Fan behavior, from the professional ranks to youth leagues is becoming, if it already isn’t, an issue that could undermine attendance at live sporting events. From abusive language directed at officials to overt criticism of coaching decisions, this unruly minority is threatening to make the stadium, arena, ballpark and soccer field experience so offensive as to discourage the peaceable majority from wanting to attend.
Since when did the purchase of a ticket make people think that exhibiting behavior that in any other environment would result in expulsion or even arrest is permissible? This past weekend, I was forced to endure a constant barrage of abuse aimed at an umpire in a college baseball game. Not only was the behavior offensive, it actually disrupted the rhythm of the abuser’s team’s pitcher. There is no doubt that this individual is a large contributor to the university’s athletic foundation, thus giving him the unfounded illusion that he is beyond reproach, regardless of his behavior.
It’s time for universities, professional sports franchises and youth leagues to seriously address this issue. I advocate that these entities develop and publicize codes of conduct at athletic venues and strictly enforce them by ejecting individuals that violate them. Contributions and tickets purchases would come with the acceptance of the code. While we can all argue there is gray area in any black and white issue, I believe most of us know when certain behavior is wrong. Why should we acquiesce to the one person out of ten that makes the experience for the other nine offensive and uncomfortable, just because we’re afraid to offend the offender?
My motive for such a policy is two-fold: First, it will make the experience of watching a sporting event more pleasurable, and Secondly, from a business perspective, it will keep people coming to games instead of opting for the comfort of their easy chairs and HD television screens. The NFL is already facing this problem for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is alcohol fueled foul behavior. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against beer at games. But if those that consume too much can’t demonstrate acceptable behavior, then they should not be able to attend.
We should not be putting the well-behaved majority in the position of policing the small minority that don’t seem to get it. Instead, it’s incumbent on the organizations themselves to take action before the only people left in the stadiums and arenas are the rowdy drunks. At that point, the athletes themselves may begin to question their own participation. I call on those individuals in leadership positions to step up and make our venues enjoyable, pleasant and safe. Come on!