Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Leave Us Fans Alone!

Recently at the U.S. Open, an ardent fan of Rafael Nadal ran onto the court to show his affection. He simply said "I love you!" and wanted to give the tennis star a hug. Nadal, upon seeing the man, actual wanted to reciprocate, saying "No, it's ok!" to the overzealous security gendarmes as they brutally carried the fan away. Now, ESPN has been commenting about this horrible breach of security, and that the players need more protection from the despicable hordes that are sports fans. Subsequent interviews with the tournament's head of security mentioned that former "terrorism exports" have been hired to the security force, monitoring the environment at the event. When did tennis fans become terrorists? I am fine with the idea of searching everyone that enters the facility, using metal detectors if necessary. Nobody wants bombs being detonated or guns being fired from a typically soulless member of an extremist religious group. I also understand that the memories of Monica Seles being stabbed on the court still linger in many minds. But for crying out loud, sports pundits and officials, quit talking about fans as thugs and hoodlums. This is the United States, not Brazil or some similarly soccer crazed country where fans attack referees on a daily basis.

fans, like spectators of golf tournaments, have an unspoken appreciation for giving the competitors their space, and they are not to be lumped into the crowds that drunkenly fight each other at hockey games. If a sport like tennis wants more followers, it needs to respect the fans, and understand that they are generally an appreciative, safe group. I'll call "foul" on Mike Tirico for citing how "dangerous" the environment can be for professional basketball players at a game, because so many people are "right on top of the court". Tirico might want to think about the fact that more basketball players have attacked fans in recent years than vice versa. If anything, we should be protected from the players, because they are often more prominent thugs than the struggling blue collar workers paying their despicable salaries.

There was a time, perhaps only about 25 years ago, when upon winning a championship, the fans swarmed the court/field in adoration of their beloved athletes. Nobody was tackled, arrested, or bulldogged to the ground. People could hug their heroes, and if too amorous, the heroes could shove them away. Sporting events did not have hundreds of "secret service" agents suspiciously roving the boundary of the court or field. Several days ago, I was with my friend at a White Sox game, and seated two rows behind the visitor's dugout. She constantly tried to take a picture of Red Sox pitcher Josh Beckett, and never had the chance, because an overweight, sausage-snarfing hog of a "security man", pretending to be protecting the President, constantly blocked her vantage, taking his "post" on the field while the pitcher warmed up between innings. Half the game was spent trying to see around this bloated dessert guzzler with a cheesecake job of standing in everyone's way. Dude, it's the goddamn 5th inning. Nobody's running on the field to attack Beckett. Sit your seven asses down on the bench and attack your twelfth Twinkie, Mr. Arbuckle.

The respect for fans is just not there anymore. People are assumed to be thugs, and for all events, they may as well just not allow any attendees, but rather have everyone watch the events on a big screen outside the venue. Just build more walls and disenfranchise the already financially strapped sporting audience, without whom the sport would fizzle. If organizers want to embrace a military mentality toward the fans of their respective sport, good luck to them, as respect goes in both directions.

As for the poor fellow that simply wanted to say "I love you" to Rafael Nadal, he was tackled, brutally taken away, and arrested. The man wasn't interfering with the competition, as the match had long since ended. He was simply trying to break down that wall that tournament organizers had erected between fans and players. It's a shame that this attempt to show love to a great player has been classified as a nefarious incident, rather than a heart warming moment that even Nadal enjoyed.