Cheering: A Fine Line

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Daniel Hudson did just about everything he could to ensure he would finally win his tenth game of the season. Not only did he pitch a complete game allowing just five hits but Hudson also hit his first major league home run and drove in three runs to pace the home team to a 4-1 win.

And while all of the drama that went along with a pitching duel would make for compelling journalism that’s not the subject of this column. Instead I want to talk about the activities that occurred off the playing field.

Whenever the Los Angeles Dodgers come to Chase Field you can also count on several things happening. Typically a Dodgers series will mean a larger than average crowd in the stands. Many of the extra fans in attendance will undoubtedly be dressed in Dodger blue. Despite the fact that LA is struggling this season on the field and in the front office, their fans remain loyal and support their team.

The other given that will occur at least once during every Dodgers series is that there will be some sort of disturbance in the stands that will result in a fight or a call to security to break up groups of fans who are a little too passionate about their favorite teams.

Most of these cases are simply an escalation of emotions during a game that ends up with fans shouting at each other and possibly some pushing or shoving. Granted there are a few of these encounters that go beyond minor interaction like when the two pregnant went at each other last season with Team Shop mini bats resulting in a split skull and several stitches.

Please don’t misinterpret my comments. I am not suggesting that these confrontations are the fault of the Dodger fans. These arguments are generally bi-directional with both team’s fans shouldering the blame.

These episodes have become so common that you can generally see how things are going to play out innings before the actual fight occurs. Tonight was a prime example of just such a battle brewing.

Before the game began four fans dressed in Los Angeles Dodgers apparel sat just a few seats down from us. These were four young men who obviously cared deeply for their team and held some disdain for any team playing against the Dodgers.

During player introductions the four Dodger fans began booing the Diamondbacks players. At first people around them looked over and smiled graciously letting them get their emotions out in the open.

Once the game started the four fans would make sure everyone around them knew how much they loved the Dodgers and how much they hated the Diamondbacks. When a play went the Dodgers way they were on their feet cheering loudly and when things went Arizona’s way they let everyone know how unfair it was.

Fans just cheering against the home team will likely be tolerated but when they begin getting in your face and challenging you and your allegiance to your team is normally when things start to go south.

There appears to be a fine line between vocally cheering for your team and becoming confrontational. In the case of tonight’s game the four Dodger fans crossed that line when they would stand and walk over to Diamondbacks fans and wave Dodger shirts in front of their faces. This was of course met by Arizona fans waving Diamondbacks shirts back at the LA fans and increasing the verbal barbs.

Normally at this point someone will either notify guest relations or sending a text message to security. Ushers will attempt to come down and diffuse the situation asking both parties to calm down. If that does not occur the next step will be for security to come down and escort the parties to the top of the section to attempt to get the whole story. Barring that, sheriff’s deputies will be called to forcefully remove the fans from the stands.

In all cases both guest relations and security act very professionally and handle the situation as best they can without belittling either side. Of course the parties involved in the disagreement feel victimized and will make a production out of being asked to leave their seats. The march to the top of the section resembles something out of a professional wrestling pre-match rumble.

So as the four Dodger fans made their way to the top of the section amid a chorus of boos by Diamondbacks fans, you did have to applaud the Diamondbacks for taking these types of disturbances seriously. It’s better to have four slightly inebriated unhappy fans led out of the stands by security than reading about a fan clinging to life after being brutally beaten for rooting for the wrong team.

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