When it comes to freedom of expression at sporting events, it’s a common refrain that the fan - who pays his money – has the right to do what he or she wants, short of disturbing the game or seriously compromising other fans’ enjoyment. You can’t fight, you can’t swear profusely, you can’t be falling down drunk (most of the time), and you sure as heck can’t run on the field. In short, there are parameters. While at times the line may be hazy, I think we all have a basic understanding as to what it is. But among true, dyed-in-the-wool, baseball fans, I have found that a higher code exists. Some observations and opinions:
When a fan is in their own stadium, things aren’t that difficult. You can heckle, in reasonable degree, anyone on the field: visiting players, your players, umps, mascots, grounds crew…whoever. Be anywhere between gracious to tolerant towards fans of opposing teams, for most of them are probably pretty cool. They are permitted to wear their teams caps, jerseys, etc. They are fans, too. They just have a different home. Some of the most pleasant experiences I have had at games is sitting down next to a knowledgeable and civil fan of the other team and sharing some good old fashioned baseball talk. Cardinals fans are great.
Unfortunately, I have also had bad experiences with opposing fans. My manner in dealing with them has surely become more tempered as the years have gone by but when an opposing fans’ conduct reaches a certain point, I feel that they should be taken in hand. That said, here are some suggestions for fans, Phils fans also, when seeing a game in another teams park:
- When you get to your seats, try and introduce yourself to the fans seated immediately near you. Demonstrate that you’re a real person with admirable qualities before the wedge of fandom is driven between you and the rest of the patrons.
- Never heckle their players if it is known you are a visiting fan (this is a no-brainer).
- When reacting to good plays by your team, try to stay seated and clap. More than a golf clap but less that a WWF clap. If there is a homer, you may stand and clap. Do not yell “YES!”, or hoot, or scream “THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKIN’ ‘BOUT” at any time. Do not stand and high five your mates.
- Do not cheer the home teams’ errors. A golf clap is fine.
- Use your common sense. If the game heats up and it’s close, you may elevate your intensity a little bit. The other fans are fans, too – they should understand.
If you haven’t divined this by now, the governing concept should be that you are a guest in their “house”. While not cowering or being intimidated, accord them some respect. Root for your team without showing up their team. Disagree?
Yes, I did say that at times some fans must be advised that their behavior is unacceptable. An illustration: A couple of weeks ago I got a couple of tickets in the rich seats against the Cubs behind the visitor’s dugout. There was a corny, middle aged man who would stand up and cheer every Cub success and every Phils foible vociferously, while at times turning around and pointing at the crowd. He was taunting. When the Cubs ran in from the field he stood up and cheered and Soriano winked at him at one point which sent our section into a lather. From that point he was treated to a torrent of barbs and tongue lashings until his insubordinate manner had been adjusted. No swearing. No “mom” talk. Just good old fashioned, razor sharp heckling. I was involved. The point of the story is that, while it is nice to be a gracious host, those who seek to take advantage of your hospitality to an unreasonable degree should be addressed and inspired to moderate their conduct. In the end, we probably ended up doing that guy a favor.
So, there it is. The Dispy’s little handbook on fan etiquette. While I don’t hold it up to be the Emily Post of fan conduct, I think its all pretty reasonable and if we all followed it, we should all be in good stead. Am I a little territorial and provincial? Perhaps. But I’m a fan.