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Wednesday, August 8, 2001
Updated: July 21, 10:53 AM ET
Bane of the ballpark

By Bill Simmons
Page 2 columnist

Maybe the most alarming development of the 21st century -- other than reality TV shows, Freddie Prinze Jr, bobble-head dolls and the fact that some females actually identify with the dysfunctional characters on "Sex and the City" -- has been the declining standards of etiquette in our society.

Yankees nut
Don't worry: You're sitting right behind this guy.
Whether it's Little League parents, inconsiderate cell phoners, road rage, air rage, gabbing in movie theaters, unprovoked assaults, venom-spewing spectators or whatever else, everyone just seems to be bugging everyone else.

Of course, there isn't a livelier venue for dissension than a summer baseball game. It's sticky and uncomfortable. And expensive. Fans are crammed into every crevice of the park. Passions are running high. People are drinking. And since every social group is represented, you have a number of Those Guys at the game. Let the peeving begin!

With that in mind, here's one man's list of the "20 Most Annoying Fans at a Baseball Game":

Honorable Mentions
  • The guy who buys a souvenir bat before the game and spends the whole game tapping it against the floor and/or your seat.

  • The guy who keeps swearing in a section filled with kids.

  • The guy who's dipping Skoal and spitting juice on the floor.

  • The fat guy who leans over the wall trying to get a rolling foul ball and inadvertently exposes his butt crack.

  • The guy wearing a replica jersey with his own name on the back.

  • The guy sitting in the section directly behind the home team's dugout who believes that every 1-2-3 inning by a veteran pitcher deserves a standing ovation.

  • The guy who throws half-used mustard packets in the aisle so everyone can step on them.

  • The guy who runs out on the field.

    Ejected fan
    The guy who runs on the field: a time-honored tradition that won't go away.
  • The sweaty, uncomfortable guy who's too big to be sitting in the tiny seat next to you.

  • The drunken guy at Fenway who's watching the Red Sox lose to Tampa Bay by eight runs and suddenly tries to get a "Yankees Suck!" chant going.

  • The guy who gets mustard all over himself and doesn't realize it.

  • The awkward teenager who makes bad jokes and holds a sign up all game, usually during key at-bats.

  • The guy who takes his shirt off.

  • The guy in the bleachers who tries to start the Wave, then gets belligerent when everyone ignores him.

  • The guy who thinks he's a baseball scout.

  • The guy who makes a mosh pit-style leap into a crowd of people vying for a foul ball.

  • The guy who carries in his 8-year-old even though he only has one ticket.

  • The guy sitting 400 feet away from home plate who yells at umpires and opposing players and actually thinks they can hear him.

    And now, on to the top 20, in reverse order (with No. 1 being the worst):

    The Top 20
    20. The guy who yells lame insults at the plate umpire
    Heckler
    If you're going to heckle, make sure you use some original material.
    It would be one thing if he screamed out timeless one-liners like, "You're missin' a good game!" and "Bend over and use your good eye!" Those never get old. I'm talking about the guy who attempts rambling insults that always fall flat, like, "Hey, ump, would you like to borrow my wife's eyeglasses?" or "Hey, ump, don't drink on the job, it's affecting your strike zone!" (two insults I actually heard this year).

    Advice for aspiring hecklers out there: anything over seven words is bound for failure. Just trust me on this one.

    19. The guy who thinks everyone's looking at his girlfriend
    Of course, she's dressed in one of those Britney Spears outfits, she's chewing gum and she looks easier than Lacey Underall, but that's beside the point. This guy does not want you looking at her. And even though she gets up every inning and takes her sweet time shaking her buns up and down the aisle, he's glancing around with one of those "DeNiro in Taxi Driver" glares on his face.

    You lookin' at her? You lookin' at her? You lookin' at her?

    18. The mother who suddenly decides that she needs to get a picture of her family during the middle of an inning
    Bonus points here if she's clueless enough to ask somebody else in the section to take the picture. The best part is seeing the beaten-down father and his humiliated children posing for the picture and praying they won't get hit by a projectile soda.

    17. The guy wearing a replica jersey of someone who isn't on the team anymore
    Can't Sally Struthers film another informercial so we can donate updated jerseys for these fans? It's one thing if you're wearing an authentic jersey or a game-worn jersey ... but one of those flimsy replica jerseys?

