Don't Throw Chairs at the Customers!
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com - Don’t
throw chairs at the customers! That should be rule number one for any
professional organization providing a product, service, or entertainment
to the general public. But apparently it is a policy that has not been
shared with Major League Baseball … specifically the Texas Rangers.
In an incident still being investigated, Texas Rangers rookie relief
pitcher Frankie Francisco hurled a folding chair into the right field
box seats at the Oakland Coliseum last Monday, hitting two spectators
in the head.
Jennifer Bueno, who had her nose broken in the incident, plans to seek
compensation for her injury once prosecutors and baseball officials have
completed their investigation.
On Friday, Francisco was suspended for the remaining 16 games of the
regular season pending appeal. He began serving his suspension over the
weekend. It is the most severe penalty for on field conduct since former
Cincinnati Reds Manager Pete Rose was suspended for pushing an umpire
in 1988. But is it enough?
The incident begs an obvious question: what could possibly possess the
American League Rookie of the Month for August to do such a thing? The
Rangers are quick to point at profanity-laced threats directed toward
the Texas bullpen that were flowing freely the entire game in question.
Unfortunately, Bueno was sitting in the general vicinity of the relentless
war of words between fans and players. Ranger pitcher Francisco Cordero
reportedly told Sporting News Radio the day after the altercation
that the fans were “way out of control” the night of the incident.
I was not there on Monday evening but as someone who has spent a great
deal of time in Major League stadiums over the years I have a high degree
of difficulty believing that the incident in question was much different
than any others that occur in stadiums on a nightly basis. The main difference
in this case was players entering the stands and a chair being used as
Fans believe they have a right to heckle if they so choose. Conversely,
players believe they have a right to retaliate against barbed threats
directed toward them.
Fans heckling players is a problem that is far from being new. A journey
into the annals of baseball history finds that Detroit Tigers Hall of
Famer Ty Cobb entered the stands in 1912 to beat up a heckler. Unfortunately,
the man the Georgia Peach pummeled had only one hand. In 1922, Babe Ruth
responded to a bunch of overly critical fans by jumping on top of the
New York Yankees dugout and challenging them all to a fight. There were
no takers. More recently, Cleveland Indians outfielder Albert Belle fired
a baseball at a fans chest from about 15 feet away for calling him Joey
in 1991. Los Angeles Dodger outfielder Reggie Smith went into the stands
after a fan in 1981. Fans stole Dodger catcher Chad Kreuter’s hat
in 2000. The list could go on and on.
So who is right and who is wrong in these ugly episodes? I believe both
parties are at fault. However, the blame game comes with a variety of
contributing factors. Among them … too much beer, not enough security,
and a strong sense of fan entitlement.
Let’s start with beer. America’s alcoholic beverage of choice
has long been associated with the game of baseball. Despite attempts by
beer companies to encourage fans to drink responsibly, their public service
announcements fall largely on deaf ears. For every fan who takes this
advice to heart, there are five others who think nothing of consuming
eight, 10, sometimes 12 beers over the course of a nine inning game. You
do the math. Double digit consumption spells trouble.
To demand that Major League Baseball remove beer from the ballpark experience
is a difficult proposition although a necessary one. Unfortunately, baseball
and beer companies have been cozy bedfellows since the dead ball era of
a century ago. Through advertising, sponsorship, and in park sales, the
beer industry indirectly provides Major League franchises with enough
revenue to maintain ticket prices at a fairly reasonable level. The end
result is that game tickets become much more attractive to fiscally prudent
families. It is a vicious cycle really. To make ticket prices more family
friendly the product that often prohibits a family atmosphere is a necessity
in a Major League team’s revenue model.
While it is nearly impossible to think that beer will be removed entirely
from the ballpark experience, strict limitations must be placed on the
consumption of such products and highly enforced. Not just putting up
the necessary signs around the ballpark as required by a team’s
legal department but actually taking measures to make sure policies are
being adhered to. If it is not happening already, Major League Baseball
and the various food service companies contracted to sell alcoholic beverages
must collaborate on an iron clad policy.
Another area that needs to be examined very closely is an obvious one:
security. Siding with the players, many media pundits suggested last week
that more security needed to be installed at ballparks to prevent future
incidents. One respected baseball journalist, who will remain nameless,
suggested that security at baseball stadiums needed to be increased by
ten fold to make sure players are protected from the fans. Excuse me,
but according to the police report the player threw the chair.
