Fanaticus: Mischief and Madness in the Modern Sports Fan explores the roots of extreme fanaticism, from organized thuggery to digital hate speech. Outrageous and often shocking incidents are divulged, as are firsthand accounts from both the transgressors and victims.
ESPN investigative reporter and producer Gubar delivers a well-researched and shocking look at "extreme fanaticism" throughout sports history, exploring what leads "seemingly unremarkable people to abandon societal norms and act out in unimaginable ways." Gubar believes that "it's impossible to know if fan violence is getting better or worse;" and argues that the "current model for celebratory riots, during which Americans riot when their team wins," is far more dominant than the older international model where soccer fans rioted after their teams lost. She lists several examples of such celebratory mayhem, such as the brutal beating of a San Francisco Giants fan by Los Angeles Dodgers fans in 2011. She looks at the influence of easily available alcohol at sporting events, the increase of negativity displayed through social media, and even the role that fantasy leagues bring in adding "a dangerous narcissistic tendency" to fan identification and behavior. But while Gubar ventures some potential solutions, the strength of the book lies in her refusal to sugarcoat her somewhat depressing conclusion that "bad behavior is part of human nature" and that we will just have to live with "the enduring nature of violent fans."