    Two weeks ago at Fenway, I actually noticed someone wearing a blue, "(Mo) Vaughn, No. 42" Red Sox practice jersey. Swear to God. Apparently his "Greenwell, No. 39" jersey was at the cleaners.

    16. The father who keeps badgering the ballboy to give his kid a baseball
    Replica jersey fan
    Once a player is traded away from your team, you can throw out his replica jersey.
    You know this guy. He's sitting along the left field line -- near the spot where the ballboy stands -- practically pleading for foul balls and holding his child up in the air like a hostage.

    One mitigating factor here: the little-known baseball rule that all ballboys have to be as spastic, unathletic and awkward-looking as possible. It's always fun to watch them interacting with the overbearing parents, isn't it?

    15. The guy sitting in crappy seats who's living in denial
    You're sitting along the right-field line at Fenway during a day game, you're baking in the sun like a fried egg, you can barely see home plate and the temperature in your scrotal region is about 275 degrees ... and the game hasn't even started yet. And yet the fool sitting next to you is telling his buddy, "Great seats, huh? I got these from work. You get a great view of the whole ballpark. And you get a great view of anything down the right field line. I love these seats ..."

    14. The guy who needs to pronounce every Latin player's name correctly
    We hear this at Fenway all the time -- the know-it-all American who rolls his R's and uses the Latino pronounciations of "Pedro" or "Arrojo" when shouting out the names of those respective players ("Come on, Pey-drrrrrrrroh!"). These tend to be the same guys who turn around and correct you when you unknowingly screw up a fact -- like if you're discussing Pedro with a friend and you say, "Hell, the guy's won four Cy Young Awards!" and the guy turns around and says, "Actually, he's only won three."

    13. The guy with premium seats along the first-base side who brings his kids so they can get struck by a line drive
    In all seriousness, this should be considered a criminal offense. When you're sitting that close -- especially along the first-base line between the home dugout and home plate -- you have to be prepared for foul balls from right-handed hitters (usually on checked swings) that scream into the stands at about 300 mph.

    Kid
    Be very careful if you're a kid sitting along the first-base line.
    Remember, little kids have no attention spans and slow reaction times; in those seats, they're sitting ducks. So why sit them within 50 feet of a potential life-ending line drive? Why not just stick a yellow target sign on them while you're at it? Why not just stick the kids on the roof of your car when you're driving home? That makes about as much sense.

    Anyway, if you put your children in danger at a baseball game, shame on you.

    (Note: I'm not really that upset. I just wanted to work the condescending sports columnist phrase "Shame on you" into one of my postings. Big day for me -- I feel like a genuine columnist now. As Jim Nantz would say, "What a moment!")

    12. The guy sitting in a luxury box who butchers an easy foul ball
    And it's always an easy foul ball, yet this guy has 10 thumbs and can't haul it in. Bonus points here when the crowd starts booing him and the guy looks out with that condescending smile that says, "I might have botched that one, but I'm sitting in a luxury box and I'm making more money than all of you." Then he takes a swig from his $7 premium drink. I hate that guy.

    11. The guy sitting near the visiting on-deck circle who yells unfunny insults at every on-deck batter
    Usually, it's a mild-mannered guy who turns into Shecky Greene after enough beer ... unfortunately, he's not funny and producing insults like "Hey, Jeter, where's Mariah?" and "Hey, Alomar, spit on anyone lately?" and bombing worse than Andrew Dice Clay at the 1988 MTV Video Awards.

    Every time I sit near someone like this, I'm always angry that I forgot to bring my laugh track.

    Brief intermission
    Speaking of heckling, it's time for a brief intermission before we hit the Top 10! Time for a story from your buddy, Sports Guy. As Vin Scully would say, pull up a chair ...

    My most memorable heckling incident at a baseball game happened back in the late-'80s, when former major-league star Frank Howard was coaching first base for the Yanks. I was sitting at Yankee Stadium with my buddies Bish and Jim; thanks to Bish's Dad, we were in the first row to the right of the Yankees dugout, inches from the field, about 25 feet away from the first-base bag.

