What is the proper etiquette for fans when attending sporting events? How should they act towards each other? How should they act towards the players and teams that they come to watch?
With the recent incidents between fans at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles and Candlestick Park in San Francisco fan violence at sporting events has become a front page issue. There are those who say that these incidents in which a fan was almost beaten to death in L.A. and two shot in San Francisco are not the norm thus fan violence is not a problem. There are others who feel that these acts are part of a growing problem and need to be addressed.
There have always been incidents involving fans at sporting events whether it be with each other, players, coaches or officials. On and off the field violence has always existed. There just weren't as many cameras around to capture it all. Friday night baseball games at the old Memorial Stadium in Baltimore was like a night at the fights. It was a problem then and is now.
And it needs to stop. Many people are opting not to attend sporting events, because of the things that they encounter at the ballpark or arena. Especially adults with children.
These fans are tired of seeing drunken, tailgating fans urinating in the parking lot. They are tired of hearing them curse and argue in front of their kids. They are tired of fans abusing them for wearing the colors of the opposing team. They are tired of seeing fights in the stands. They are tired of hearing these fans berate players, coaches and officials. All of this takes away from the game day experience and many fans opt to stay home instead of having to deal with it. For the price it costs to go to sporting events who can blame them?
It used to be that you went to a sporting event not a game. And the etiquette was that you dressed up. Men wore collared shirts and slacks. Many wore suit jackets and ties even in the dog days of summer. Women wore dresses and hats or a blouse and slacks. All one has to do is look at old pictures of games from the 1970's and before to see this.
There was very little action outside the stadium before the game. If it was baseball most of the fans who showed up early went inside to watch batting practice. Basketball, hockey and football fans usually showed up about a half an hour before game time to get to their seats. There was tailgating in football, but not like it is today. And most fans were nice enough to take others into consideration. They did not bother those who were going into the stadium or take up space from those trying to park.
Once inside the stadium, the game was the thing. Sure there was alcohol served, but most responsible people knowing that they had to drive home would drink maybe one or two and no more. Fans would cheer, boo and vent but if anyone got out of hand they were usually told to calm down. In other words the fans policed themselves. This didn't stop incidents from happening, but did keep them from getting too out of hand.
Two things have changed the atmosphere at the ballpark and arena. First is more tailgating at events. Fans have begun to arrive at games early and set up picnic areas in the parking lot. They serve food and booze and some get a buzz on before entering the stadium. Once inside the stadium they drink more beer and got even drunker. This gives them so-called 'liquid courage' and they do things that maybe they wouldn't if they weren't intoxicated. If anything happens they blame it on being drunk.
Second is the change in stadium dress code. Now instead of dressing up to attend sporting events fans get dressed to go to games. No more shirts and ties. No more dresses. Now it is team apparel and colors. Fans wear shirts, hats, jerseys and anything else which has their team logo and colors. This is fine when you are the home team. If you are the visitors then you are a target. Nevermind that you paid your hard-earned money on a ticket just as hometown fan did. You are not allowed in the stadium. You are the enemy. And if your team wins the game then you are definitely a target.
While attending a Washington Redskin game against the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field my nephew wore his Raider hat. The Redskins lost and fans in our section were giving him dirty looks. I told them 'Don't be mad at him. He didn't lose the game. If you want to fight someone go down on the field and fight the Redskins. They're the ones who wasted your money.' And we walked out.
There are many people who have had to experience this. As long as fans wear their teams colors it's always going to be this way unless something is done by those in charge at the college and pro levels.
The colleges have rules against alcohol being sold at their events, but this does not include outside the arena or stadium. So most people drink there and then attend the game. The pros have limits on how much alcohol a person can buy inside of the stadium, but again nothing for outside. As long as this is the case fans will have to deal with drunks at sporting events.
So how do you solve the problem with rowdy fans at sporting events?
The first thing is more and better security. If fans are going to fight and act stupid then they have to pay a price. Beef up security inside and outside the stadium. Why should only those fans in luxury boxes be exempt from putting up with rowdy fans? No one should have to. If everyone has to pay for the actions of a few so be it.
Second, if you are going to let people tailgate and hang out in the parking lot give every one of age a breathalyzer test when they walk into the stadium. If they fail then they are not allowed inside. This may create a few empty seats, but what is the organization losing? They've already got the money for the ticket. If a fan fails two tests they are not allowed to come back that season. If they fail three at any time then they forfeit their right to attend games for five years.
After 9/11 stadium security started checking everyone as they came through the gates. Fans didn't like it, but got used to the drill and adapted. They wouldn't like Breathalyzers either, but would adjust and adapt. And it would be a small price to pay to get fans who want to bring their families back into the stadium.
These ideas may not totally stop improper fan behavior at games, but it would be a start in that direction. People love their sports so much and love attending games that they will do just about anything to attend. If threatened to have this privilege taken away from them they will think twice before drinking or acting rowdy at a sporting event.
Or pay the price twice. Lose your money and lose your right to attend games.
Maybe this will bring proper etiquette back to attending sporting events.