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Knucklehead fans: Do not encourage their behavior

Years ago – make that decades ago – when my kids were in elementary school, a friend of mine asked me if I wanted to grab them along with one of their friends and join him at a University of Pacific basketball game. He was a season ticket holder and there was a special night when kids got in free.

But he warned me that we would be sitting next to a, as he put it, “real fan.” I did not understand what he meant and when I asked him he told me, “Oh, you will see.”

Once we were settled in, I asked my buddy who the real fan was and he pointed to a guy in front of me. Slightly built and sitting down, I could not see what the big deal was – yet.

After the first player from the other team was introduced, Mr. Fan jumps to his feet and lets out a semi-expletive for about 10 seconds at the top of his lungs, reverberating off the Spanos Center walls. He was louder than the P.A. announcer! 

That was just the beginning. He mercilessly rode the other team the entire game. It was a close contest, but with three or four minutes left it was obvious Pacific was going to win. As the other team broke its huddle at that time, Mr. Fan was heckling the opposition coach and even brought the coach’s wife into it. The coach then made the mistake of looking up at this clown and that was just pouring gas into a fire. Mr. Fan jumped up on his chair, grabbed his crotch and hollered, “You want some of this? You couldn’t handle it.”

I was mortified. My kids were scared. I simply told them that is not how you act in public.

As of late, I have had the privilege of shooting Stockton Ports and Modesto Nuts games. I can shoot in designated areas in the dugout, but I prefer to shoot from the first row of the stands, and that means one thing: interfacing with the fans. The drunken, loud, obnoxious fans. 

There is one who is extremely rude, nasty and guttural. He is so bad in fact that a coach from an opposing team told me that he was the worse in the California League. And the fans around him in their drunken stupors continue to feed his shenanigans, and just like Mr. Fan from UOP oh so long ago, all that does is pour gas on the fire.

I feel sorry for the parents who want to take their kids out to a fun night at the ball park and have to endure louts like that. As much as he and his ilk like to fantasize, he is not funny. The show is on the field – keep it there.

The vast majority of my sports world is at the high school and youth levels where there are plenty of semi-loutish fans. The difference is if the administrators are doing their jobs when those fans get out of control, they are shown the door. But sadly, the administrators do not exercise their veto power often enough. 

I was covering a volleyball match when a dad from the opposing school – and a very, very prominent name in his town – had to be escorted out for his asinine behavior. And what did he do when the home crowd was cheering his ouster? Give them a double middle-finger salute.

The best ouster I ever saw was at a Tracy High softball game. The Bulldogs were pummeling Lodi and there was a Tracy dad who just would not shut up. He was riding the ump every inning. His daughter got on first and he bellowed at her to steal. The coach, one of the classiest I have ever dealt with, shook his head not to steal. The kid listened to her dad and broke for second.

There was only one umpire, and although the girl was clearly safe, he took one step out from behind the plate, pointed at second and hollered, “You’re out.” And then in one motion, he rotated 180 degrees, pointed at her dad and said, “And so are you.” Classic, just classic. 

Years ago, one of the cheering sections for a local boys basketball team was so juvenile and immature the school’s athletic director had to sit in the middle of them like an overpriced baby sitter – and one of the alpha males in the group was an athletic official! Their conduct was so bad at a basketball tournament that the school was disinvited to future basketball tournaments at that school.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I crossed the line – once – and I did not stay there for very long. At one of my daughter’s freshman basketball games, I was sitting with two dads and found myself heckling the other team. In fact, I heckled one girl on the other team in particular. That is right – I was heckling a 14-year-old girl. 

About that time my daughter’s coach – Bill Aschenbrenner – turned around and glared at me. Not the other two, just me. I was mortified and embarrassed. I could not believe what I was doing. I got up, walked to the other end of the bleachers and after that I kept the scorebook for the team. There was no way I could heckle from the scorer’s table. 

Where I immediately saw the error of my ways, the same could not be said for one of the other dads. A few years later at a girls basketball game the score on the scoreboard was incorrect. Now anyone who knows anything about basketball knows that the scoreboard does not matter, it is what is in the book that counts, and on a dead ball the two will be reconciled.

This guy was seated immediately behind the scorer’s table, where I like to sit when I cover a game. He was so out of line that the guy running the clock – a good friend of mine who was also a coach and is now an administrator – almost walked off in the middle of the game. 

And the fallout from that shameless display of ignorance? At most schools the bleachers are not pulled out behind the scorer’s table at girls basketball games any more.  

So the next time you are at a game and some knucklehead starts in, while you may not want to confront the dolt please do not encourage him. With no fuel, eventually the fire will flame out.