What is going on with fans at games? Without an exhaustive search on the Internet the following incidents come off the top of my head:
- A fan in Philly dumped popcorn on Russel Westbrook.
- A fan in Boston threw a water bottle at Kyrie Irving.
- A fan in NY spit on Trae Young
- A fan streaked the field at a Washington Nationals’ game
- A fan charged the court at a Wizards’ game.
All these incidents have happened in the last 10 days or so; therefore, let me repeat the question:
- What is going on with fans at games?
Over the last year or so, I experienced telecasts of games without fans in attendance and/or with significantly reduced attendance. Those games lacked some of the energy that I normally associate with a sporting event; I am sure owners of teams are happy to see fans in the stands from an economic standpoint; I thought it would be a positive thing to have fans in the stands from an entertainment perspective. But these recent events are too much to bear. If this is what fans and players must accept as part of the “fan experience”, then we need to look at a new model for staging athletic competitions.
I have read that some folks believe the isolation imposed by the pandemic increased the level of intensity in many sports fans and we are now seeing that increased intensity play itself out. I have no idea if any of that is true, but I must admit that I am skeptical. The problem is that I do not have an alternative hypothesis to throw into the pot here because this is aberrant behavior at the very least.
I understand that reporters do not name the perpetrators here to deny them even a “moment of fame”, but I wish there were a way to find out the blood alcohol level for the ones who are caught and arrested by the police – – such as the streaker at the Nats’ game. Just a thought…
And while I am on the subject of aberrant behavior, Braves’ outfielder, Marcel Ozuna, was arrested for domestic abuse over the weekend; he has posted $20K bail and is out and about but under a court order not to have any contact with his wife. According to police reports, officers arrived at the house to find the door open; and when they went in, they witnessed Ozuna attempting to strangle his wife. If you want all the details here, Google is your friend. The couple is in the process of divorcing – not such a surprise to me given what happened – and it will be interesting to see the degree to which the wife will cooperate with police and prosecutors regarding these charges.
Marcel Ozuna was already on the Injured List with a couple of broken fingers and was expected to be out for several weeks when all this happened. MLB and the MLBA have a negotiated “Domestic Violence Policy” in place so Ozuna could be looking at a significant interruption in his career. My understanding of the MLB policy is this:
- The Commissioner’s Office investigates all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving folks associated with MLB. The Commissioner may place an accused player on paid administrative leave for up to seven days while allegations are investigated, and players may challenge any decision before an arbitration panel.
- The Commissioner decides on the appropriate discipline, with no minimum or maximum penalty under the policy. As above, players may challenge any decision to the arbitration panel.
In February of this year, Ozuna signed a 4-year deal with the Braves for $65M – – plus a team option for a fifth year at an additional $16M. I will not even hazard a guess as to what sort of suspension Rob Manfred may hand down here, but the criminal aspect of this case could have a significant impact on Ozuna’s career. I have to believe that his contract has a clause in it that relates to the player maintaining himself as a person free of prison such that he can perform for/with the team.
Meanwhile, in the world of tennis a strange story has unfolded. Naomi Osaka announced on social media last week that she will not be giving any interviews or participating in any news conferences at the French Open. She said then that she was doing this for her “mental health”. Tennis officials were not pleased and fined Osaka $15K for skipping one of the press conferences and supposedly threatened to default her from the tournament if she continued to stiff her “press obligations”. So, Osaka simply withdrew from the tournament.
I have read in several places that players at the major tennis tournaments are “required” to make themselves available to the press when they are requested. I do not know the source of that “requirement”, but it would seem to me that the tennis pooh-bahs might want to rethink a requirement that causes the #2 women’s player in the world to drop out of one of the most important tournaments of the year.
Somehow, this situation needs some calm and rational thought. Wimbledon is only a month away and that is another major tournament where players are going to have to speak to the press if they are requested – – and after this you can bet that Naomi Osaka will be requested. So, what is the direction here? More confrontation? Some sort of accommodation? A change in the basic rule about press access?
I think part of the problem here is that the basic rule is antiquated. There was a time when the sport of tennis needed the press coverage to generate interest in its tournaments and its players. With social media what it is today, the press coverage is nice; but it is not nearly as vital as it used to be; remember, in this case, it was Osaka who announced on social media that she would be skipping press events; she did not need any reporters to do that job for her.
Finally, let me close with this entry from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Intimidating: Using fear to browbeat or coerce. A tactic often employed by Marine boot camp instructors, Mafia enforcers and people trying to sell you a quality pre-owned Kia.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………