Saturday, April 13, 2013
Gameday testimonials: Drunks in stands
By Kevin Seifert
This week's discussion about the NFL gameday experience, specifically the impact of drunk and/or aggressive behavior, opened the proverbial floodgate. Many of you sent detailed descriptions of encounters that ranged from uncomfortable to dangerous in NFL stadiums, and I thought it was worth passing some of them along to help flesh out an an important -- but not easily fixable -- problem.
To be clear, not all drunk people at NFL games cause problems, and not all problems are caused by drunk people. But anecdotal experiences are powerful, and as many of you noted, a section filled with thousands of people can be disrupted by just two or three trouble-makers.
NFC North fans seem to agree that working to curb unruly behavior by fans should be an NFL priority.
Below, you'll see testimonials from people who have been disrupted, and from one who has been the disruptor. You will also get some perspective from a man with experience as a beer vendor. First, however, we hear from a reader who wondered if a fan will die in the stands before a player dies on the field -- a reference to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's reported concerns about player safety:
Mike of Seattle: "It is a problem. My son (9 1/2) begged to go to a Seahawks game. So I took him to the 49ers/Hawks end of the year game last season. Great game for Hawks, but he spent most of the time being amazed by the drunks in the 300 level, ducking beer flying out of sloshing cups, etc... With wide eyes, at home, he told mom ... I don't want to go again. I will stick with the MLS Sounders. Security is really not present in the stadiums ... there will be deaths in the stands before on the field."
Holly of Minneapolis: "I had Vikings season tickets for ten years and always brought one of my three sons with me. The only game I wouldn't take them to, until they were around 11, was the Packer and Viking game. There is always some green idiot fighting with some purple idiot. I really thought they should see some real sportsmanship first. The drunks always made it hard with kids."
Joe of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey: "Reducing the number of drunks at NFL games is the top priority to making the fan experience much better. Last night I attended WWE RAW at the Izod Center with my 5 year old son and there were zero instances of bad fan behavior which I was shocked by. The perception of wrestling fans is much worse than NFL fans, but I rarely heard any curses, people were passionate but not towards each other and there were no fights. Compare that to any NFL game (I went to Jets games for 20 years), where there are dozens of fights per game plus the worst language you will hear in public which is a shame. Like some of the tweets you included in your piece, I would be very hesitant about taking my son to a NFL game."
Al of Seattle agrees that ejecting fans on the first sign of aggressive behavior could help: "I had season tickets to the Hawks for 8 years. I took my daughters to a few when they were young but once they had a decent grasp of the English language I stuck with my group of adults. It takes only one drunk to ruin it for a whole section. However, they usually travel in packs, I know, we've been THOSE fans. It took us ONE time getting thrown out before halftime and although we still tailgate with the best of them, we pay a lot to attend these games and leaving early woke us up. Stadiums need a quick hook and hit people in the wallet, that wakes people up."
Daniel of San Antonio: "It's not just drunken behavior -- it's bad behavior in general. Inconsiderate or belligerent people don't need any alcohol in order to ply their trade."
Kent of Blackstone, Va.: "My son and I are avid Packer fans and have been for life but living in Virginia forces us to only be able to follow the team on tv. One of my suppliers from work offered us 2 tickets to see Wash. -vs- GB late in Brett Favre's career in GB. The game was at FedEx Field. My son was probably in 6th grade and on cloud 9 that entire weekend. The game was closely contested and the beer was flowing freely on a warm Sunday afternoon. Fans became testy late in the game and on 2 occasions the local police were called in to break up fights near our seats. Beers and punches were thrown within feet of us.
"It would seem like something should be done to limit alcohol consumption at NFL games. I counted 12 containers around the feet of one of the guys who was escorted out and no telling how many he downed in the parking lot before the game. By games' end I'm not sure if the guy knew who was playing. Families should be able to take kids to an NFL game and not feel threatened by nasty drunks. The league has a responsibility to make NFL venues safe for all patrons, especially considering a kid's ticket is the same cost as an adults."
Meanwhile, Lee of Milwaukee had this to say about serving beer to football fans: "I can say that I appreciate when fans speak up about an obnoxious guest. There are times when a group of fans will order a round of beers and they don't seem drunk but are obviously rowdy, and I will ask the fans around them to let me know if anyone is getting annoyingly drunk, because I can't watch them the entire game to know if they have had too much to drink."