Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Removing Spectators

Last week I was glancing through the paper, and I was reading the sports page about the Celtics game the previous evening. What caught my eye was a brief paragraph that discussed the removal of a spectator by one of the referees. I actually didn't know that basketball refs are empowered to remove fans. I recall seeing a sports list show about the worst fans. A couple were basketball fans, and I don't recall any discussion of them being removed by the objects of their slander. In the article, the ref said that the spectator in question was loud, profane, and was sitting among a group of families with small children.

Of course, I started looking at this in the context of Kyle's article in the newsletter and the controversey around the heckling for the women's finals. I think Kyle's article is very good, and the call for heightened self-policing makes sense for an event that is attending pretty much solely by the participants.

As with any discussion about public behavior and manners, the line between good taste and offensive behavior varies with every person. I think the time is coming fast when our behavior is not just viewed within the walls of our insulated community, and that each attendee will be held to some defined standard of public decency. The art of heckling will come under scrutiny, but, maybe, limited parameters will enhance the creativity. While there will probably be tension between self-policing and an externally defined set of expectations for public behavior, hopefully folks will meet the challenge with minimum of ejections or apologies on RSD.

I think the most creative heckling I experienced was at Cornell hockey games in the '70's. As there is nothing to do in Ithaca mid-January, the game was the event in town. Lynah Rink was basically a tin shack. Very loud and raucous. The fans threw sieves out onto the ice after each Cornell goal, they blew loud airhorns, the band was rocking, and the crowd had very creative and publicly known cheers. The most hated opponent was Harvard, and the Cornell fans pulled no punches. Live chickens and fish got thrown out onto the ice and the cheers became more and more lewd. Even then, in the late 70's, with a sense that our behavior should not be regulated, the refs and Cornell officials had to draw the line, and a series of penalties including forfeiture were devised if the fans got out of hand. While the games became slightly more tame, the fans did direct themselves in more creative and less hostile ways. So, as Kyle described in the article, be aware of your behavior. I tend to view what I say, or yell, from the sidelines in terms of how would my daughter react. Is the language being used something that I feel comfortable with her hearing? Again, the line of standards is different for each of us, but this is what works for me.


Sam TH said...

This past spring, I, as an observer, had someone ejected from the premises after a game. This wasn't for heckling, but for threatening me after a (game-ending) call that I made that went against the fan's team. I found this regrettable, but it was quite easy to do at the time, since the fan's behavior was well outside of the realm of decency.

So, this does happen in ultimate already.

gcooke said...

Ok...that is good to know. Certainly sounds like you did the right thing.


Kevin said...

As a soccer referee I have, and have assistant refereed games when fans were removed. We basically first warn the coach whose fans it is, and tell them that THEY will be ejected if they can't control their spectators. If they don't control them, we make a decision. If the fan is just straight crazy and the coach can't do anything, we have field marshalls come over and remove the fan from the premises. If the coach is being a dick too and agrees with the shit the fan is giving us, we have them both kicked out.

Youth soccer isn't nearly as bad as it is always portrayed, but at least in the league that I always ref in we've been taught to not take too much shit. It's also cool that if fan/ref interaction crap is going on, usually the ref on the game next over will stop his game and come over to make sure that the fan realizes that we all have eachothers backs.