    Three things you should know about coach Frank at the time: 1.) he was an enormous guy, probably about 6-foot-7; 2.) his nickname during his playing days was "Hondo"; and 3.) during every at-bat, he would lean forward, stick his hands on his knees and stick his butt out. So if you were sitting in our section, basically you were looking at Frank's giant butt all game. Not good times. Bad times.

    After a few innings and a few beers, we beat every possible joke about Frank into the ground, but lacked the guts to heckle him (given that he was 6-foot-7 and all). He jogged out for the eighth inning -- last ups for the Yankees, since they were running away with the game -- and it was pretty quiet at Yankee Stadium. Quiet enough for a piercing heckle, anyway.

    Flying bats
    You might want to keep an eye out for flying objects ... like bats!
    So Frank stood in the box, got in position to do whatever first-base coaches do, placed his hands on his knees and stuck his butt out. And he remained like that for a few seconds ...

    Until I shouted out, "Hey, Hondo... NICE ASS!"

    Brought the house down. Everyone in our section started giggling and poor Frank jolted up straight as if he'd been shot. You really had to be there. Probably my proudest heckling moment other than the time I yelled "Magic carried you!" and "You never won a ring without Magic!" at Pat Riley for four straight quarters of a Heat-Celtics game in Boston last year.

    All right, the pilot just turned back on the "No Babbling" sign. Back to the column...

    The Top 10
    10. The guy who keeps score and keeps telling you about it
    Hey, it's OK to keep score; everyone has that one friend who keeps score at a game (mine is Nick Aieta). But sometimes you have that guy in your section who's a little too fired up about keeping score -- he's hovering over his scoresheet like a weeble, he's making hieroglyphic notations next to every batter and he's offering everyone around him tidbits like, "Here comes Bonds ... he's 2-for-4 today with six total bases."

    Needless to say, there isn't a woman sitting on either side of him. Go figure.

    9. The guy with the giant head
    Somehow this guy always seems to be sitting precisely between you and home plate, so you spend the entire game peering around his gigantic, watermelon head. An absolute game-killer. Plus you end up getting distracted by the sheer size of the head; you just keep staring at it and fighting off the urge to imitate the Scottish grandfather from "So I Married an Ax Murderer":

    Big heads
    If you get seated behind the guys with the big heads, you might as well go home and watch it on TV.
    "Good God! Look at the size of that thing! That thing has its own planetary system! It's like Sputnik!"

    8. The loud guy rooting for the other team
    We've all cheered our team in an enemy ballpark, but there's a difference between supporting the visitors and antagonizing the home fans, isn't there? The Loud Guy usually wears some form of opposing paraphernalia (usually a hat, sometimes a jersey, if he's feeling ballsy), shouts out inane nicknames for his players, claps his hands obnoxiously and does everything possible to annoy people in his section. He thrives on it.

    But there's a fun little catch ...

    When something positive happens for his team, the Loud Guy will inevitably stand up, turn around with his back to the field, point to his hat/shirt and scream, "Yeahhhhhhhhhh!" to everyone sitting behind him. And if he tries this at the wrong ballpark, he inevitably gets something chucked at him -- a drink, a half-eaten hot dog covered in mustard, maybe even a right hook. What goes around comes around.

    7b. The guy who's just getting bombed
    Some warning signs: 1.) he's usually a high school senior or college freshman who hasn't really figured out the whole drinking thing yet; 2.) he's usually the shortest guy in his group; 3.) every two innings he hops up for another round; 4.) he always returns to his seat carrying two beers and spilling them all over the place; 5.) he enters some sort of catatonic, glazed trance by the sixth inning; 6.) he becomes a legitimate "Heads up, that dude looks like he might puke" candidate by the seventh inning stretch.

    (And lemme tell you something ... there is nothing worse than somebody blowing chunks at a baseball game. That's a savvy way to clear out an entire section if you're gunning for a foul ball and hoping to increase your odds.)

    7a. The drunken, belligerent guys
    Distant cousins of The Guy Who's Just Getting Bombed, these guys are prepared to offend everyone within a 100-foot vicinity. They'll hoot at your girlfriend. They'll drop random F-bombs. They'll spill beer on you. They'll threaten the lives of anyone who roots for the other team. They'll light cigarettes even as the scoreboard says, "No Smoking." Basically they're paying a nine-inning homage to the Hells Angels during that Rolling Stones' Altamont performance in 1970.

