Fan Conduct: An Open Forum

Glenn DarbySenior Analyst IJuly 22, 2008

Over the years, baseball parks have become more kid-friendly.

Smoking bans, alcohol-free sections, and codes of conduct shield families and more sensitive fans from the once typical bleacher-creature behavior.

This "fan friendly" attitude has brought in people that traditionalists would never call "fans."

For example, Phoenix has a young baseball team and young baseball fans. Sure, most Phoenix residents are transplanted from Chicago, New York, Wisconsin, or California, but they never bring their baseball knowledge when they pack up and head to the desert.

Fans cheer only when the scoreboard tells them. They get up at the beginning of an inning instead of at the end, and they all wear Red Sox gear to at least one game.

This is why Sports Illustrated ranked D'backs' fans 29th in the league.

At the same time, Boston's fans are notorious for their behavior. Not only are they rowdy and loud, but they are knowledgeable. They limit their beer trips to between innings, not during innings, and one man can get the entire stadium chanting with just a few choice words. 

Sox fans were ranked second in the league in the same Sports Illustrated survey.

This begs the question: What is being done to create the ultimate fan experience?

On one hand, teams must coddle the new fan (known as "Pink Hats" in Boston). Teams set up policies to control fan behavior.

There is no swearing, no intoxication, no obscene gestures, and no rowdy behavior. Some teams even ban signs while some teams ban public displays of affection.

SafeCo Field has ushers that prohibit fans from walking down aisles during the game.

The Sox actually announce nine rules of the game that fans must follow including: cleaning up after yourself and not standing and waving at your buddy with whom you're on the phone. No beach balls either!  

While many teams are going out of their way to restrict these behaviors, some teams encourage it.

The D'backs have a sign-making station, where you are provided the means to not only get high from the magic marker, but also obstruct the view of a dozen people.

Many teams have "Kiss Cam" segments, where fans (and sometimes players) are encouraged to display affection publicly.

It would also seem that stadium beer policies simply encourage fans to become intoxicated.

So what is right? Where is the line? 

Are you a fan who wants to sit and watch the whole game with as few interruptions as possible?

Are you a fan who wants to be rowdy and stand up the whole game, cheering those you love and jeering those you hate?

Or are you a fan who is there to enjoy the atmosphere, and not just the game, getting up to walk around or grab a bite every couple innings? 

What is the solution? Do teams designate sections for certain behavior groups?

Should the rowdies control the bleachers or the families?

Do fans have a "right" to enjoy the game unobstructed, or do fans have the "right" to get up and do as they please?

Bleachers, please opine, comment, and analyze!