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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Kurt Paschke: The Fanatic Football Fan

     As a casual fan of professional boxing, PGA golf, and Pittsburgh Steeler's football, I find the psychology underlying fanatical sports fandom a mystery. (I suspect, however, that narcissism, juvenilia, and borderline sociopathy are reasons behind a person's obsessive loyalty to a particular sports team.) While some sports fanatics can be loud and obnoxious, a few can become violent and dangerous. These are people to avoid, if you can.

     Kurt Paschke, by anyone's standard, was an over-the-top super-fan. The 38-year-old lived in a rented house across the street from his parents in the Long Island town of Holbrook, New York. Kurt worked as a bartender at the Village Tavern in nearby Huntington. A rabid New York Jets football fan and a season ticket-holder, Kurt was one of those guys who paints his face in team colors and religiously wears the team jersey, hat and other gear. But as a fan, Kurt Paschke was so much more.

     To show his devotion to his Jets, Kurt had purchased a mini-bus he called the Jets Mobile. Out of this custom painted vehicle, he tailgated at the Jets' home games at the MetLife Stadium in Queens. Painted green and white in homage to his beloved team, the bus featured a special Jets vanity plate as well as Jets inspired mud flaps and hubcaps. Kurt's mother had embroidered, for the Jets Mobile, Jets-themed seat covers and interior curtains.

     On October 20, 2013, the hated Boston Patriots were in New York for a game against the Jets. On that Sunday afternoon, the Jets, in overtime play, beat the Patriots 30 to 27. As Kurt and his jubilant parents were leaving MetLife Stadium following their glorious victory, they were confronted by three angry Boston Patriot fans. Someone said something that sparked angry words and then a fight between Paschke and Boston fans Jaclyn Nugent, Amanda MacDowell, and David James Sacco.

     In the skirmish, caught on videotape, Nugent can be seen hitting and kicking Paschke. He retaliated by punching the 26-year-old Boston woman in the head. After the blow, Nugent can be seen lunging at Paschke again. The fight ended on its own before security personnel had to break it up. Paschke and Nugent, with bruises and cuts on their faces, parted ways.

     The post-game dustup at MetLife Stadium would have ended there had it not been for the online publication of videos showing a big, strapping man in a Jets jersey punching a woman in the face. And the story got even bigger when the media found out more about the man in the Jets shirt.

     Kurt Paschke, as it turned out, was more than just a Jets fanatic who punched a female Boston fan. Decades earlier, he had served three years in prison for negligent homicide. (He had since been arrested twice for disorderly conduct and once for serving drinks to a minor.)

     On June 27, 1992, shortly after Paschke graduated from Sachem High School in Ronkonkoma, Long Island, he got into a fight with another 17-year-old behind a pizzeria in Sayville, New York. Paschke pulled a knife and stabbed Henry Ferrer to death. Ferrer was not armed.

     In 1995, a jury found Paschke guilty of negligent homicide. In addressing the judge at his sentencing hearing, Paschke said, "I am deeply sorry. I can honestly say I never sought the confrontation, but when it came, I did what I had to do." Paschke served three years in a New York state prison. The judge had also sentenced him to several years of probation.

     In the aftermath of Paschke's fight with the Patriot fans, his mother Colleen, in speaking to a CNN correspondent, defended her son. The 62-year-old from Holbrook said, "If the girl is going to be out of control like that, why can't a guy defend himself? These girls are today, they're really out of control. I really think that they are protected because they are girls and think they can get away with anything." Later, to a reporter with the New York Daily News, Kurt's mother said, "My son is the victim, really."

     Robert Ferrer, the 80-year-old father of the boy Paschke killed in 1992, wasn't in a mood to defend Kurt Paschke. Obviously still bitter over the violent death of his son Henry, Mr. Ferrer said this to the New York Daily News reporter: "He murdered my son, and he got a minimum sentence for killing a 17-year-old boy. He got away with it because his father was a sergeant. [Kurt's father was an officer with the Suffolk County Police Department.] I was dead after it happened. I had a very nice house on Long Island [Bay Shore] and I sold it to get away. The guy is a born criminal."

     A Suffolk County prosecutor charged Paschke, Nugent, Sacco, and MacDowell with disorderly conduct and assault. Until the case was resolved, all four football fans were banned from MetLife Stadium. For Kurt Paschke, this punishment went beyond cruel and unusual.

     In March 2014, Kurt Paschke pleaded guilty to the lesser disorderly charge of unnecessary noise. the judge fined him $289. Charges against the other three fans were dropped.

     Paschke, in August 2014, completed a four-hour fan conduct class. (It's amazing that some sports fans have to be taught how to behave.) Following the completion of the good-behavior course, and a written apology, Paschke was granted the right to return to MetLife Stadium. He got his life back.

     

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