Fans Gone Wild: Professional Sports Need to Curb Bad Behavior

basketball fans; cheering fans

OK, I must admit I do not get it. I mean what the…Lou Ferrigno?

Fans are back at games across the land and in every sport, some in greater volume than others based on the protocols, but we made it…and now we must deal with the idiocy of a certain few who cannot handle their liquor!?

Before I proceed, it should be noted that I have attended games this year and did not see these things happening, in fact the only thing I experienced was the deafening roar of NY Islanders fans pre-, during and post- a recent NHL Playoff game!

As I was watching a baseball game yesterday, though, a fan ran onto the field. Not uncommon, because this happens, occasionally. Those fans wind up getting fined, banned from the park and possibly spending a night in jail. Was it worth it? Also, if they are doing it to get their faces on TV, that does not happen as years ago TV execs decided not to air these shenanigans so as not to encourage this, let us be blunt, asinine behavior.

Fans are finally back in full force in stadiums and arenas, and we are seeing some knuckleheads do some of the craziest, idiotic, classically stupid things you can imagine. I must be honest, I do not even like some of the chants at some of the games. Chanting obscenities is not something that I would want a child to experience if I brought them to a game. But some fans are taking it beyond that, even throwing objects and running out on the field. Seriously? Come on guys get a grip. I don’t know, maybe this is part and parcel of what is going on in our world but at the end of the day being a fan who buys a ticket gives you certain privileges—NOT THAT!

Let me preface this next statement by saying, I am not a prude. I like a good libation (or two) as well as the next guy, and I enjoy having a couple when watching my favorite team play. And by the way, how about those New York Islanders!  But, let us be honest, 99.99% of the issues that happen during events are alcohol related. I know alcohol is a big revenue stream for these organizations and I am not against selling it or drinking it or having a good time, but the teams need to curb their cash cow for the good of their own people—players, staff, management, and security.

My dear friend, Kevin Hallinan was the Senior Vice President of Security for Major League Baseball. He tells a great story about when the Yankees were playing the Red Sox Fenway Park. It was the playoffs and a heated series with a couple of player brawls on the field.  When one of the situations got particularly ugly at about the third of fourth inning, the beer sales at Fenway Park were cut off. Normally, that would happen after the seventh inning.  Kevin called up to Red Sox security and said, “cut the beer off now!”  Ironically, Kevin’s niece was in line to pick up a couple of cold ones when they announced, “no more beer sales today.”  Immediately, she said, “Uncle Kevin did this!”

Look, if alcohol causes people to act in ways that are just unacceptable, then the leagues and the teams are going to have to figure out a way to curb it. Kevin Hallinan was smart enough to know this!

We are seeing the worst behavior or interactions in the NBA and there are reasons for this: The players are next to the fans, it does not take much to reach them or get access to the court, despite security being in place. In hockey there are glass partitions and boards, so other than throwing things on the ice (I am looking at you Boston Bruins fans) fans are not a direct threat to players.

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, it has been a welcome sign to see fans back in arenas across the country. However, several high-profile cases of unruly fan behavior have soured their return.

Players have been doused with popcorn, spat on, and had other objects thrown at them within the last week. Recently, a fan even went onto the court while a game was in play.

“The return of more NBA fans to our arenas has brought great excitement and energy to the start of the playoffs, but it is critical that we all show respect for players, officials and our fellow fans,” the league said in a statement. “An enhanced fan code of conduct will be vigorously enforced in order to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all involved.”

The NBA Players Association has also denounced the unruly behavior of fans.

In baseball you get the occasional knucklehead. And in football? Well, you need to only know about Mike Curtis or a couple of players who handled this kind of rude behavior on their own to know it is not a smart move! Curtis was a standout linebacker for the (then) Baltimore Colts and when a goofball fan ran onto the field, he found himself on the receiving end of a trademark, vicious Curtis hit.

New Jersey Nets star, Kevin Durant made his feelings known: “Fans gotta grow up at some point. I know that being in the house for a year and a half with the pandemic got a lot of people on edge, got a lot of people stressed out. But when you come into these games, you gotta realize these men are human. We’re not animals; we’re not in a circus. You coming to the game is not all about you as a fan. Have some respect for the game, have some respect for these human beings and have some respect for yourself. Your mother wouldn’t be proud of you throwing water bottles at basketball players or spitting on players or tossing popcorn. Grow the f*** up and enjoy the game. It’s bigger than you.”

Well said! I wholeheartedly agree.

Then there was a water bottle being thrown at the Nets Kyrie Irving in Boston.  Irving walked off the TD Garden court in Boston after his team’s 141-126 Game 4 victory over the Celtics in their first-round series when a plastic water bottle sailed past his head just as he was about to enter the tunnel leading to the visiting locker room. Irving, who played two seasons for the Celtics, was not struck, but a male fan wearing a Kevin Garnett Celtics jersey was arrested for throwing the bottle and is subject to a lifetime ban, according to a statement from a TD Garden spokesperson.

“We know how these people here are in Boston. We know how passionate they are about Kyrie in particular. They still upset at him. That is no reason for them to act childish, but we do not need to speak on that. We know what it is already coming in here. Glad we got the W. Hopefully we don’t have to come back here this year,” stated Durant,

Durant’s remarks referred to some of the other ugly incidents involving fans during this NBA playoffs, but he also noted the past 14-plus months, when the pandemic upended society and sports. Covid-induced health protocols were put in place when professional sporting events resumed last year, including fans being barred from attending games to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Now that fans are permitted back into arenas, however, the league and venues have had to respond to an unsettling amount of fan-related misbehavior: Wizards’ star Russell Westbrook had popcorn tossed at him as he left the court at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on May 26 during Game 2 of that first-round series. The offending fan received an indefinite ban and lost season-ticket privileges; that same day, May 26, a Madison Square Garden fan spit on Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young during a game between the Hawks and the Knicks, and in a separate incident, Knicks rookie Immanuel Quickley was doused with beer, according to a New York Post report. The Knicks announced the spitting fan was subsequently banned from the Garden indefinitely; during a May 31 game in Washington, D.C., between the 76ers and Wizards, a fan ran onto the court during play, only to be tackled by security near one of the baskets.

“You can tell those people have been in some sort of captivity for the last year, year and change, right?” Wizards center Robin Lopez said. “It’s kind of wild to see the liberties people are taking.”

“True fans of this game honor and respect the dignity of our players,” the union said in a statement last week. “No true fan would seek to harm them or violate their personal space. Those who do have no place in our arenas, and their conduct is appropriately evaluated by law enforcement just as if it occurred on a public street. Respect our Players. Respect our Game.”

Yes, respect the games and I will add, show some self-respect. These are human beings and your passion for your team should be exerted toward showing your support for them. If you cannot handle your booze, you should get help. Be a good fan, but don’t be a jerk!

Until next time…Lets Go Islanders and Mets!

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