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As a longtime Buffalo Bills fan, it is heartening to see that Ralph Wilson intends to keep the team competitive, as shown by the recent hiring of Tom Donahoe and Gregg Williams, both excellent choices.

Without a doubt, the Bills represent more than just a football team to Western New York, where winter forces many of us to stay inside more than we would like. They provide, even in the off-season, a focus of interest and hope for better things to come for next year.

Most Bills fans consider an issue of The News without an article abut the Bills to be incomplete.

This being said, however, there are instances where being a fan spills over into actions that are completely unacceptable.

I can give three examples of behavior, in order of increasingly unexplainable actions by young male football "fans," which transcend from simply boorishness to manslaughter.

The first occurred in Los Angeles at the Super Bowl between the Vikings and Raiders in the late '70s. I had purchased a Vikings cap, because I disliked them less than the Raiders.

While visiting the men's room at halftime -- for absolutely no reason other than my Vikings cap -- I was challenged to a fight by a Raiders "fan." I had said or done nothing to make him angry, but with alcohol fueling his irrational behavior, he considered his behavior "normal."

The second incident occurred a couple of weeks ago on the Jim Rome radio show on WGR. Calvin Peete, the backup quarterback for Oakland, was Rome's guest.

Peete proceeded to laughingly describe an incident in Oakland where several Raiders fans, again in the men's room, threw a fan for the opposing team to the floor, began kicking him and then urinated on the poor guy. It was bad enough that these cretins committed such a despicable act, but it was made so much worse with the tacit approval of Peete.

The third incident, and by far the worst, was described by a woman from Cheektowaga in a recent letter to Everybody's Column. She wrote of how her husband was severely beaten and kicked by five men and left to die in a snowbank near a Cheektowaga tavern.

He was apparently the victim of a disagreement at a Bills game earlier that day. The man left a wife and two children. Incredibly, these five "fans" did not serve a single day in jail, even though witnesses were present.

So what is the point? It is not that being a fan is a bad thing. In fact, the opposite is true. Being a fan is fun -- and that is all it should be.

So what to do? Who knows? Certainly politicians and football executives are aware of the situation, but are at a loss to come up with a solution. In fact, sad to say, there may not be one, and it may end up that decent people will simply not go to games.

Decent men, such as Marv Levy, Wilson and people like them, no doubt struggle with the dichotomy between the violent game they are a part of and their basic nature as men of peace and rational behavior.

Yes, football is a violent game and this is a large part of the game's popularity. But to allow our love for it to somehow make it OK for us to exhibit behavior that we know is wrong, says a lot about what kind of a person we are. Attention: males 18-35.

BRUCE MARTENSON, D.D.S., lives in Lakewood.
For submission guidelines on columns appearing in this space, click on The Buffalo News logo at the Web site, then click on Opinions and My View, then scroll down to Contact Us and click on that; or send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Opinion Pages Guidelines, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240.

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