Vern's Verbal Vibe

Singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist and purveyor of folk 'n' roll: spirit-filled sad songs made better.

October 05, 2016

Let's Go, Bro Jays?

How about those polite Canadian fans, eh? Viewers across Canada and the United States witnessed yet another example of boorish behaviour last night when a Rogers Centre bleacher creature threw a beer can at Orioles' LF Hyun Soo Kim as he was tracking a routine fly ball. An embarrassing but isolated incident—the actions of one drunken idiot. Right?

Wrong. I wasn't there, but here's an eyewitness account from CBC reporter Jamie Strashin, who was: "Unfortunately, it's not just one idiot. There were again numerous fights at last night's game (I witnessed two from my seat along the first-base line) and a beer can may not have been the only thing hurled from the crowd. There were reports of racial slurs lobbed at Orioles outfielders Jones, an African-American, and Kim, who hails from South Korea. CBC sports reporter Scott Regehr was at the game and says Orioles first-base coach Wayne Kirby, a heavyset black man, got a rough ride from four 20-somethings decked out in Blue Jays garb sitting near him. 'They were yelling at him to go get some more fried chicken,' Regehr says. Regehr says the same quartet that was going after Kirby almost came to blows with another group nearby. Ushers came to speak to both groups but nobody was ejected and the tension remained. 'Watching this great game became secondary,' he says. 'People were concerned about their safety and whether this fight was going [to] erupt.'"

I'll quote another section from the article because it's spot-on, and not coincidentally the main reason I rarely attend Jays' games these days: "With Jays tickets relatively affordable compared to those for Leafs and Raptors games, the Rogers Centre seems to attract a younger crowd. And it's a crowd looking to have a good time. For many, the game appears to be only a backdrop to party. In a province obsessed with liquor regulation, the Rogers Centre sometimes resembles a free-for-all. If anybody was actually cut off Tuesday night, I didn't see it. It seemed everywhere you looked, somebody was double-fisting a pair of tall cans. Beyond carding people, is anybody actually monitoring beer sales? Yes, you can only buy two at a time, but in my section alone, at least a dozen clearly intoxicated people continued to return to their seats with fresh rounds. Who knows how many cans of beer the team sold at prices ranging from $10.50 to $14? A whole lot, as the long lines for the men's bathrooms would suggest. By the seventh inning, the same uncomfortable edge felt during last year's playoffs had set in. For the most part, stadium staff and ushers appeared overwhelmed and unable to contain unruly behaviour. After last year's incident-filled playoffs, there hasn't been a noticeable increase in security or police personnel to deal with combative fans."

The solution is obvious, and you know and I know that no one will go within a million miles of it: stop selling liquor at sporting events. Let the bros who use watching the game as an excuse to drink themselves stupid do so in bars or in their own homes, where they can pelt their TV sets with beer cans and yell any base insult of their choice. If my surefire fix is unpalatable, how about at the very least (a) cutting off liquor sales earlier and enforcing that cutoff; (b) jacking up the prices to whatever level it takes to prevent public drunkenness; (c) expanding the non-alcohol sections at Rogers Centre?

In a statement on their Twitter feed, the Blue Jays apologized to the Orioles and Major League Baseball, and among other things made a vague promise that "we will also enact heightened security measures and alcohol policies that will ensure the fan experience and safety of everyone involved." Translation: someone like me will be barred from bringing a plastic water bottle into the stadium, while sales of tall cans go on unimpeded. Cheers! And let's go, Bro Jays.

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