Shapeshift

NFL Fan Violence

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I thought that this article was an interesting read.... NFL stadiums are lawless at times!

>>Loutish Fans Disgrace the NFL

By MARK YOST

October 16, 2007; Page D6

Orchard Park, N.Y.

Three hours before the "Monday Night Football" game against the Dallas Cowboys, Chris Clark, a former Erie County sheriff who is now head of security for the Buffalo Bills, was making his pregame rounds.

"How's the crowd?" he asked two deputies.

"It's gonna get ugly," one of them predicted.

They should know. During a game last year, the officers had to leave their patrol car. When they returned, all four tires had been deflated and their car was littered with empty beer cans.

Unruly behavior at sporting events has been one of the most visible signs of the coarsening of American culture, but the NFL is in a league of its own. One reason is the sheer size of the crowds. The Washington Redskins, who lead the National Football League in attendance, draw about 90,000 fans per game, almost twice the average number of baseball fans at Yankee Stadium and four times the number of spectators at the best-attended National Basketball Association and National Hockey League games.

The other reason is tailgating. While television cooking shows tend to focus on the food, walk through most NFL stadium parking lots and the clear focus is on alcohol. And lots of it.

"The Twins fans come in and have one or two beers," said Marty Neumann, manager of The Little Wagon, a sports bar near Minneapolis's Metrodome. "The Vikings fans come in and have 10."

This hasn't gone unnoticed by the NFL, which regularly gathers and shares best practices in crowd control. Among the findings is that there's a direct correlation between season-ticket subscription rates and fan behavior. "If a team has a 10-year waiting list for tickets, most fans don't want to risk losing their season tickets," said Scott Berchtold, a Bills spokesman who used to work for the Green Bay Packers.

Teams have also found that making season-ticket holders accountable for any bad behavior that occurs in their seats -- even if it happens when someone else is sitting in them -- works. "If we get a bad report, we call the ticket holder and tell them that if there's another problem, regardless of who's sitting in the seats, their tickets will be revoked," said Houston Texans President Jamey Rootes. The team has never had to make a second call. The Bills have started to do the same thing.

The NFL's stadium-building boom over the past decade has helped, too. Personal seat licenses and premium seating tend to price out some of the thugs. Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium was long considered the worst in the league for fan behavior. Cops used to walk through the stands in visiting team jerseys to bait thugs who preyed on visiting fans. Things were so bad that there was a courtroom right in the stadium to arraign the worst offenders. Things have gotten better since the Eagles moved in 2003 to Lincoln Financial Field, which has new luxury suites and nearly 11,000 Club seats that cost $800 or more a game. "The more expensive the experience, the less inclined fans are to ruin it," said Houston's Mr. Rootes.

These trends partly explain the general state of fan behavior in Buffalo. Ralph Wilson Stadium was built in 1973 and holds 74,000, but there are only about 48,000 season ticket holders. That means about a third of the attendees have nothing to lose if they misbehave.

The Bills have tried to change that by actually starting to arrest people. In the first four home games of the season, the Bills arrested 51 fans, ejected 162 and turned away 43 who were either too drunk to be admitted or wore clothing deemed offensive.

The Bills have also started using the old-fashioned method of public shame as a deterrent. Starting this season, the Orchard Park police are publicizing the names and addresses of people arrested at games. "The headline in the paper after the first game was '23 arrested at Bills game,' " said Mr. Clark, the Bills' security chief. He credits the policy for cutting the number of arrests in half for the second home game.

The quality of play is also a factor in crowd behavior. "If fans are focused on the game, there tends to be less time for troublemaking," said Mr. Clark. Unfortunately, the team can count on one hand its number of winning seasons over the past decade.

Despite earnest efforts by football teams and the league, talk to most any NFL fan and he has a horror story to tell. Larry Becker, a Long Island oral surgeon, stopped taking his kids to New York Jets games because of the drunkenness and foul language they were exposed to. When Dr. Becker made the mistake of asking some fans to watch their language around his children, he was told to buzz off -- in language that can't be repeated in a family newspaper. "Their attitude is they've paid a lot of money for these tickets and they're going to do whatever they want to do," said Rick Bonadeo, a Jets fan from Boonton, N.J.

In Buffalo, the unruly behavior often spills over into the luxury suites, prompting Mr. Clark to post guards outside each one. "Fans would just walk in and use the bathroom," said Bills suite-holder Ed Shill. "In the warm weather, when the windows were open, they'd dive in and grab food and beer. In the winter, when it's 20-below outside and we're in our shirtsleeves drinking hot chocolate, they'd throw things at the windows and give us the finger."

Night games are the worst. "They drink like it's a one o'clock start," Mr. Shill said.

That was very much in evidence during the Monday Night game. It was, without a doubt, the drunkest crowd I've ever seen at any sporting event. Many fans stumbling to their seats just before kickoff were absolutely plastered.

Walking through the parking lot before the game, I witnessed a scene all too common at NFL tailgates: home fans taunting the visitors with four-letter expletives. What made the scene here particularly appalling was the target -- a family of Cowboys fans with two small children. And the taunt, repeated throughout the stadium by Bills fans, questioned Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's sexual orientation (think of what rhymes with "Romo"). I wonder how the parents explained that one.

So what was the tally at the end of the first "Monday Night Football" game in Buffalo in 13 years? There were 58 arrests, 111 ejections and 46 turnarounds at the gate. The charges included three for assault, six for obstructing governmental administration, 17 for resisting arrest, two for criminal mischief, 31 for disorderly conduct, two for exposure, 14 for harassment, 19 for criminal trespass, one for criminal possession of marijuana, and one for unlawful possession of alcohol (underage drinking).

Clearly Mr. Clark, the Bills' security chief, still has his work cut out for him.<<

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They should know. During a game last year, the officers had to leave their patrol car. When they returned, all four tires had been deflated and their car was littered with empty beer cans.

Uh, what? That is nuts.

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wide right!

Well thought out response...thanks for $haring....some Buffalo fans are an embarassment at the games...the lax security and the tailgating for hours on end attribute to this..not to mention the old stadium and lower ticket prices invite the rifraff, and the losing. But of couse, NO Dalla$ fans were involved... :rolleyes:

Edited by LOTCB

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The NFLs biggest sponsors is BEER! They pretty much make it the norm to have beer for football! Now they are looking at it as a problem!?!

LOL

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