First, a little perspective. I sit in the Black Hole at Oakland Coliseum for Raiders games and am more familiar with Oakland sports fans that any other member of the national media. I don't actually sit in the press box when I attend sporting events. I sit with the fans to make sure that I can see and relate to what is going on in their minds.
Oakland fans are similar to the hardcore fans that reside in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. They live and die with the efforts and outcome of their beloved home team and hate to lose. The A's are in the middle of a playoff race and this game was surrounded with tension because the overall outcome of the American League West and wild-card race could depend on the outcome of just one game in September.
Fans in Oakland have the luxury of sitting on top of the opposing team’s bullpen, and I have heard the vile trash talking that goes on down the left field line. These fans can be brutal with their references to players’ wives and families and they usually mix in a reference to a player’s midsection if he needs to drop a few pounds. The Oakland Athletics organization and several fans who attended Monday night’s game have tried to spin to the world that no profanity was used in the heckling of Texas' bullpen pitchers and catchers. Yeah right, and I'm sure that all of these fans were drinking milk to wash down their chocolate cookies that they consumed throughout the game.
It is obvious to any fan that has ever attended a sporting event that Frank Francisco was out of his mind when he threw a chair into the crowd that ended up breaking the nose of a woman who happened to be sitting in a section with several obnoxious fans. Francisco didn't snap because the fans were just heckling him about the outcome of the game or because he was a member of the opposition. He freaked out because something was said to make him blow his top and he couldn't handle it anymore. This is still no excuse to go into the stands or throw an object at an innocent woman who came to the Coliseum to enjoy an evening with her husband and watch the A's beat the Rangers.
This topic is about fans who are allowed to get out of control each night at specific ballparks without security guards and ushers removing them from the stadium. Fans have the right to drink alcoholic beverages and act responsible while heckling the opposing team or even the home team, but must be removed when the trash talk gets personal and profanity is used in excess. Several fans called my show in outrage this week because they feel that they can't take their kids to games anymore because of the foul language that permeates around them. No parent wants to confront a fan in the middle of the game because they are uncomfortable with the obscenities that are being lobed around them like hand grenades. A typical drunk fan in Oakland is the same as the belligerent fan at a Yankees game in the Bronx or an Eagles fan in Philadelphia.
I would bet my last dollar that a situation like what happened in Oakland on Monday night would never take place in Milwaukee or St. Louis. This typically happens in stadiums and arenas where fans are over the top and consume too much alcohol and too many other fans don't have the guts to stand up and confront the idiots who are ruining the game for everyone else.
Bud Selig needs to suspend Frank Francisco for the remainder of the season and fine him the most money in baseball history. If that does happen, get ready for the players union to file a grievance after the suspension and fine comes down, but Selig better hold his ground and send a message to every player in baseball that going into the stands or throwing objects at fans will never be tolerated.
My two boys are too young to go to baseball games and understand what it going on around them, but I do and will make sure that I always protect them. I won't have to protect them from players, but most likely some drunk fans who continue to embarrass themselves and ruin a great night out for all fans that have class. This has to stop, and fans need to draw a line and protect the the personal space and individual rights that all sports fans have when they step into a stadium or arena.
HBT: Carlos Ruiz was lifted from Sunday afternoon’s game against the Reds after straining his right hamstring while running the bases in the bottom of the second inning.
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