Photo Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports
File this one under both Babies and Bathwater.
The Toronto Blue Jays play 81 games per season at Rogers Centre. This postseason so far they’ve played one more than that, and last year’s playoff run brought an additional six. That is 169 times that fans have filled the building over the last two years. In the regular season alone they’ve sold 6,189,990 seats. Add in about 50,000 more for each playoff date and that’s more than 6.5-million. Some of them have been repeat customers, but still! Six-and-a-half-million!
And while one incident with a beer can being hurled onto the field is one too many, and one instance of racial slurs being slung in the direction of human beings on the opposing team is inexcusable, the Globe and Mail’s finger-wagging suggestion in an editorial this week that “wiser team owners would consider an alcohol ban at the ballpark” but that there is “too much profit in beer, and too much riding on its fan-boosting properties” is utterly preposterous.
Full disclosure — and this may come as a shock to some of you — but I enjoy an alcoholic beverage from time to time! And I like to drink at baseball games. But this isn’t just me unthinkingly bristling about the Globe wanting to take away something I happen to enjoy. Nor is it some bullshit “not all fans” plea for lenience. I’ve written about how embarrassing the beer toss and the allegations of racism are, and how it’s on the whole culture to do a better job of policing themselves.
This stuff is a problem, and a problem that deserves deeper consideration than the way we seem to have shrugged our shoulders and moved on from the incidents mentioned in the Globe’s editorial, as well as others not mentioned — the hurled debris that caused Jim Leyland of the Tigers to pull his team off the field in the 2009 home opener, or the beer thrown at the O’s Nate McLouth in 2013 that caused a fan to be ejected.
These are all troubling incidents. So too were the Toonie Tuesday fights on the 500 level that went on for years — often actually fuelled by alcohol restrictions, because people were downing enough booze for a full game before they entered the park, or sneaking in their own hard liquor. So it is every time a fan jumps over the wall to run onto the field.
But some perspective is in order on this kind of stuff. Six-and-a-half-million fans over two years, after all.
There has been much hue and cry about the latest beer throwing incident (and, disturbingly, less so about the racial allegations), but the response has been fairly positive and close to uniform: we’re all disgusted by the act and feel there’s no place for it. The story was a sensation precisely for that reason. Fans reviewed the footage like it was the Zapruder film in hopes of finding the culprit for this exact reason.
These aren’t the deplorables of the editorial’s silly word-of-the-moment headline, or the degenerate masses caricatured in the bad public art that overhangs the corners of stadium. And this doesn’t require a musty old solution pulled straight from phony old boring, repressed, teetotaling Toronto The Good.
I get that it’s a thing to fuss about right now, and I get that maybe the editorial page of the Globe and Mail is the sort of place where looking down one’s nose at the filthy, uncontrollable masses will generate nodding agreement from the pearl-clutching set. But if you held every other licensed operation to the same kind of standard you’d shut down half the city.
I don’t think that anybody should be opposed to measures to help curb this kind of nonsense — pouring all beers into plastic cups (like I’m pretty sure they used to do), for example — or clearly delineated warnings that engaging in, or even simply tolerating this kind of behaviour will have consequences for everybody.
Should that be necessary? No. But do Rogers and the Blue Jays need to be admonished as a bunch of indecorous greed-heads for not rushing to grab the beers from the hands of the slobs they’ve dared let mingle with the upstanding Globe editorial board types? OH. WAIT. I mean from the dangerous people who might hurl cans at ballplayers! Jeez, I almost forgot what this was about for a second!
Spare us the pantomime. Alcohol and baseball is a combination that has been engaged in responsibly millions upon millions of times in just this city in the just last two seasons alone. Let’s maybe not go off the deep end in our rush to make sure everybody knows that we know that what happened on Tuesday was embarrassing and unacceptable, eh?