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah. Throughout the Bulls' Wednesday night win, Noah (21 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks) taunted the Philly faithful; after the game, he told Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times that he was eager to return to the Wells Fargo Center after some 76ers fans cheered when he sustained a badly sprained left ankle there in Game 3 of the series:
"I thought about it all summer; I just couldn't wait to come back here," Noah said [...]. "When I went down last year, people cheering and stuff, I felt like that was real disrespectful, and it was definitely motivation for me to work even harder this summer."
And his days of taunting Philadelphia fans didn't end Wednesday, either.
"Yes, no question," he said when asked if he was intentionally playing the villain. "And I'm going to do it for the rest of my career every time I come back here."
I note that not to suggest that the back-and-forth between Noah and the Philly fans had anything to do with the eventual act of violence — as of Thursday afternoon, according to ESPNChicago.com's John Roberts, it remained unclear whether either of the Bulls fans, or either of the 76ers fans, were in attendance at Wednesday night's game or what specific topics were included in the "banter" that led to gunfire. I'm noting it for the purposes of drawing what seems like it should be a clear distinction (and if it is, to you, I'm glad and I apologize for belaboring a basic point):
Rivalries between teams and their fans are one thing. The competitive tug-of-war over bragging rights and forever-shifting assertions of primacy have long been part of the day-to-day experience of being a sports fan, and they seem unlikely to stop being part of that fabric anytime soon. But brandishing weapons and committing acts of violence on people because they like a different team than you do? As we discussed last month when a Los Angeles Lakers fan pepper-sprayed a Utah Jazz fan after a loss, that's quite another, which is the kind of thing you just sort of forget that some people can't wrap their minds around. As Walker of the Philly police said Wednesday night, "It's bizarre."
"This is behavior that is just over the top. It's intolerable," he said, according to NBCChicago.com. "I mean, people have to realize this reckless behavior can not continue."
Here's hoping that mass realization comes sooner rather than later, before anyone else gets hurt, and that Wednesday's victims experience speedy and complete recoveries.