Man Killed in Dispute Over Football Game

Disappointment turns to tragedy.

Saturday night, I watched my alma mater, the defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide, lose a road game to a Texas Aggies team that had theretofore been the most disappointing team in an upset-ridden college football season. It was disappointing, to be sure, but at least one man took it far too seriously. (“Argument over Alabama vs. Texas A&M game leads to deadly shooting at Bessemer home“):

An argument over the Alabama vs. Texas A&M game led to a deadly shooting at a Bessemer home.

The game was in its final minutes Saturday night when Bessemer police say two men got into a dispute at a gathering in the 1000 block of Sixth Avenue North.

Lt. Christian Clemons said the argument centered around which team was better. The homeowner asked the two men to leave because they were fighting.

Once outside, shots were fired and one of the men – 27-year-old Kealand Amad Pickens – was struck. The shooting happened before the game actually ended.

Pickens was taken to UAB Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 3:23 a.m. Sunday, becoming Bessemer’s 24th homicide of the year.

The suspect fled before police arrived, but Clemons said they know his identity.

“It’s another case,” Clemons said, “of resorting to violence to handle differences.”

Well, no kidding Detective Columbo.

Despite some mixed emotions stemming from the growing awareness of the heightened risk of brain damage that this violent sport brings, I remain an avid fan. Because the Tide has been on a historic run in the Nick Saban era, winning six championships between 2009 and 2020 and being in contention most of the other years, the losses are more agonizing. Followers of my Twitter feed saw my frustrations at the team’s poor performance in real time.

But, at the end of the day, it’s just a game. It’s just unfathomable to get into a fight—let alone one that escalates to gun play—over it.

This is literally the kind of thing that happens in Third World countries. I’m old enough to remember Colombian star Andrés Escobar being murdered after an own-goal against the United States in the 1994 World Cup eliminated the team from the tournament and, Googling for specifics, was reminded that El Salvadoran star Alfredo Pacheco was murdered in 2015 for his role in a match-fixing scandal. In those cases, at least, organized crime was behind the hits.

Alas, for too many in my erstwhile home state, the vicarious accomplishments of college athletes are central to their identity.

UPDATE: Via Twitter, Kenny Smith notes that this is at least the fourth such incident involving Alabama fans over the years. Granting that four cases stretching back to 2003, most of which seem to be alcohol-fueled, isn’t a trend, it’s nonetheless disturbing.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Sports, , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jen says:

    The same perspective applies to things like arguments over parking spots at the mall. I’m not anti-gun, but when everyone’s armed, stupid, stupid arguments that used to end with a bloody nose now end with a fatality.

  2. Kathy says:

    B-but St. Robert of Heinlein said an armed society is a polite society!

  3. steve says:

    No worries. The jury will probably be all Alabama fans and the shooter will walk.


  4. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: And some other wag a few years ago noted that the difference between Louisianna and a banana republic is that it’s too cold in the winter to grow bananas in Louisianna.

    This is literally the kind of thing that happens in Third World countries.

    Yes. And the US is slowly becoming the one with the highest GDP in the world. We’ll need to change the definitions shortly.

  5. EddieInCA says:

    As I’ve said, repeatedly, I will never understand grown ass men and women who take the athletic endeavors of young men so seriously. I will never understand it. I see athletics like I see a play, concert, or movie; purely entertainment, with no emotional attachment to it soon as it’s over.

    The idea that my like or dislike for a team would cause a violent confrontation is outside of my reality. Can’t even envision how that would happen.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    I wonder if anyone has done a ratio of the number of shootings in a crowd that fall under “Good guy with a gun successfully stops a trade by” vs. “Jackass with a gun gets into an argument and starts shooting”? 100:1? 1000:1?

  7. MarkedMan says:


  8. just nutha says:

    @MarkedMan: I think you’ve got the ratios reversed, but I would go with 1:1000 as the high-end estimate.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: Shoulda been “tragedy” no hope of an edit today, I guess…

  10. MarkedMan says:

    @just nutha: “ I think you’ve got the ratios reversed ” I do indeed.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    I think for a lot of people, especially men, their team is their identity. How does a person let this happen to themselves? How does some middle-aged guy have so little ego, so little foundation that a sports team identity is worth committing murder over? What a thin, fragile notion of identity.

    I feel like a naive fool. I’ve had so many people down through the years criticize me for my supposed cynicism about humans. But, wow, I wasn’t nearly cynical enough. Not even close. People are fucking idiots. Not 10% or 20%, but solid majorities of Americans are dead from the neck up.

    People worried about AI need to take another look at the world around. them. I think we’d best just quietly submit to our new neural networked overlords, because without artificial intelligence we don’t have enough of the naturally-occurring kind to survive.

  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This is literally the kind of thing that happens in Third World countries.

    Yes, yes it is. What does that tell you?

  13. Tangential: if anyone has not seen the 30for30 “The Two Escobar” (which is about the Colombian national team and the murder James mentions) it is worth your time.

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Jen: Indeed. The NRA, FOX, GOPs, etc. have been building a gun culture for decades. The results are before us.

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @just nutha: I joked during the Reagan recession that Reagan’s jobs plan was to send all the jobs to third world countries and turn us into a third world country to catch the jobs coming around the backside. Not a very funny joke as it turns out.

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    How does some middle-aged guy have so little ego, so little foundation that a sports team identity is worth committing murder over? What a thin, fragile notion of identity.

    Goes a long way to explain MAGA.

  17. CSK says:

    When I lived in Edinburgh, we were advised to stay inside when there was a football (soccer) mach played in Leith. JohnSF can probably tell some tails about the hijinks the yobs get up to.

