The tone of this article would've taken on a whole new meaning had one of the umpires at the Atlanta Braves vs. St. Louis Cardinals game been injured because of the controversial infield fly rule. Look, I get that the call was an emotional one for Braves fans. But if something flying out of the stands had seriously injured one of the umps, America's Favorite Pastime would have suffered another black eye.
I don't care how much you love your team, it doesn't give you the right to hurl something from your seat. You don't have the right to possibly injure an official. That ump you're throwing things at? He may be someone's father or husband. He's doing his job and deserves some respect, whether he blew the call or not.
Now, before all of Fulton County begins pressing "send" with a pointed response to this article, understand it's about more than a few beer cans tossed from the stands at Turner Field. It's about the behavior of some sports fans across the country involving every sport you can think of.
If I'm at a Braves game with my six-year-old son, do I tell him it's okay to throw something from the stands when you disagree with a call? Obviously not. But kids are watching what we do. Some will grow up thinking it's okay to attack the game official if they don't like the call.
Our behavior at professional sporting events has become reprehensible. It's embarrassing. It's criminal. More than anything, it's stupid. It's a game, people. Life will go on tomorrow whether your favorite team wins or loses.
We all remember the Oakland Raiders vs. San Francisco 49ers game last year when mayhem erupted in the stands. Guys throwing punches MMA-style. It was a free-for-all. Young men punching each other in the face with no regard for the outcome. Seriously? Has it come to this?
There's a young man in California who can no longer care for himself because he was attacked outside of Dodger Stadium for being a San Francisco Giants fan. He was beaten into submission. A few months ago, he finally came out of a coma and now lives in a wheelchair. Why?
Oh, I know. The Braves incident was minor, right? It only took the grounds crew a few minutes to gather the beer cans and other debris. The game resumed. No problem. It's all good in the ATL. If I'm the owners of the Braves or the mayor of Atlanta, I'm embarrassed. The entire country was watching, and your fans looked like a bunch of sore losers.
Are we that wrapped up in our team's fate that we have to resort to violence to express ourselves? And it's not just Major League Baseball. It's the NFL, NBA and NHL. Fans everywhere are acting like complete idiots when things don't go their way.
It almost feels like some fans are bringing personal problems to the stadium. Things aren't going right for me personally, so I'll go to the game and curse out the referee or slap the guy sitting next to me because he's wearing the opposing team's jersey. I had a bad day, so I'll unleash my aggression at the game tonight. Whoever is in my way better look out!
I've seen parents with a look of horror on their faces when attending the game with a son or daughter and the drunken fans around them begun cursing and screaming. Not much those parents can do, except whisper in their kid's ear that this is the wrong way to express yourself at the game.
Now, I understand it's your right to scream at the ref or ump if you disagree with a call. That's fine. But do you really have to curse him out? Do you really have to use four-letter words to express yourself? Have you noticed that 6-year-old girl sitting nearby who's looking at you and wondering why you're acting this way? Probably not, because you're on your ninth beer and counting.
Stadium security is a joke and we all know it. Sure, they'll eject the guy who gets into a drunken fight with another fan. But they'll miss the other 15 fights in the stands. We can't blame stadium security. Blame the owner for hiring only a handful of men and women who wear bright yellow jackets with "Security" splashed across the back. Blame the owner for only hiring a few off-duty city police officers to patrol the arena.
I often wonder what the owner is thinking when he's sitting on his throne in the owner's box and the fans begin chanting an expletive that sweeps across the stadium or arena like a tsunami. Is he proud that some fans are spewing expletives that are being broadcast nationally by CBS, NBC, ABC, TNT, TBS or Fox Sports? Good time to be an owner? Probably not.
We all have the right to yell at the ref or ump. We paid the admission fee and should be allowed to voice our disapproval. We don't have the right to use offensive language. We don't have the right to throw things from the stands.
Before you begin trashing me, understand I'm not directing this column at all sports fans across the country and around the world. By and large, most of us respect the games and those who are seated around us. A lot of us care about what youngsters hear at the games. A lot of us simply want to cheer and boo in a respectful manner.
You think I'm overreacting? Maybe. Maybe not. Critics might say nothing happened as a result of the fans showering debris onto Turner Field. They might say the umps weren't injured. No harm. No problem. Well, that's the easy way out.
One day, we'll have to deal with the escalating problem of unruly fans at sporting events. One day, we'll have to develop a strong solution to the knuckleheads who think they're above the law when they come to games. One day, we'll have to address the issue of drunken fans who offend everyone in sight at the game. One day, we'll act more civil towards each other and game officials. Hopefully.
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