Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell was in the news this past week, when he was suspended for lewd comments and untoward behavior shown to a group of fans before a game. A few of the New York Giants and New York Jets draft picks come to town with warning labels and "character issues." The New York Yankees and New York Mets have a few PED cheats on their rosters, with one just joining his team after finishing his suspension (though technically that was completed awhile ago as he was recently on the DL). Greedy NFL owners are locking out rich players to line their own pockets and sticking it to fans at the same time once again. Yankee Stadium and Citi Field have rows and rows of empty seats behind home plate (as do many stadiums around the country) pricing out the average family (unless you count the Gates clan as the average family), again, as greedy owners spit in the face of their own fans.
And as all of these things are going on, no one bats an eye anymore. It's all standard procedure for 21st-century professional sports. Why wouldn't a college player have been arrested or suspended or expelled? Why wouldn't owners and players treat the people who are making them rich with contempt? Why wouldn't a player cheat at all costs or have handcuffs slapped on him? Unfortunately, that's just the way it is these days. We've come to accept the fact that the players we watch on the field have a revolving-door policy with courtrooms and prisons. And as owners and commissioners claim they're "thinking of the fans" or whatever policy they implement is a "gift to the fans" (does a receipt come with that gift so I can exchange it for something I actually want?), it gets harder and harder to attend or even watch a sporting event.
McDowell is the latest example of players/coaches/managers to not understand that it never pays to insult fans. It's a losing battle. There's a long list of player/fan misbehavior, going all the way back to Ty Cobb entering the stands to fight with a fan, Mike Milbury pummeling a Madison Square Garden patron with his own shoe and Ron Artest causing mayhem among paying customers. Of course, it goes both ways, as fans should know their place and not run on the field, let alone throw batteries or shout expletive-filled rants that would make Tony Soprano blush (if a trespassing fan can be tasered, couldn't someone have done that to McDowell as soon as he began making inappropriate gestures with the bat he was holding?).
While criminals and drug cheats perform on the field of play, unruly fan behavior is making it difficult for well-behaved fans to enjoy a day at the park. Would I contemplate taking my seven-year-old daughter to a Yankees-Red Sox, Yankees-Mets or Mets-Phillies game? No (and of course I'd have to apply for a loan at the bank to be able to afford to take my family to a game anyway, and decide if I want to stay at a park until after midnight on a Sunday night). A precedent has already been set for a drunken lout to vomit on a little girl. And the all-around frat-house behavior went from out of control to life-threateningly dangerous when a group of Los Angeles Dodgers fans almost killed a San Francisco Giants fan because he happened to be rooting for the wrong team.
There is the occasional all-American incident at the ballpark, as we recently saw with David Wright having a catch with a gang of youngsters before a game in Atlanta (and once a decade or so something special will unfold as it did Sunday night in Philadelphia). But that almost seems to be the exception and not the rule these days. Roger McDowell angrily stated to a father of nine-year-old twin girls (while threatening to knock his teeth out) that the ballpark is no place for kids. And with boorish miscreant fans filling the stands, law-breaking, rule-violating players on the field, fan-ridiculing pitching coaches roaming around and let-them-eat-cake owners, you know what? He just may be right.