I sit and write this piece on the day that begins the 2009 NFL season. The subject of fan behavior at games and what you should expect when you attend a game has been on my mind off and on for a time and was brought back to my mind yesterday morning when I was listening to a discussion on what might be hurting attendance at NFL games in recent years. What was pointed out as a big, and very obvious factor, was the econonomy and the fact that people just do not have as much money to spend on going to games and spending on sports merchandise as they did a few years ago. While I do not doubt that this is the major reason for any decrease in attendance and revenue for teams in pretty much all sports, I do believe there are other factors to consider. One of these factors is the behavior of fans in the stadiums across the nation.
Over the past years, there have been numerous stories of extremely bad behavior in stadiums across the country. The things that immediately come to mind are a fan that actually got stabbed at an Oakland raiders game for the egregious offense of wearing a San Diego Chargers jersey. Imagine the gall to believe that you should heve the right to go to one of your team's away games without the fear of being assaulted or harassed. This is clearly an extreme example but I seem to remember that there were some people who actually defended the Oakland Raiders fans! Please, even if he was parading around then stadium yelling "Raiders suck" he certainly did not deserve to be stabbed. The other instance that rings in my mind are the fans in Philly heckling a Tampa Bay Rays player's child during last season's World Series. Again, this is something completely uncalled for and it cannot be justified.
For those of you who say, if you go to a stadium and cheer for or, god forbid wear an opposing team's jersey, you should expect to be tormented and harassed, I say you are completely wrong. I completely agree that there is nothing wrong with some trash talk, but I am talking about harassment beyond this. You should not have to expect to have food and drinks thrown on you. You should not have to expect to be threatened, or even physically assaulted. You should not have to expect to be cursed at for no reason other than the team you cheer for. You should not have to expect these things and any supposed fan who subjects others to these actions should be banned from sports stadiums for a minimum of one year for a first offenses and for life for repeated offenses or major offenses.
Also, having a ticket to a game certainly does not give you the right to engage in whatever behavior you want. Those people around you also have the right to enjoy the game that they have spent a lot of money to attend as well. Once you prevent others from being able to enjoy the game, your right to attend the game should cease at that point. This includes fans who believe they have the right to not only torment other fans, but those who believe that any action, including throwing objects at, toward players on the field is a right purchased with their ticket. It does not give you those rights. When did a sense of common courtesy and respect toward your fellow man/woman disappear in this country? In this "me" generation people are concerned about getting respect from others but do not seem to realized that that goes hand in hand with giving respect to others as well. This generation also seems to think that all that matters is what makes themselves feel good, or happy. I completely agree with people trying to be happy and feel good, but when your actions keep others from having a chance of being happy, you have exceeded your rights. If tormenting other people is the only way you can have fun at a game, you are not really a fan to begin with.
Other than the cost, I have to consider what other people at a stadium are going to do and what kind of behavior I should expect when deciding whether or not to buy tickets for myself and my kids to attend. When i was younger, I might have just said "well, you just shouldn't bring your kids." However, as I have gotten a little older, I realize that a sports event should be safe for children to attend without having to be exposed to some of the outlandish and overboard fan behavior that takes place in today's world. This is in addition to an annoyance tyo myself that can actually ruin a game. Drinking a beer, or even a few, during a game is something I support absolutely but if you cannot keep yourself from getting hammered to the point of being loud, obnoxious, harassing and violent then maybe you need to stay home and watch the game.
By the way, it is not just the away team's fans you are making miserable, it is your team's fans as well. you may think that you are their hero for showing those other fans that they should not have the gall to show up and cheer for their team but you are ruining things for the fans of your team as well. At a few games I have gone to, home games for my team, my time has been ruined by fellow fans of my team getting out of hand around me. You are no hero.
What would I like to see? I would like to see a sports world wherein a Yankees fan can wear their jersey to Fenway, a Red Sox fan can wear their jersey to Yankee Stadium, a place where a Chargers fan can wear their jersey to a Raiders - Chargers game in Oakland, a place where fans of any visiting team can wear their jersey in any stadium. I speak not just of a place allowing this, but a place where it will not bring about harassment, lewd, or assaultive behavior. Is this really too much to ask?