Have the D-backs Enabled Fans Too Much?

Two years ago the Arizona Diamondbacks introduced a program that allows fans to send text messages to security to report unruly fan behavior during a game. At the time I remember applauding this new policy as another example of the team creating a family friendly environment.

Since that time I have seen the process in action on several occasions. I watched as security arrived on the scene where a pregnant Los Angeles Dodgers fan was wielding a mini bat from the team shop and laid open another Dodgers fan who she though had made eyes at her boyfriend/husband (I have to admit, when a hormonal charged female is swinging a wooden bat like a light saber I wasn’t about to go and inquire whether she was married to the guy she was sitting next to).

There have also been those times when alcohol mixed with obnoxious (Yankee/Red Sox/Mets/Phillies) fans have resulted confrontation in the stands where a simple text to Security has cleared up the ruckus and allowed the other fans in the bleachers to enjoy the game.

For the most part the texting policy has been a positive change in the fan experience at Chase Field. There are times though that I wonder whether Diamondbacks fans are beginning to take advantage of the situation.

Arizona has never been known as a baseball town and very few people would mistake the locals as being diehard fans of either the Diamondbacks or baseball as a sport.

In many cases baseball fans at Chase Field are content sitting in the stands saying very little only cheering when the dbTV instructs them to do so. Each year when the season starts I take my place in my seats in Section 132 and hope the energy level will be greater this season than the last. Within a few games it is back to the norm of only cheering when it is absolutely necessary.

It’s bad enough that the fans don’t get fully engaged in the game but this weekend they seemed to even take a step back from that. Friday began a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Phoenix and Los Angeles have a long history of animosity. Much of this is a result of the lively rivalry between the Phoenix Suns and the Los Angeles Lakers. I’ve come to the conclusion that the people of Phoenix have some sort of a younger sibling complex where they can never seem to live up to what their older brother does.

This rivalry has grown to the point where “Beat LA” signs, T-shirts, and Twitter hash tags come out in force whenever the sports teams from these two cities meet. For the most part I find it rather comical.

When both teams are having success the mood becomes even more confrontational. That has not been the case the past two seasons and given the standings that will remain the case this year as well.

The Dodgers have very little hope of climbing back into the National League Western Division lead where the Diamondbacks and the San Francisco Giants are ten games ahead. You have to give credit to the Dodgers fans though. Despite being less than competitive the fans showed up at Chase Field to support their team.

Most of the people in our section are made up of Diamondbacks Season Ticket holders. There are some seats though where the owners sell the individual game tickets. This happens to be the case with the seats next to me.

During the first game of the series I had a diehard Dodgers fan and his girlfriend/wife (yeah I don’t know if she has a mini bat or not so I wasn’t taking any chances) sitting next to me. He was a fairly large guy and was all decked out in Dodger gear including hat, shirt, sweatshirt (because to Dodger fans 111 degrees warrants a sweatshirt), and cell phone cover.

He was your typical diehard fan. He was an extension of the team and took credit for any and all success on the field. He would stand up and point to his Dodgers shirt or hat to make sure everyone knew it was HIS Dodgers that just make that catch, throw, hit, or run. If Diamondbacks fans acknowledged his actions with boos or heckling it just fueled his behavior. These are the kinds of fans who thrive at trash talking.

These kinds of fans are ok. You just have to appreciate their dedication. Of course having the Dodgers win the game made it all the worse for the Diamondbacks who were sitting around him. As fans began leaving the stadium after the game he was sure everyone knew he had tickets to all three games.

Saturday the Dodger fan returned and this time he brought a minion whose sole purpose were to consume beer and cheer for his buddy. To make matters worse the minion was a diehard Cubs fan who was only there because the ticket and the beer were being picked up by his buddy.

Game two of the series was a lot like the first one. The Dodgers pitchers held the Diamondbacks offense in check and the Arizona pitchers did a poor job of keeping the LA hitters off the base paths.

From my vantage point, the Dodger fan was better behaved during the second game than the first. Maybe he didn’t feel the need to impress the minion as much as he did the girlfriend/wife. He was cheering but was definitely not out of control.

Sitting two rows in front of the Dodger and Cubs fans were a set of four Diamondbacks fans. Towards the end of the game after the Dodgers made another great play the minion whistled and the Dodgers fan cheered.

The four Diamondbacks fans turned around and asked them to stop whistling and cheering so loud. I looked up from my scorebook. Did I just hear her say she would appreciate it if these two guys would cheer more softly? Are you kidding? The two fans thought she was.

To his credit, the minion stopped whistling much to the chagrin of his buddy. The Dodger fan felt it was his constitutional right to whistle at a baseball game. The four Diamondbacks fans seemed to beg to differ.

Security was contacted and two very polite security guards came down and sat behind the Dodger fan and his minion and tried to assess the situation. The fans provided their side of the story, which seemed to suffice and the security guards left without incident.

Once they were gone, the Dodger fan was more than a little irritated at being hassled by security for nothing more than cheering for his team. I’ll admit, I was puzzled myself since their behavior was more than appropriate.

The Dodger fan and his minion were talking and the Dodger fan expressed his displeasure and used several “colorful metaphors” and a few curse words. They weren’t yelling nor were they directing their frustration towards anyone in particular.

Obviously the four Diamondbacks fans were frustrated at the poor play of the home team and the lack of movement of the Dodgers fan and his friend. Security was called once again. This time, security escorted the two fans out of the stands and to the top of the section.

The four Diamondbacks fans now vindicated sat and smiled and seemed to almost be waiting for the fans in our section to cheer for them for removing these fans. There was a smattering of claps but mostly a lot of confused looks from the fans around us.

The Diamondbacks mustered a comeback of sorts towards the end of the game and the Diamondbacks fans stood and cheered and whistled for the home team. Security was not called for any of that celebration.

It was an embarrassing incident and one I’ll regret for a long time. These two fans purchased tickets and came to a game to root for their favorite team. Instead they were escorted out of the stands perhaps missing the remainder of the game or at a minimum having to watch it from seats far removed from the action.

While the Diamondbacks began this program to help enhance the fan experience of a game it now seems to be a weapon that some narrow-minded fans can use to take out their frustrations when their team is not playing well and that’s not right. Hopefully this was just a single incident but given my experience I have a feeling this will happen again. I just hope the Diamondbacks act accordingly so they don’t begin to take the fun out of going to the ballpark.

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