Have sports stadiums and arenas become bastions of rude and riotous behavior exhibited by crazy and/or drunken fans?
Is that the case here in Salt Lake City?
Or is it just in, say, Philadelphia?
You would think so hearing the words of some ticket brokers and travel agents and by watching a news report in Minneapolis this week, words and reports that are warning Vikings fans planning on traveling to Philadelphia for Sunday’s NFC championship game at Lincoln Financial Field of exactly that.
The report featured travel experts informing viewers about rowdy fans in Philly who could make them uncomfortable at the game. One expert told Minnesota fans to avoid getting inebriated themselves because Eagles fans would be sauced.
Another, a gentleman by the name of Drew Baydala of Minneapolis’ Ticket King, told CBS Philadelphia that he warned prospective customers to be careful out there: “If the Vikings win, yes, I would take off any sort of, like, colors. I know it sounds ridiculous, like we’re almost talking about gangs here, but it’s no joke down in Philly. It really isn’t.”
Man, oh man.
The sentiment brought to mind the scene in 1994’s Naked Gun when Frank Drebin goes undercover at a prison and says: “Faster than you could say spread ’em, I was inside the cold, gray walls of Statesville Prison. I was surrounded by pimps, rapists and murderers. It was like being in the stands at a Los Angeles Raiders game.”
A concession: Fans at Philly sports venues can be aggressive.
There’s nothing new about that notion. Speaking of going to jail, there used to be an area of confinement at Eagles games in the basement of the old Veterans Stadium, used as it was for crazy fans as a holding cell. That’s not all. There was a courtroom complete with a judge, too.
The story goes that during a Monday night game at the Vet in 1998, a host of fights broke out in the stands, and by a host, I mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 60. In addition, some knucklehead fired off a flare in the stands. Eagles ownership and management grew worried about how all that looked, so they installed the judge, his courtroom and the jail.
When the court first opened, there were 20 fans thrown into the court at the first game, including one who confessed to being a murderer. He brought an open alcoholic container into the stadium, was confronted by security guards, put before the judge, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and fined $198.50.
During an interview in 2011 with a Philadelphia legal magazine, Eagles Court judge Seamus P. McCaffery said the majority of the people arrested were not actually from Philly. Either way, his honor said the proceedings and the jail served their purpose. No longer is there an Eagles jail on location at Lincoln Financial Field.
But should there be?
There have been other cases of bad behavior by Philadelphia fans, including one man who punched a police horse after last week’s Eagles win over the Falcons and faced charges for it. Tell me, who punches a horse? Also, there is the infamous case of fans booing and throwing snowballs at Santa Claus, which happened, strangely enough, at a game against the Vikings back in 1968. There was the disgusting incident that took place at a Phillies game when a fan stuck his fingers down his throat and vomited on an 11-year-old girl. Flyers fans booed the all-male cleanup crew that had replaced the scantily clad all-female squad. Along with all the more routine episodes of chucking drinks on other fans and hucking bottles at players, and such.
Now I grew up near Philadelphia and spent much of my childhood going to games of the various pro and college teams there. I saw a lot. On one trip to the old Spectrum, I watched as a Flyers fan reached into the penalty box and start beating a visiting Chicago Blackhawks player over the head with a rubber chicken. I also saw an inebriated fan carrying a padlock in his hand. A friend of mine who worked as a beer vendor at the Vet once got booed when he accidentally dropped his tray of beers.
But those are outliers. I have an affection for Philly fans because most of them are passionate, knowledgeable sports people who love games and who hold their teams to a high standard. A small percentage are idiots, but most of the folks there just enjoy watching their teams play, seeking victory, leaning over the fence in the backyard, talking with neighbors about whatever’s going on with whatever team in a particular season.
That’s the way it is in a lot of towns, including here in Salt Lake City.
A bunch of great fans, a few complete morons who sometimes complain a bit too much and imbibe far too much for their own good and the good of others around them.
On the other hand, there was a warning put out this week by a captain with the Philadelphia Police Department advising business owners in a letter to take precautions in case of an Eagles win Sunday, telling them to turn on surveillance cameras, watch for rowdy celebrants and to “protect your property” and “remove anything outside your business.”
Makes you wonder what might happen around here if the Jazz ever won an NBA title, eh?
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.