More security is not the answer but better security is. For some teams,
their idea of security is an elderly gentleman in an Acme Security Corp.
blazer. A better solution would be to have a security staff that is highly
trained in diffusing situations commonly found at ballparks. These types
of situations include public drunkenness, fighting, and yes, profanity
laced heckling. Better training will go a long way in establishing what
is and what is not acceptable behavior. If this is happening in your ballpark
If these types of incidents, such as Monday night’s chair match
continue to increase, in coming seasons it is not hard to imagine a scenario
where fans will be greeted at the ballpark gate by barbed wire and brutish
security guards sporting machine guns.
A third area for examination is the pervasive feeling of fan entitlement.
Many people believe that because they have paid $15 dollars to get into
the game that they should be allowed to say and do whatever they want.
Further muddying perceptions of entitlement are those who think that because
these are million dollar athletes playing a child’s game that they
deserve to be heckled automatically. Why? Because players don’t
know what it is like to earn an honest day’s pay. They fail to remember
that most of these athletes have sacrificed greatly to earn a place on
Major League playing field.
Finally, we must remember that we are living in an era that glorifies
instant celebrity. Many baseball fans remember the ill conceived exploits
of William Ligue Jr. Ligue, who was attending a Chicago White Sox game
with his 15 year old son in 2002, called his sister in advance to tell
her be sure to watch the 11 o’clock news because he was going to
be on television. Ligue was true to his word. After taunting Kansas City
Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa throughout the game, Ligue II and Ligue
III rushed onto the field in the ninth inning, knocked him down, and beat
him until the blood flowed.
Why did this incident happen? I believe it is because we are living in
a society that places great value on instant celebrity. We glorify average
Joe’s who can outwit, outlast, and outplay others, sometimes underhandedly,
for a million dollars. We love it when a famous business tycoon who appears
to have a sleeping squirrel on his head, fires someone who could be our
next door neighbor. Much of America thinks nothing of a show that does
not condemn but celebrates contestants who swap wives on television.
We are a nation who desperately needs to be entertained. The lowest common
denominator continues to be lowered with each passing day. If throwing
a chair works on wrestling shows why can’t it work at a Major League
But that is big picture stuff. In the here and now we have a player who
was driven to rage by a group of fans. A chair was thrown and a fan was
seriously injured. Was Frankie Francisco wrong to commit such an act of
hostility? Of course he was. Despite the mean spirited epithets spewed
by a few overzealous fans, Francisco in no way, shape, or form should
be exonerated. He would be well served to accept his suspension, agree
to whatever local law enforcement authorities charge him with, and do
absolutely everything in his power to make sure such an act never takes
Undoubtedly, a lawsuit will be filed, the victim will be awarded an exorbitant
amount of money, and justice will be served. Or will it?
It is my hope that eventually Jennifer Bueno will forgive Frankie Francisco
for what he did. I am certain that she must be feeling a wide range of
emotions … anger, fear, frustration, anxiety, depression, just to
name a few. But she will never experience true freedom until she is willing
to let go of what has happened.
As Christians it is imperative to love those who hurt us. We are to treat
others fairly and with kindness, not sparing the justice we ourselves
wish to be shown. When mistreated by others, our response should be one
of positive behavior, not allowing right or wrong to be determined from
our emotions or feelings. God commands us to exchange hate for love.
It is very understandable to have contrasting thoughts regarding this
philosophy especially when you have been struck in the nose by a folding
In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus says, “But I say to you who hear: Love your
enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and
pray for those who spitefully use you.”
In this passage, the Jews despised the Romans because they oppressed
God’s people, but Jesus told the people to love their enemies. Loving
your enemies means acting in their best interests. We can pray for them,
and we can think of ways to help them. Jesus loved the whole world even
when most of it hated Him. Jesus asks us to follow His example by loving
At times this is a very difficult concept for us to practice due to all
of the physical and emotional hurt that is brought upon us by others.
But if we are to live by faith, we are to grant our enemies the same respect
and rights that we desire for ourselves.
And don’t throw chairs at the customers!
Information contained within this article from the Transformer
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