Fan behavior at sporting events

This past week, I traveled to Seattle, WA.  During the trip, I did quite a bit of sight-seeing.  I love the Pacific northwest, especially along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.  One of my excursions during this trip was to watch a baseball game at Safeco Field in Seattle.  The Seattle Mariners hosted the Los Angeles Angels.  Being an Angels fan, it was really great to be able to see them play at another ballpark.  I had a good time, but my experience at Safeco Field was not all good.

Safeco Field is a very nice stadium.  Seattle has some great public transit options, which made travel to and from the stadium very easy.  I was based at a hotel at Seatac Airport.  For $5.50 round-trip, I used the Link Light Rail that travels from the airport to downtown Seattle.  There is a rail station right next to the stadium.  I like Angels Stadium better than Safeco Field, but getting to and from Safeco Field was much easier than at Angels Stadium.  All of the staff at Safeco Field were very friendly and very helpful.  I would not mind attending another game there if it wasn’t for the fans.

I was seated about 10 rows behind home plate.  In most stadiums, that seat would be premium real estate.  Two rows in front of me was the Diamond Club section where tickets are much higher in price than the $65 I paid for my ticket.  I overheard a fan behind me quote his ticket price as $35.  I had a great view of the game.  What made the game not so enjoyable was the many fans seated around me.

I usually attend 6 or 7 games a season in Anaheim at Angels Stadium.  Occasionally there will be fans that make disparaging comments about the players or the umpires.  But, for the most part, the fans there are well-behaved.  This was not the case at Safeco Field.

I was wearing my red Angels Baseball t-shirt and my wife was seated to my right.  Another couple sat down to our right.  The evening started with the guy of this couple tapping my wife on her shoulder and suggesting that we all boo when Albert Pujols came up to bat.  My wife looked at this guy and said “I don’t think so.”  He looked over at me, saw my Angels t-shirt, and got very red-faced.  He proceeded to tell my wife what a nice person Pujols is.  Why would this guy want to boo someone he thought was a nice guy?

It got worse.  There were 3 guys and one woman sitting in the row behind us.  This group obviously had been consuming alcoholic beverages because I could smell the alcohol every time they said anything.  During the entire game, there was a continuous repertoire of derogatory comments from these fans directed the players and the umpires.  Some of these comments were yelled so loud that it made my ears hurt.  What was really discouraging was that I was hearing similar rude comments from several areas around me.

The fans behind me started by degrading the Angels players and the umpires.  When Pujols came to bat with a man on second base, one guy behind me commenced yelling “OVERPAID” at the top of his lungs.  That made my ears hurt.  However, I got some satisfaction as Pujols proceeded to hit a 2-run home run into the left field bleachers.  The guy behind me then made a comment under his breath that maybe Pujols wasn’t overpaid.

As the game progressed, the Angels scored and the Mariners did not.  The rude comments that started toward the visiting players and umpires were now being spewed at anyone on the field, including the Mariners players.  After one strike call by the home plate umpire, nearly the whole section I was in stood up and started calling the umpire every name in the book.  I was appalled at the behavior I was witnessing.  I have been disappointed in calls issued by umpires in many games, but I would never consider saying some of the things I heard fans yelling at that game.

I have heard people explain this kind of behavior as being all in good fun.  I don’t see anything good or funny or entertaining about it.  I can understand getting emotionally caught up in a sporting contest.  I have been there myself.  But I have never considered degrading a player or umpire with words.  I think many people lose sight of the fact that these are just games.  In reality, there is no great consequence if one team wins or one team looses.  We all like our teams to win, but in every contest, someone also has to lose.  It’s just a game.

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