Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mob Mentallity

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."

-Agent K, Men in Black

I've been inspired to touch on something because of a debate that I've having with Lisa over at A Red Sox State of Maine. I won't rehash that conversation over here, but I do want to touch on the decay of fandom.

It is something I have discussed before, to some extent.

I think that over the last 20 years we have witnessed a decline in etiquette from fans while we have progressively become a society of entitlement. More and more often we are reading about schools and teachers that no longer discipline children because parental reactions aren't, "what did my child do wrong." Rather, most parents' reactions are, "what did you do to my child." Personal responsibility is going out the window.

This is as evident with fans as anywhere else.

With the purchase of a ticket to an event, people feel that their money spent gives them the right to act inappropriately.

As late as 1960 people still dressed in their Sunday best for a day at the ball park. While I understand not dressing to a tee to go to a game, there was enough respect for what was happening on the field that most of what goes on now didn't happen then.

People feel that the money spent gives them the right to throw syringes at Barry Bonds, batteries at JD Drew, beer bottles at opponents in Cleveland, and curse and spit at children and adults wearing opponents' uniforms in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Sure, it gives them the right to cheer or boo accordingly, to show your approval or disapproval of what happens on the field, but that right stops when the actions make other fans feel threatened, or could do damage to...well, anyone.

No batteries. No bottles. No syringes. No threats. No spitting.

In 2003 in Chicago there were four separate incidents of fans running on the field during a White Sox-Royals game. This culminated in the assault of one of the umpires by a couple of the fans. There was also the assault of the Royals first base coach by a father-son tandem in Chicago.

Sports Illustrated has a list of eleven incidents of fan boorishness and assault of which only one incident is before 1974, and eight of them are since 1984. It is by no means a complete list.

The incidents are legion, and they didn't start at the professional games.

Unfortunately, parents and youth coaches are regularly setting a horrible example for future generations, engaging in this same behavior at little league games and pee wee football. Just last year a mob attacked the umpires at a little league game in New Hampshire. There was, in Philly, a man who pulled a gun on his son's youth football coach because he felt the boy wasn't getting enough playing time, or the coach in Pittsburgh who paid his pitcher $25 to throw at an autistic player on an opposing team.

Does racism play a part? Yes. Is it the driving force? I have my doubts. I think that it's more the mass stupidity. The heavy drinking. And the belief that a ticket entitles them to be morons.


the blue state blogger said...

Well, you won't get an argument from me on this one. I think the decline in civilized behavior is across the board, not just at ballparks.

Kevin Smith said...

It's an interesting phenomena.

I mean, there are earlier instances of boorish behavior by fans (and I do think that it's a trickle down from other places), but the behavior seems to be proliferating.

I know when I used to teach there were a lot of parents that avoided teaching their children about personal responsibility and civility.

Suldog said...

Definitely a decline in civility, overall in society. I think the ballgame incivility has a great deal to do with the money, also. Not the money being paid to the players, but the money the average fan has to fork over to buy the ticket. The more you pay, the more you expect in return.

In my (our?) youth, a seat in the bleachers was 75 cents. You paid that small sum and got a great day at the park, win or lose. Now what's the price? It tends to drive expectations higher and, unfortunately, some folks don't understand tht it's sports and not a scripted play, so if the expectations aren't met, through no direct fault of the players, some of these folks feel entitled to get more entertainment for their buck - and that includes making themselves part of the spectacle.

the blue state blogger said...

"so if the expectations aren't met, through no direct fault of the players"

That may be true during gametime, but the flip side of that is that players themselves set those expectations through their diva behavior-holding out, making snarky remarks to the media (ala Jonathan Papelbon recently) and generally behaving as if they were God's gift and why doesn't everybody realize it? Then, when they DON'T deliver, the fans, who have become alienated from the players on thei field over the years, feel entitled to let them know it.

Kevin Smith said...

I think that becomes part of the sense of entitlement that I wrote about. So many of these athletes are deified before they are even adults for their ability on the athletic field, so much so that as adults many of them seem to believe that their celebrity/ability will get them out of just about any situation - just look at people like Clemens, Mike Vick, Pacman Jones, Odell Thurman, Barry Bonds, just to name a few.

I agree that the fans feel entitled to let players know of their disapproval - and I would even say that it's the right of the fan to do so. However, I believe that right has limits. No thrown batteries, beer bottles or syringes. That is unacceptable.

But I do think Suldog is right - the more people spend on these events, the more they seem to believe the price of admission allows them to become part of the spectacle.

soxfaninmiami said...

I truly think it comes down to a simple matter of respect. People don't give each other the common respect they used to in society. Children are no longer taught to respect other people's things, authority or space. As Kevin said there seems to be a sense of entitlement in that what things, authority or space you have are mine until I say otherwise.