Stuff Thrown by Fans During Sporting Events
As fans, we're powerless beyond our capacity to spend money. So when we want to protest, rejoice or engage in behavior that can only be described as unorganized, few acts are as viscerally satisfying as sitting in the stands and throwing something...anything...into the field of play.
Often, throwing stuff on the field is an act of civil disobedience bordering on outright lawbreaking. Sometimes it's a tradition that adheres to an unwritten rule that tolerates—or even embraces—a synergy between fans and team, manifest in items littering the sports venue. Think—hat trick.
Either way, throwing things is all we have, outside of corporate kowtowing to the networks with effusive poster-board anagrams of network call-letters.
These are 20 items that fans throw on fields.
There's a good reason beer is served in awkward plastic bottles and cups at almost any sporting event in the 21st Century: Bottles make for very effective missiles of protest or drunken assault. That's right, we, the sports fans, lost the privilege to enjoy a cold one at the game in its proper glass vessel years ago.
This doesn't mean that we don't try to launch what passes for a bottle on those occasions of especially egregious, perceived offenses—including the infamous "infield fly" called out in the 2012 Wild Card game between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals.
Soccer's popularity outside the United States isn't the only striking contrast between the sports universe here and much of the rest of the world. While Americans struggle to sneak a bottle of water into sporting events, fans of the English Premier League clubs have developed a habit of chucking smoke bombs onto the pitch during matches.
Despite threats to kick out and/or ban fans who bring the prohibited devices, a few still manage to pull off the stunt. Meanwhile, you can add purses to list of contraband barred from the United States' biggest sports leagues.
After Florida Panthers fans littered the ice with plastic rats during faceoffs and regular play—a rules violation—in Game 5 of their 2012 playoff series, Panthers team president Matthew Yormark took to Twitter to accuse Devils fans of malfeasance.
Yormark engaged in several snippy back-and-forths with irate Devils fans before suffering the ultimate indignity of vengeful symbolism—when his team fell to the Devils on the road in Game 6, the home crowd sent hundreds of red rally towels flying onto the ice.
Unfurling a few dozen rolls of toilet paper at the expense of a neighbor's front yard is a time-honored American tradition; albeit one usually reserved for teenagers under the cover of night.
For students, alumni and fans of the Auburn Tigers, gathering at Toomer's Corner after big wins and engaging in a mass, celebratory toilet-papering of the site's massive oak trees was not only tolerated, but encouraged. Unfortunately, a tree-murderer killed the oaks and (likely) the original tradition.
Few sports embody a sense of respect, courtesy and tradition like figure skating. Well, excluding Tonya Harding's attempt to knee-cap rival Nancy Kerrigan.
All three of these traits manifest together in the moments after the winner takes to the ice to skate and salute the crowd as cheering supporters toss flowers onto the ice to celebrate the skater's feat.
The hat trick: a concept shared with other sports, but made iconic by professional hockey. A perfect example of what makes hockey a uniquely intimate fan experience—outside of the sport's standing as the least popular of the major pro leagues—the hat trick suspends the boundary between fan and play.
A player scores three goals in a game and the celebration ensues. Fans send their ball caps flying onto the ice. The hat trick is perhaps the most recognizable and tolerated acts of delaying play.
However, I want to know how many people secretly regret sacrificing their hat to an arena's dumpster.
It's safe, non-threatening, yet often still an affront against the rules. The stadium beach ball is like the guy who busts out Jenga at a party he isn't hosting. It's lame, forced and ignored by all but the few who can't avoid it.
The worst part? While you watch those people on the other end of the stadium bopping that inflated sphere around, you can't ignore the fact you feel left out.
Red and White Streamers
Fans of the MLS club Chivas USA sitting in Section 101 (behind the goalkeeper) celebrate each home victory by raining red and white streamers from the stands. A big part of the tradition has been a dedicated group of Chivas USA fanatics who call themselves "Union Ultra."
If every rioting soccer hooligan across the world replaced the smoke bomb, bottle, flare, et al with a streamer, things may still get nuts...but at least the mayhem will be pretty.
Hmmm...or the hooligans might start strangling each other with them. Nevermind.
Normally, the idea of chucking a banana sounds kind of awesome. So, naturally, a headline about a soccer fan launching one at referee Graham Scott during a match between AFC Wimbledon and Port Vale in January seemed kind of funny.
However, it's been a stunt historically tied to fan racism against black footballers and other athletes.
Despite the 74-year-old man who threw the banana being cleared of any charge the act was racially motivated, history should have precluded the decision.
During Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch's 11-game "Beast Mode" rushing touchdown streak in 2011, he revealed that one of the lifelong routines that has helped fuel his success was his mother treating him with Skittles candy after every score.
Seahawks fans latched onto the anecdote and began showering the end zone with the "Rainbow" after every Lynch touchdown.
Snow: picturesque, cold and easily manipulated into a sphere capable of inflicting a stinging blow against the unsuspecting victim's face. Few natural phenomenon are more capable of inspiring shenanigans.
Take a bunch of angry, drunken sports fans, combine them with snow, and you've got yourself a low-level riot. Philadelphia Eagles fans set the bar by pelting Santa Claus in 1968, but don't neglect the Meadowlands, which inspired the New York Times to caution the NFL on awarding the Super Bowl to NYC.
You have to hand it to Florida Panthers fans. When the franchise was just in it's third season of existence, they created a lasting tradition during the team's 1995-96 season which included a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. Based on the story of former player Scott Mellanby killing a rat in the locker room with his stick before the home home opener, fans started throwing plastic toy rats on the ice after goals.
Thus, the "Rat-Trick" was born. The hail-storm of rats culminated in the NHL instituting a new rule, penalizing the home team when fans delay the game by throwing assorted accouterments on the ice.
The "Legend of the Octopus" has inspired decades of cephalopod-throwing—and subsequent clean-up—at home playoff games of the Detroit Red Wings. Its origin rooted in the postseason play of the NHL's "Original Six", the octopus' eight arms are symbolic for the number victories needed to secure a Stanley Cup during that era.
More impressive: someone smuggling, then storing via their pants, a rotting octopus carcass into the arena; all for the moment the poor thing splatters on the ice.
Batting around a beach ball in the stands of a game? G-Rated and hardly guaranteed to elicit much more than a few lackluster participants and more than a few eye-rolls.
The giant phallic balloon, however, instantly electrifies the crowd and ups the weird. Sure, it may draw the ire of the more prudish, but wouldn't you rather capture a moment of inflatable phallic whimsy than a season of beach-ball boredom?
So, the Detroit Red Wings—who always remind us they're one of the "Original Six"—think they are the only franchise with fans willing to hurl actual animals onto the ice during the NHL Playoffs? Not so fast, slap-jack. Amidst their unexpected postseason run in 2011, fans of the Nashville Predators went there and threw (potentially) living catfish on the ice.
From the logistics of bringing a live catfish into a hockey arena, to the mindset that enables someone to store the fish somewhere on their person prior to catapulting it onto the ice; so much about this is uniquely Nashville.
At one point in time, the blowup doll tossed among fans at a sporting event was the clever, edgier answer to the beach ball. In 2013, it's just kind of hacky—but something being hacky has rarely stopped a saucy rapscallion from employing it anyway.
Sometimes, mankind's grizzled nature comes through regardless.
Leave it to fans of an Australian football club, the West Sydney Wanderers, to one-up (or set the bar for?) the denizens of the English Premier League by tossing the smoke bomb's angry cousin, the flare. While smoke bombs can add a dangerous element to any mass gathering of people, they're more a nuisance than anything else.
In December 2012, Wanderers fans—and the club itself—were warned by Australian Football Federation CEO, David Gallop, after several people were arrested for throwing flares onto the pitch in a match against Sydney FC.
That's right, why stop with smoke when you can have smoke and fire.
Professional Wrestling has always been about high-theater interrupted by periods of choreographed mayhem, so what could be a more awesome moment than ECW fans bombarding old-schoolers Terry Funk, Cactus Jack and Public Enemy with chairs? It's ridiculous; it's brilliant.
Hey, it's just nice to see some real action, as opposed to long monologues.
Considering the potential lawsuits and overall greater knowledge of the dangers behind person-tossing, the practice has all but disappeared (with the exception of toddlers). Fortunately, the world still has old men who are willing to put their fate in the unsteady hands of jubilant soccer fans.
At the European Football Championship in 2008, joyous fans of victor Spain celebrated by tossing an old guy in the air.
Fans of Philadelphia's pro teams haven't met an object they can't turn into a potentially hazardous projectile. This includes bottles, snowballs and...D-cell batteries—which if you've ever held one, seems like it substitutes as a large, acid-filled rock.
One of the most infamous D-cell incidents involved former MLB right fielder J.D. Drew, who faced a barrage of batteries in 1999 after having the nerve not to sign his rookie offer sheet with the Phillies and signing with the Twins instead. Phillies fans don't forget, because even a writer from the Philadelphia Inquirer seemed to endorse a D-cell assault when the veteran player returned in 2011.