Spectators cross border between fans and athletes
Published: Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 15:10
There’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to athletes and sports fans.
Athletes are men and women just like everyone else in the world, the difference being their job, which is to compete in the sport they play and to perform in front of fans.
Fans are spectators. Their job is to simply watch the athletes perform from their designated place within the stands and verbally show how passionate they are about the teams or the game itself.
Whether people see it or not, there is a border separating the area for fans from the area for athletes. Under no circumstances should either party ever cross it.
There are occasions, however, where both fans and athletes forget this unwritten rule. Such was the case during an episode of World Wrestling Entertainment’s (WWE) “Monday Night Raw” on Oct. 8.
At the end of the show in Sacramento, after competing in a match with the Chairman of WWE Vince McMahon, pro-wrestler CM Punk left the ring and hopped over the barricade leading into the audience, running through the crowd and into the stands.
After getting to a certain distance, Punk turned his attention back to the ring where McMahon was addressing him on the microphone. While this was going on the fans surrounding Punk became rowdy and proceeded to shove him around as he stood atop a flight of steps.
Because the show had not completely ended, Punk could be seen on camera attempting to push away the fans as he tried to focus on McMahon in the ring. But the people would not let up and after being pushed in the back of the head, Punk swung at a particular fan behind him, hitting him in the face before pushing him down.
The next day during an interview with WWE’s website, CM Punk gave his account of the events that took place once he ran into the crowd.
“Somebody said, ‘let’s push him down the stairs,’” Punk said. “I got hit in the ribs three times, I was getting shoved and I was getting punched. Then I started getting tagged in the back of the head.”
One might think Punk was right to defend himself in this kind of situation and he was. There was just one problem.
The particular fan he attacked, Charles Schmidt, was not the one that touched him.
According to CBS Sacramento reporter Laura Cole, who attended the show that night, Schmidt filed a police report after the event. Cole said although local police are not following up on the incident, Schmidt said he is considering filing a lawsuit against both Punk and WWE.
Fan altercations, such as this one, are a common occurrence in sports. With fans being so enthusiastic about the game they’re watching and with athletes being amped up from playing, emotions are always high and someone is bound to get upset.
And when someone gets upset, something bad is likely to follow shortly after.
A prime example is the “Malice at the Palace” incident from November 2004 between NBA teams the Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers.
What originally started out as a fight between opposing players during the last minute of the game became worse when a fan decided to throw a drink at then-Pacers player Ron Artest. This enticed Artest to rush into the stands and attack a man who he mistakenly thought to be responsible.
Artest’s outburst would result in an all out brawl between a group of fans and players from both teams.
Although blame was put on both the players and the fans involved for starting the brawl, much of the blame can solely be placed on Artest himself.
An athlete should act professional at all times even when it comes to unruly fans because it comes with the territory of participating in a sport.
His attack was not warranted regardless of what mood he was in because Artest was not physically provoked by any fan at the event.
Another example, from March 2001, is from an NHL game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Maple Leaf player Tie Domi was sent to the penalty box after a play. As he sat in the box Flyer fans, who were seated behind him, began to berate him. Turning to face them Domi squirted water from his bottle over the glass barrier and onto the individuals. The act angered one fan in particular who then climbed into the box to fight him.
This is a situation where a fan invaded an athlete’s domain as no one but players are allowed in the penalty box. Therefore, Domi was right to defend himself.
Over the years steps have been taken to prevent further incidents such as heightened security at all events, but the fact is that these altercations will always occur at games and never fully go away.
And as long as that border continues to be crossed, it looks like athletes will have another opponent to worry about.