The Mariners’ Gameday Etiquette Dilemma

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It has been fifteen years since the Mariners were really, really good, so forgive us for not knowing how to act in the wake of the team’s recent success.

On Saturday night, as the M’s were on the verge of beating the Milwaukee Brewers, television cameras captured an encounter between a Safeco Field usher and one such member of the Mariners faithful who happened to be cheering on the hometown nine. Video was shared online, and inquiring minds began immediately asking questions and recapping personal accounts of similar brushes with stadium staff.

The organization quickly responded to the uproar, and on Sunday a member of the team’s front office reached out to share details of what took place before and after the recorded incident.

The fan being reprimanded by the usher on film had been talked to twice prior to the eighth inning, when the event occurred. The fan had been standing at random times during the game and attendees seated behind him had complained, sparking the intervention of a gameday operations team member.

Afterwards, the team talked with the usher in question to discuss the incident. Additionally, usher captains were briefed on Sunday morning in order to help them better understand when to consider game context in certain situations – such as critical moments that might elicit emotion, not unlike the one on Saturday.

The front office executive we spoke with stressed that there’s never a perfect way to handle fans complaining about other fans, and that as a whole, the team is trying hard to be better in these situations.

It’s a credit to the Mariners organization that they were willing to address what should otherwise be an afterthought in an 8-2 Seattle victory. Still, though, there’s no ignoring the fact that fans and the team alike have cultivated an interesting ballpark dynamic in which to watch a game.

In this case, it’s hard to know where to start pointing fingers. Are fans at fault for creating their own messes, necessitating arbitration from the organization, or are ushers to blame for overstepping their bounds?

In short, both parties are guilty.

There will always be a handful of spectators who cause problems, bother those around them, and just generally behave like douchebags to the point of needing escorts off the premises. In those instances, having an outlet to turn to for in-game assistance is a desired benefit.

At stadiums like Safeco Field, the Mariners have even set up a text line that allows park-goers to anonymously report unsettling behavior by those around them. That’s all well and good when used properly, but as one might imagine, a resource like this could be abused by fans with a heightened sensitivity to any perceived disruption.

It doesn’t help that Seattleites are renowned for their passive-aggressive nature, which means around here, at least, you’re more likely to get scolded by a nonpartisan third party for something you weren’t aware was bothersome to others than to have the person in front of you turn around and ask you to stop kicking their chair, for example. Saturday’s altercation arose after fans expressed displeasure because one of their fellow fans stood up in front of them. An offense this innocuous hardly warrants mediation from a glorified recess monitor, and is perhaps equally reflective of the fan base as it is the team’s code of conduct.

Still, though, enough fans have been irked by Safeco Field’s gameday operations staff over the years that the team is at least aware they need to respond to instances like the one on Saturday. From being told to quit behaving like a rabid fanatic, to asking patrons to remove YANKEES SUCK t-shirts, to the bad PR of run-ins with same-sex couples, this isn’t an isolated incident and indicates a cultural trend that has to change. With social media at our disposal and an organization willing to listen, a shift towards a friendlier ballpark environment should continue in fans’ favor.

In the meantime, everyone involved needs to have some common sense about what it means to be a fan.

These are sporting events we’re talking about. Not operas, not movies, not concerts. People will stand from time to time. They will cheer. God forbid, they might even yell. It happens. If we can’t handle that, there are alternative options. We can empty our wallets for a private suite, where only people we invite, and presumably like and tolerate, can join us. We can buy a front row ticket, where the only obstructions we might be forced to endure are from ballplayers chasing down pop flies. We can stay home and watch on TV. If those options don’t seem viable, then we simply need to adjust our expectations. We cannot go to a public place with 30,000 other individuals from all walks of life and assume everyone around us will behave in a manner that vibes with our personal values one-hundred-percent of the time.

As much as we need to hold ushers to a higher standard, we need to do the same with our fellow fans. Talk to one another instead of tattling. Give those around you some leniency and assume the best intentions before the worst. And above all else, understand that we’re all in the ballpark for one reason: to watch and support the team on the field.

The Mariners are playing great baseball. They’re winning, and we all know that winning seemingly cures all evils. Enjoy the ride and be good to one another.

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