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Star Valley Sports Journal: Harsher penalties are needed for unruly fans

Dahl Erickson has been the Sports Editor for the Star Valley Independent since 2006 and broadcasting Star Valley sports on radio since 2003. (Photo by Josh “Big Daddy” Henderson)

Before I get all high and mighty with this column, I have most certainly done things as a fan that I regret.

Whether that is general poor sportsmanship, salty language in front of women and children or questioning the effort level of an opposing player in less than glowing descriptions.

There’s even a story that is told in my family of me getting into a bit of a non-verbal argument with Colonel Reb, the mascot at UNLV. Mostly just hand-signals but let’s just say he never came back to my section of the Thomas & Mack Center.

I’ve also made my way onto the court and the field of my favorite teams.

After the game of course.

Except in the case of the 2009 New Mexico Bowl when we rushed the field because we thought the kicker made the winning field goal.

He didn’t.

But he did a short time later so we rushed it again.

But never once have I thought to myself that I should confront an opposing player, or do something that might injure them.

The main venue I attend is War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. One of the cool aspects of this stadium is how close you can be to the players at ground level. Just a couple feet at the end zones.

In most NCAA stadiums you don’t get anywhere that close to the actual players. It makes for some pretty neat interactions.

It’s here you realize just how gargantuan some of these guys are. Why on Earth would I say anything about some athlete’s mama when he goes 6’ 8” and bench presses 500 pounds?

Beyond that, they are just kids. I didn’t always feel that way because I was a kid myself, but now I’m a 44-year old man cheering on guys anywhere from 18-24 years old.

Fans doing things they shouldn’t is not a new concept, but it’s in the spotlight again now because of a string of events during the NBA Finals. One man dumped popcorn on Russell Westbrook. Another spat on Ja Morant in Salt Lake City. Another rocket scientist threw a full water bottle at Kyrie Erving in Boston.

And just two nights ago, May 31, a fan got onto the court during Game Four of the series between the Utah Jazz and the Memphis Grizzlies. The man danced on the court, jumped up and slapped the backboard and was then tackled by security. (A really pretty form tackle by the way).

As a player, this stuff, really must worry them. The barrier between people making bad decisions and them is not very large.

Remember in 1993 when a man came out of the stands in Hamburg, Germany and actually stabbed tennis superstar Steffi Graf?

Or in 2002 a man and his 15-year old son attacked Royals coach Tom Gamboa as he coached on the First Base Line in Chicago. He suffered permanent hearing loss as a result of that attack.

Being a fan at a venue is a fun experience. It’s the reason people pack up and drive to an arena and pay money for gas, tickets, parking, food and apparel just to be a part of it.

But there needs to be more accountability for those that cross the line. Something that can act as a deterrent for others.

Yes, the people I’ve brought up in recent days have been banned from those respective NBA facilities, but I think it needs to go further. How about a ban at ALL NBA facilities?

What about a database across all professional and NCAA venue that bans these idiots from ALL of the venues?

Some will say that because the players are making millions of dollars that it comes with the territory. I don’t agree with that at all. They are professionals in their job. So are most people if you get right down to it. But if someone came into my workplace and starting throwing things at me and talking about my mother (a bona fide saint by the way), there would be a problem.

Why is it different because it’s at a sports venue?

I get that people might be a little extra hyped to be back out in the world after a year of quarantine, but they shouldn’t wreck it for the rest of us.

There needs to be more appreciation for where we are and what we’re doing, especially after 2020. The world is smaller than it used to be. They are no longer anonymous enemies on the other team. They are people with families and feelings trying their best to live out their own dreams.

Except colorado state* of course.

I’m kidding!

I would address these types as they head back into the stands after 15 months of uncertainty.

Do what I did over the last 30 years.

Grow up a little would ya?


Dahl Erickson is an award winning writer and columnist for the Star Valley Independent as well as an award-winning broadcaster with SVI Media. He has never been thrown out of a sports venue although he has been threatened to have his media credentials taken away at the Casper Events Center. Follow him on Twitter (@DahlErickson) and Instagram (sportsllama).

(* = This writer refuses to capitalize anything to do with colorado state university and would rather take the typo. All other typos are due to a lack of talent, knowledge and skill.)