John F. Russell: Traditions that have no place in sports


I learned a lot of things while attending professional sporting events as a child.

I learned how to cheer by sitting next to my father at Denver Nuggets games. I learned there is rarely a perfect inning to head to the bathroom during Bears baseball games, and I learned it's hard to beat the taste of a ballpark hotdog.

But in all the years I attended the games growing up in Denver I never witnessed a player rushing the stands for a confrontation with a fan or saw a fan heckling a player to the point they might want to rush the stands.

According to Craig Bueno, the Oakland, Calif., man whose wife was struck by a chair in a confrontation with Texas Rangers players after a game last week, heckling is an American tradition.

To him, heckling is as American as apple pie, Chevrolet and of course -- baseball.

In his world, the price of admission allows for the fan to watch the game, forget the players on the field are human and yell insults and rude comments to his heart's content.

But if you can't afford the ticket why not head down to the high school game. I mean those guys don't get paid millions, but why not let them have a taste of Bueno's "American tradition."

Luckily, I haven't seen it at a high school game, but I often see many of the mistakes made at professional sporting events repeated at the younger level.

How long until fans such as Bueno can be found everywhere?

I don't want to defend Rangers pitcher Frank Francisco for his actions last week when his team lost an extra-innings ballgame to Oakland. He should have left the field long before he launched a chair into the stands, breaking Jennifer Bueno's nose.

But fans share some of the responsibility for what happened. A ticket doesn't give any fan the right to provoke athletes into a fight. They shouldn't be shocked when professional athletes react -- isn't that what they really want?

This story is so sad it's hard to take the side of any of the parties involved.

Personally, it wouldn't hurt my feelings if Francisco were never allowed to enter a Major League, or Little League, ballpark again. Just so long as Craig and Jennifer Bueno aren't either.

But the Buenos are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fans crossing the line.

We saw it at the 2004 Olympics when the fans in Greece taunted judges into changing the score of a gymnast they felt was scored incorrectly.

It worked, but the fans were disrespectful and gave little regard for American Paul Hamm, who was to follow.

Hamm performed despite boos and whistles during his performance and won the silver medal, but not the respect of the fans in Greece. There was a similar incident in the 200-meter finals where fans held up the race to make a statement.

Heckling is not, and should not, be a part of the American sporting tradition or any other.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.