*Editor’s note: This is a letter I sent to the Seattle Mariners organization on Sunday, July 11, 2010. It describes a situation that impacted me, directly, but at the same time concerns all fans of the team. I hope you will take the time to read it, and if so desired share your thoughts with the ballclub, as well. You can contact the Mariners directly by going here, or by sending an email to email@example.com.
To whom it may concern in the Seattle Mariners organization,
Hi. We have corresponded before. The last time was during the 2007 season. On that particular occasion, an usher accosted me with his “Please Wait” sign while I was attempting to make my way to my seat on the 100 level. He had singled me out for whatever reason he deemed appropriate, while letting a group of well-dressed older gentlemen pass unscathed directly in front of me. He placed his sign in my path, which hit me in the stomach, and snapped at me to display my ticket. This was after I had walked back and forth between my seat and the concourse three times previously. I showed him my stub. He relinquished. I went on my way.
It was clear to me on that evening that I had been profiled by an overzealous usher. It happens. But it shouldn’t go unreported. To your credit, as soon as I informed the organization of the incident, the good folks on your staff did everything they possibly could to restore my faith in the team and the employees that represent the Mariners.
Let me preface the point of my letter today by saying this.
I consider myself a hardcore Mariners fan. I attend somewhere between ten and twenty home games a year, so I always knew there was a chance that another profiling incident could occur. On Sunday afternoon, that was precisely what happened. I encountered — and was profiled by — a staff member who was having a bad day, didn’t like the way I looked, or simply believed she was doing her job to the best of her abilities. It wouldn’t be fair of me to speculate why she chose to single me out. But regardless, she did just that.
Allow me to explain the situation as best as I possibly can.
My dad and I had just picked up tickets that were left for us at will-call. We made our way to the home plate entrances and proceeded to enter a vacant line at the north end of the gates. Neither my dad nor myself had a bag, a sweatshirt, a jacket or anything in our hands besides our tickets. The ticket scanner at the gate saw us coming and had an inviting smile on her face.
As I made my way towards the ticket scanner, a bag-checker asked me to stop. A woman perhaps in her late-fifties or early-sixties, she had curly grey hair and was wearing eyeglasses.
I stopped when asked and politely informed the bag-checker that neither my dad nor myself had any bags, nor any possessions with us that would normally require inspection.
The bag-checker responded by stating, “I need to check your pockets.”
At this point in our story, my clothing becomes relevant, so please let me describe in detail what I was wearing. I had on a blue mesh Mariners jersey with a white t-shirt underneath, a pair of plaid shorts, low-top Converse All-Star sneakers, and a blue Mariners on-field cap which was turned backwards (Junior style). My shorts — which were the only article of clothing that possessed any pockets at all — were neither baggy nor particularly offensive in the pocket department. They weren’t cargo shorts, and they had but two front pockets and two back pockets.
I casually mentioned that I had never had my pockets checked upon entry prior to this moment, to which the bag-checker quickly replied, “Well, we’ve had a lot of stuff sneaked in lately.” I can understand this and it makes complete sense. A fair enough response. The bag-checker then followed up by saying, “I know it’s not what you’re used to, but we have to do it.”
Now here’s where our story gets interesting.
As the bag-checker and I were having this brief conversation, she was checking the purses and backpacks of a group of individuals that had made their way to the gate alongside us. This group of individuals was very distinctly older than myself. I am 25 years of age (and male, as I have yet to point out in the context of this letter). These folks whose bags she happened to be checking were more along the lines of sixty-to-seventy years of age. Oddly enough, nowhere in the process of checking their bags did she inspect their pockets. Nor did she so much as ask to inspect their pockets. Which is funny, since all these people happened to be wearing pants or shorts, which all had pockets so far as I could tell.
Upon finishing the inspection of this group’s bags, the bag-checker turned to me and asked, “What do you have in your pockets?”
I answered by stating, “My cell phone, wallet, and chapstick.”
“Show me,” she replied.
I removed my cell phone and chapstick from my respective front pockets and put them on display for her pleasure. I did not remove my wallet from my back pocket at that moment, which did not seem to matter. Her apparent need to get in my shorts was relegated to my two front pockets.
“Okay,” she responded, “go on ahead.”
I thanked her as I proceeded to the gate. My 55-year-old father (he’s a spry, youthful 55, in fairness to him) followed directly behind me. Surprisingly, his pants (Levis jeans, with more pockets than my shorts) were not a target of her watchful eye. She did not ask to inspect his pockets.
Now clearly, any rational individual could see that I was profiled. This particular bag-checker informed me that it was necessary to check everyone’s pockets, including mine, then proceeded to check no one’s pockets, except mine. That’s profiling. By every interpretation of the definition. And it’s wrong. And we all know this.
I’m confident that the organization will do everything to make this right, but there’s clearly a trend developing here that needs to be addressed. Safeco Field has all the potential in the world to be the absolute finest stadium in all of Major League Baseball. It has beautiful scenery, amazing architecture, great food, and wonderful amenities. However, there has been a pattern of behavior amongst certain members of the staff that is absolutely egregious. I, personally, have experienced it twice. But it is noticed by others as well.
Just a few days ago, Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times issued a blog post calling out Mariners fans as being soft or timid when compared to baseball fans around the country. Readers then sent Baker their reasons why we, as a fan base, are perceived this way. A day later, Baker issued a follow-up column which included this very pertinent paragraph that should be taken very seriously by the ballclub:
“Oh yeah, the ballpark itself. The one prevailing aspect I’ve seen in your comments from yesterday is that the sanitized nature of Safeco Field makes it next to impossible to do things like spontaneous cheering in the ninth inning. And that’s a shame. I’ve heard this complaint too often the past few years to ignore it any longer. The Mariners have got to tone down the over-zealousness of some of the staffers patrolling the yard. Believe me, I completely understand that the team does not want Safeco Field overrun with drunks who make life miserable for families there. And as a business model, the team has done quite well with the family-friendly approach.”
The full context of Baker’s article can be found at this link: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/marinersblog/2012308091_mariners_fans_show_passion_in.html.
It should serve as constructive criticism that fans are imploring the staff at Safeco Field to tone it down a bit. We all have bad days, and there will always be rotten eggs in a group. This applies to all of us, including any usher or bag-checker who may work for the team. Speaking first-hand, I know full well that there are great employees on the Mariners’ staff, as my uncle works in the ticket office and was the one who left my dad and I our tickets for Sunday’s game at will-call. So by no means is this an indictment on the company as a whole.
Like I said, there are always going to be rotten eggs or bad apples in any group. Maybe the two staffers who I have encountered during my profiling incidents are just that.
But simultaneously, we have a fan base that agrees this type of thing has gone too far and needs to stop. It just has to. It’s not right, and it’s hurting the image of the team, as well as its fan base.
As a lifelong fan of the Seattle Mariners, I certainly don’t want our ballclub to be portrayed in a negative light. Whether this mentality of totalitarian control from ushers and bag-checkers (et al) is being perpetuated by the individual employees themselves or is starting from the top-down, it needs to change. We need to improve. We have an obligation to ourselves, our players, our logo, our history, and most importantly our fans — those people who keep this team afloat — to be the best organization we can possibly be. I want nothing more than that, and I’m sure you feel the same way.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to my concerns.
Mariners fan since October 30, 1984