The field crasher is happy to briefly transform a sporting event into a Mack Sennett film, providing a memorable dose of slapstick for fans to savor
This week we reach out to give a tip o’ the cap to a time-honoured tradition steeped deeply in one part imbecility and two parts intoxication. It is of course a phenomenon that will not go away in spite of living in the throes of today?s stepped-up security age. The field crasher ? often drunk ? storms the field and behaves like a boob for the short amount of time he is given before being reigned in. Is it all that bad, really ? While it?s true that trespassing is against the law and a fine ? if not charges ? will no doubt be levied, a spark of hijinx can add an element of fun to a stale game. Fans don?t seem to mind and often laugh and eat up the occasion, which is fraught with all manner of silliness and even absurdity.
The stunt, though birthed with mirthful intent, usually doesn?t end well when the trespassing fan gets a little too close to a player. In a heightened security environment that is a staple of the post-9/11 world we live in, security acts quickly and aggressively when protocol is breached this flagrantly. Police are equipped with taser guns and the more traditional types of guns as well in their holsters at all times should things really escalate.
Not all such stunts are playful and harmless. In 2002, a father and son duo ran onto the field during a baseball game and beat the Kansas City Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa with their fists like he owed them money. They were overpowered and restrained, but the damage by that point had been done. To this day, Gamboa claims to have hearing loss stemming from the unprovoked assault which befell him that night.
Other times, a player on the field does not take kindly to the interruption and chooses to mete out justice himself before security does. In a 1971 NFL game, Mike Curtis, a mean linebacker for the Baltimore Colts, flattened a drunk fan who ran on the field and tried to pick up the ball and run away with it. He did not get very far before Curtis lowered the boom knocking him unconscious.
By contrast to the locked-down climes of today, I can recall simpler times in the ?80s when Morganna the Kissing Bandit and her many impersonators would routinely make their way onto the field, interrupting the action in the process. While out on the field, it seemed they were allowed to have the run of the place and the lack of urgency to detain them was all too apparent. This was a time when the trespasser encountered less resistance than German tanks rolling into France.
Today?s field crasher must move fast. He is not afforded the luxury of time or treated with deference once he crosses the point of no return. Morganna was allowed to stroll unmolested at a leisurely pace before being gently whisked away by a bemused security guard. Not anymore. Today?s trespasser is usually seen sprinting. A good running game is a must if you want to add valuable seconds to extend the duration of a stunt destined to be snuffed out rather quickly as the field-crashing fan is quickly overrun by a swarm of security personnel. As the walls close in, he is forced to weave and dodge as he dashes across the field helping make the baseball game resemble a scene from a Mack Sennett film, but he can evade only so long before the inevitable happens.
If you?re sitting there reading this, please don?t get any crazy ideas because, let me be the first to warn you: when you try to storm the gates of SewerBall, you will drown in a moat of sewage. The corpses of dead rats floating in the refuse will not make the experience any more pleasant. So back off !
Lost in all this is that such moments can make delightful ? if not hilarious ? photos. However, there is a conundrum. Photo editors recoil from publishing these photos and, to be fair, they have good reason. Giving exposure to buffoonery begets more buffoonery and while everything is not necessarily a slippery slope, things can spiral out of control quickly if they are allowed to. Rewarding a yahoo with face time and recognition is not a great plan for deterring future bozos from climbing over the wall and making a beeline at Jose Bautista. But it is a bit of a shame because these moments can make excellent photos that no one will ever see. As for watching the game on TV, during a live broadcast of said game, TV cameras either turn away from the fan storming the field or producers are instructed to simply cut away during these moments ? as security takes care of business ? until the game can resume.
There?s a vey good reason why these incidents don?t happen in the second or third inning of games and it has everything to do with alcohol. Most fans are not yet fully loaded by 2:00pm on a Saturday. So how do we spot the field crasher before the moment of entry ? Well, odds are it will be a he. Beyond that, as mentioned above, he will be drunk, but then that begs the question: how do we spot the drunk fan ? Although, it?s not an exact science, I would start by looking for the shirtless fan. Indulge my tortured logic for a minute. While drunkenness is hardly a guarantee of anything, it is basically to shirtlessness what tattoos are to a member of a motorcycle gang ? it is as close to a necessary condition as any. Find a guy without a shirt and you?ve likely stumbled upon someone who is either well on his way or already there. Throw energy drinks into the equation and now we?re not just looking at a drunk anymore, but a turbo-charged drunk.
We may not have our man yet, but we have at least significantly narrowed the pool of suspects. Shirtlessness is a form of exhibitionism and, after all, aren?t douchebags who like to parade about the field of play attention seekers of one kind or another ? I wager that they are. It is well known that drunks are to good judgment what a bathtub toaster is to clear thinking: utter anathema. And let?s be honest: nothing correlates more closely with stupidity than insobriety.
Granted, it is safe to say that most of these pinheads will not be running for elected office at any point in the near future so why should we care ? Good question. Well, the truth is that I don?t much care or feel sorry for them. So there. I think we may have solved the problem ! Most fans are content with the added entertainment field crashers provide before forgetting about the episode entirely. What is interesting is the seemingly inexhaustible supply of these cretins ? okay, lovable and occasionally delightful cretins ? unfamiliar with shame who keep the art of field crashing alive year after year. Clearly the fine is not enough to deter prospective trespassers nor is the threat of criminal charges. So where do they keep coming from ? Who recruits them ? Well, as discussed, I think you already know the answer, don?t you ? The next field crasher could be YOU because the consumption of stadium beer is the proverbial dropping of seed into a very fertile ground of bad ideas. By the seventh or eighth inning, those ideas are past their gestation phase and running all over the field.