  18. EddieInCA says:


    As I’ve mentioned before, I follow the English Premiere League more than I follow the NFL or NBA. Americans are pikers compared to the fans in the UK, when it comes to passion and/or violence in relation to the passion. If you’re in Newcastle when there is a match at St. James’ Park, the town is empty. Everyone not at the stadium is either watching it on TV or listening on radio. Same thing in Manchester, Brighton, Liverpool, and most of the large and small cities all over the UK.

    Tangentially to what MR says above, in most of the football (soccer) playing world, an entire town’s identity is often wrapped up in the local football team. If the local team loses on the weekend, the entire town will be depressed on Monday. I’ve seen it up close and personal. There is nothing like that here

  19. Sleeping Dog says:

    I wonder if the Supremes are paying attention to this? Will it give them pause to turn thousands loose carrying guns and strip state power to exert some control?

  20. CSK says:

    I know; it’s astonishing, isn’t it? I suppose the only thing that comes even close here is the way some southern and midwestern states go nuts over the local college football team. But even they don’t wreak the unbelievable mayhem some of the Brit soccer fans do.

    I meant “tales,” not “tails” in my initial post.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    Not to give you a hard time James, but your comment “It’s just unfathomable to get into a fight” threw me for a loop. It may be unfathomable for YOU to get into a fight, but the mixture of adrenaline, emotions, alcohol and a crowd composed of no small percentage of over-testosteroned yahoos stuck mentally at age 13 means that fights are a regular part of sporting events all over the world. That’s the reason every sports stadium is built with holding cells.

    No, there’s nothing unusual about the fight. It’s the guns.

    You live near DC. Have you ever heard of a congress critter, even ones from the crazy-gun-nut states like Texas and Wyoming, seriously agitate for open carry in DC? They know what it means having all those yahoos walking around with killing machines on their hips and are no doubt very thankful that there are plenty of layers of police near their workplace ready to pry any gun from those hot live hands.

  22. Sleeping Dog says:


    Lauren Boebert among others

  23. Raoul says:

    @MarkedMan: You are correct, the real story here is guns, people will disagree on any topic and sometimes alcohol is involved, but what made this a story is some bumpkin carrying and concealing.

  24. James Joyner says:

    @MarkedMan: This wasn’t an incident at a stadium with all the adrenalin that implies but at some dude’s house. These people were invited over to watch the game in a living room and it escalated to a shooting.

  25. MarkedMan says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I’m not so sure about Boebert. She wants to carry a gun. That doesn’t mean she wants anyone else to, at least not in DC. As far as I know she hasn’t introduced legislation or anything else to loosen gun regulations. She’s talked a lot, but that goes without saying.

  26. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner: I was making a comment about sports fans in general. The fact that this man-boy carried a weapon to a football watching party tells you all you need to know about his general character and intelligence.

  27. dazedandconfused says:

    Well, in graveyard society rude behavior is rather rare.

  28. Kathy says:


    Really? Have you ever been thanked for bringing flowers?

  29. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think for a lot of people, especially men, their team is their identity. How does a person let this happen to themselves? How does some middle-aged guy have so little ego, so little foundation that a sports team identity is worth committing murder over? What a thin, fragile notion of identity.

    You’re itching to tie it back to religion, aren’t you?

    You know you are.

    I think there’s just a gap in a lot of people that is waiting to be filled by something. And that something can be religion, a sports team, the Grateful Dead, or white supremacy. Anything that gives a sense of community and shared purpose. Plug in something positive, and people can do great things. Plug in something negative, and genocide is around the corner. Plug in the Grateful Dead, and people get high and follow them around, and then the Dead stops touring so they sigh remorsefully and begin following Phish.

    Marx was right that religion is the opium of the people, but he was wrong about that being a bad thing. More people have been killed in the name of religion than a football team, but there are countless other really stupid reasons to kill one another. Add them all up, and I think religion ends up being a stabilizing force — it doesn’t make people turn off their brains, a lot of people never turned them on in the first place.

  30. Stormy Dragon says:


    Once again I bring up my recurring complaint that we need to bring back “The Brotherhood of Funny Hats” type organizations so that people have a place to act out their innate need to engage in flamboyant ritual in a socially constructive manner.

  31. just nutha says:

    @gVOR08: Yeah, it was the 90s before I really understood that conservatives were perfectly okay with living in a 3rd world country as long as they were in charge (and were unaffected by any of the “3rd world” part). It’s akin to the whole carving out a poor state being “a feature, not a bug” thing from somewhere yesterday.

  32. just nutha says:

    @James Joyner: Stadium–house in a neighborhood. Potayto–potahto.

  33. Matt says:

    @EddieInCA: In my admittedly limited experience I’ve noticed that there’s a similar behaviour when it comes to politics. My “conservative” family members and friends behave the same way towards politics as they do with their favorite sports team..

  34. Kathy says:


    No offense, but soccer fans make it plain why the term is originally short for “fanatic.”

  35. EddieInCA says:


    None taken. I treat soccer the same say. Entertainment only. No emotional attachment.

  36. Andy says:

    I think there is probably more to this story than a simple football dispute.

    But I do agree with several others here that I find the fandom surrounding college football strange. And given the sport’s problems with exploitation and other issues, I see no good reason to support it as an institution. But, as long as there is a market and money, it will continue to exist as it is.

  37. Jim Brown 32 says:

    24 people Merc’d? In BESSEMER, ALABAMA?

    My God that’s alot of killing for such a small town.

  38. EddieInCA says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Actually, and sadly, Bessmer’s murder rate of 8.7 per 100,000 is actually lower than the rest of Alabama, which is 9.6 per 100K.