    Two side benefits to The Drunken Belligerent Guys:

  • They always get thrown out at some point.

  • Usually you can spot the DBGs right away, sometimes even before the game starts. You know what that means, right? It's gambling time! Let's say you're sitting with two friends -- everyone throws in $20 and you each get to pick six half-innings (bottom of the first, top of the fourth and so on). If the DBG gets thrown out in your half-inning, you win the pot. And if the contest drags into the late innings, it becomes more exciting than the game. Have I ever steered you wrong?

    6. The work buddies who have no interest in the game
    They're sitting in the company seats, they're wearing suits, they're nursing a single beer over six innings, they're discussing work-related things, they still think Piazza plays for the Dodgers, they're not afraid to make cell phone calls every 10 minutes and they definitely plan on leaving before the end of the game to "beat the traffic."

    Fans
    "Hey, man! How 'bout signing a ball for my kid? C'mon."
    As an added kick in the gut, they usually have phenomenal seats. The world just isn't fair.

    5. The guy with the giant zit on his shoulder
    He's wearing a tanktop, he smells like a YMCA men's room and he hasn't shaved his neck hair since 1993 ... now he's sitting two feet in front of you with a humongous, pulsating whitehead on the back of his left shoulder. And it won't go away. Should you buy a visor from the gift shop in case it suddenly pops on its own? Should you pop it yourself? Should you call the police?

    All you know is this: You can't stop looking at it.

    4. The whipped guy who brings his young son to the game and feels the need to call home during the first, third, fifth and seventh innings to check in with his wife
    The first call usually unfolds in a sequence like this:

    "Hey honey, it's me" (just wanted to make sure that you knew I was still whipped).

    "I can barely hear you!" (yup, it's tough to hear when you're sitting in a ballpark with 40,000 other people).

    "We're at the game!" (always said with an inflection, as if it's an amazing feat to be able to call someone on a cell phone from a baseball game).

    "Yeah, it's great!" (actually, he wouldn't know if the game's great, because he just sat down and couldn't allow five minutes to pass without calling).

    "He's right here" (referring to his son, because it's important for the wife to know that her husband didn't somehow lose the child in the last two hours).

    "I'll let you talk to him" (because it's an important lesson for young men to learn -- namely, that women eventually ruin everything, no matter how old you are).

    And every call after that pretty much sounds the same. On the bright side, this guy is so whipped that he always leaves by the seventh inning once his electronic tracking bracelet starts vibrating.

    3. The guy who orders something from a vendor during a crucial at-bat (and stands up to take his wallet out)
    First, the guy stands up and slowly takes his wallet out of his back pocket (apparently it's impossible to remove your wallet from your back pocket if you're sitting). And he remains standing, oblivious, until someone gives him the "SIDDOWN!" and causes him to perform the bizarre "I'm still pulling my wallet out, but I'm crouching like someone just fired a gunshot" routine. God, I hate this guy.

    If that wasn't bad enough, this guy always seems to be sitting in the middle of a row, which means everyone needs to pass both the money and the purchased item back and forth. If you want everyone in your section to hate you with every fiber in their body, start here.

    (Weird phenomenon: this guy usually doubles as "The Whipped Father Who Calls Home Every Two Innings." If you ever notice the whipped father at the start of a game, brace yourself for the vendor/wallet debacle at some point. Just trust me.)

    2. The guy who brings his glove
    If I ever run for Senate, I'm spending all my energies getting the following law passed: "Anyone over the age of 16 who brings their glove to a game can be legally beaten and tortured." It will be my legacy.

    1. The guy sitting right behind home plate who talks excitedly on his cell phone and performs those "Hey, look at me!" waves during every pitch
    The worst phenomenon of the 21st century, bar none. I just hope I'm watching when an angry fan sneaks up behind this guy, grabs the cell phone, throws it to the floor and stomps it to smithereens on live TV. This needs to happen. This has to happen.

    I can dream.

    Bill Simmons writes three columns a week for Page 2. He also confesses to being the guy who sticks Cracker Jack on your back without you knowing about it.