Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Am I part of the game or not?

I was watching SportsCenter the other night, and I saw a fan getting escorted out of the stadium I think in Philadelphia. (Second one in about three days, I believe.)
Did he throw beer on a player? Nope.
Get into a drunken brawl in the stands? Nope.
Barrel over a little kid in pursuit of a foul ball? Nope.

Seems this fan's sin was to have touched (i.e. "interfered with") a ball that was in play. Now, anyone who follows baseball has seen those fans along the first- and third-base lines straining with every inch of their bodies to reach a ball that is bouncing foul in their general direction. But that wasn't the case with this guy. He was sitting in the outfield bleachers, and a ball had bounced hard off the warning track to well within his arm's reach. All he did was stick his arm out and grab it. Pretty instinctive response, really.

Instead, he got hauled away by stadium security like he'd just gotten back from streaking. For this, I ask Major League Baseball: Are we part of the game or not?

All we sports fans see on TV are ads for video games that are so real you almost bruise; we see cameras placed in every orifice on the field during big postseason series; and we get players in dugouts and huddles "miked up" so we can feel like we're right there next to them. It's partly how owners justify charging us the outrageous rates they do for tickets, beer and food. ... But God forbid we would actually feel some kind of entitlement to a ball bounding our way.

Look, I'm not saying the fan should've been able to jump the rail, call off an outfielder camped under a fly ball, and haul it in for himself. I'm just saying that intent always has to be taken into account. The big yellow foul poles at either end of the outfield are considered part of the field of play, and if a batted ball hits one on the fly, it's a home run. Why can't fans be classified similarly? If a fan reaches for a ball, and is within reason in doing so, why can't that determine the result of the play like the foul poles? The fan snags it, it's a home run or ground rule double; the fan drops or redirects it, it caroms around and possibly results in a double.

My point is I get tired of being taken advantage of by Big Sports. It's bad enough that the Packers (and all of the other NFL teams) charge full price for tickets, beverages and food for exhibition games. But we suck it up because we're fans and, hey, it's either see them or don't. The least they can do is let us keep our seat if a once-in-a-lifetime souvenir comes our way.

Gas today: $3.14/.24/.34/Diesel $3.09

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