Curbing fan trouble

One of the craziest incidents anybody could ever imagine seeing at a sporting event happened when Texas Rangers reliever Frank Francisco hurled a chair into the stands in Oakland and hit the wife of a fan who was heckling the team.

There have been an alarming number of incidents involving reckless fans and reckless players, especially in professional baseball. Situations where fans go from spectators to headline grabbers are becoming much more frequent.

Fans seem to have gotten a little out of line recently. There is a belief among many people who attend games that heckling is a birthright. While there is some validity to the argument that the fans bought the tickets and are allowed to act as they want, many fans have taken heckling to the extreme.

No longer do fans ridicule players with “my grandma throws better than you,” or even simple “you’re a bum” insults.

Some fans go so far as researching players’ personal lives and learning the names of wives and kids in order to shout insulting things about them.

During a playoff game a few years ago, Cleveland Indians fans insulted the deceased mother of New York Yankees pitcher David Wells.

In addition to insults getting more and more personal and harsh, some fans are getting physically involved. During a game at Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs fans stole the hat of Los Angeles Dodger Todd Hundley while he sat in the opposition’s bullpen. That incident led to a fracas between players and fans.

Within the past three years, two incidents occurred during Chicago White Sox games. During one game, a father and son attacked Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa.

The next season, an umpire was attacked during a meeting between those same two teams.

The Francisco incident may be the tip of the iceberg as far as these problems go. Rangers players insist particularly harsh words – including racial slurs – were used. The fans deny that anything racially insensitive was said and assert it is their right to heckle. The fans even claim they purchased season tickets in exactly that spot with intent to heckle the visiting team.

In this instance, both the fans and players were out of line. In several of the other incidents, it’s obviously the fault of the fans.

Major League Baseball must find a way to remedy this situation before someone, either on or off the field, is seriously injured.

Baseball players are not much different from anybody else, in that they go to their job and do the best they can.

They also have breaking points just like anybody else, and with some of the insults fans hurl, it’s amazing these incidents don’t occur more often.

There are several suggested solutions; moving the opposing bullpens or changing seating to get fans further away from the action are two of the more popular, however costly, ideas.

Whatever baseball decides to do to fix the situation, it can only benefit the game to prevent it from turning into a constant war between fans and players.