December 19, 2008
Drunk and unruly fans are a huge problem in NFL stadiums. Between the drinking, the cursing, the fights, the cursing, the stumbling and the cursing, NFL games provide as much of a kid-friendly atmosphere as a night out with Plaxico Burress. But now, NFL teams think they have developed a technique to curb boorish, abusive behavior at games: tattling.
At 29 of the NFL's 32 stadiums, fans can now send a text message to report disorderly conduct of nearby fans. The texts are received by stadium security, who address the situation and determine if the offending fan should receive a warning or ejection.
It's an interesting idea, albeit one with a number of flaws and questionable ethical application. There's no doubt something needs to be done about drunken behavior at games, lest older fans (who tend to have the most disposable income and buy the best seats) decide that they'd rather not spend $10,000 a year on tickets just to end up listening to a hammered college student screaming expletive-laden compound adjectives at opposing players. But text-narcing isn't the answer to this problem.
Putting up a text-message number on the Jumbotron is an invitation for people to abuse the system with pranks, jokes and reports about patrons who are being only mildly annoying. Plus, stadium personnel can only be in so many places at once. By the time one situation has been resolved, there could likely be five more that have developed.
The text-narcing seems to be less about controlling fan behavior and more about mollifying fans who complain about fan behavior. Teams can point to the system and say "hey, we're trying!" instead of taking actual preventative steps like hiring more security (which would cost more money) or curbing alcohol sales (which would cut revenues at both the concession stand and through advertising dollars from beer companies).
Each team has a different hotline number, some with clever mnemonic devices like "ASSIST" (Ravens) or "INDY" (Colts). The best narc number, however, belongs to Cincinnati. To report unruly behavior, Bengals fans should text 513-381-JERK.
Photo: Getty Images
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