To fence or not to fence, that is the question. After a firefighter fell and died going after a ball at a Rangers game a few weeks ago, a man died in May sliding down a railing at Coors Field and a man almost fell during the Home Run Derby, the question has been raised as to whether major league baseball should take measures to protect fans -- in some instances from themselves. It's a touchy subject, but I'm going to take a stab at it.
In the case of the firefighter, it was an unfortunate accident. He didn't do anything wrong except for reaching a little too far and losing his balance. Mistakes will happen, and I feel horrible for his family, but the actions of others are going to put a barrier between the fans and the game they love.
The man at the Home Run Derby is a different story. I'm going on the pictures I saw on sports sites and people describing the situation, so my perspective is derived from that.
There's a picture of this gentleman on top of what seems to be a table or ledge with, maybe, two inches of the fence above his feet. At one point he decided it was cool to go after a home run ball and promptly began to fall to the level below which was about 20-feet below. Luckily for him, his brother and friends were nearby and were able to pull him back after he fell over the railing. Crisis averted.
However it's this type of behavior that's going to force MLB to take action. When fans actions are over the top and aggressive, it's a tough situation for the MLB. They don't want to put a barrier between the game and fans, but they also don't want to have fans falling from the stands.
What should the powers that be in the MLB do to remedy the situation? I think it's easy.
If a fan is seen displaying behavior that is dangerous to themselves or others, they should be escorted from the park immediately. If they're a repeat offender, they should be put into a database that limits where they can purchase seats, leaving them stranded on the lower level.
I can already hear the rumbles of "We pay for the tickets, we should be able to have a good time" and that's correct, but you pay to watch the game. When your actions have the chance to harm yourself or others, it needs to be addressed. I would go as far as permanently banning a fan if they continue to flaunt the rule.
I love to watch sports, but I'm getting more worried as the line between players and fans is getting more blurred. It seems fans are not content to be spectators anymore; they want to be part of the action. They want the fame of being on Sportscenter for a nice outfield catch or causing a game to halt while they run on the field or make a ruckus in the stands.
I understand the allure of it though. Covering high school sports, I tend to be as close to the action as the referees or umpires will allow and when I'm forced back it feels strange. The intensity drops and that electric charge you get standing on the sideline or under the hoop drops dramatically.
However, I understand when a referee comes up to me and explains the reason he doesn't want me in a certain place is to protect the athletes -- which in turn protects me as well.
I think the MLB should look at banning fans, stripping season tickets and doing whatever they need to do to get the situation under control. Attending a sporting event is an amazing experience and it's easy to get caught up in the moment, the trick is not letting that moment be your last.