Can I confess something to you? I love it when fans run on the field.
I know I'm not supposed to, and I know that the practice is bad. I remember Tom Gamboa and Monica Seles and know that it is wrong, that order must be restored, that the practice is dangerous and felonious and even a little scary. It is not something I, or anyone I would be associated with, would do in a million years. It is bad bad bad. Do not do it.
Still: I giggle like a schoolgirl every time it happens.
I know. I know. I'm sorry. But I cannot deny my nature. I can't put my finger on why, exactly, I enjoy the occasional sprinting fan. I don't like disorder and chaos, and I don't like having my games interrupted. (And if someone did that during a playoff game I'd demand they'd be shot on the spot.) But I can't help cheer for them every time. I'm hardly alone in this. Every time a fan every sneaks onto the field, everyone in the stadium starts screaming for them. It's exciting in a way that is wrong but undeniable.
A few theories as to why this might be:
- It's so brainless and stupid that it's irresistible. The first reaction you have when someone runs on the field is shock. The second is, "Wow, what an idiot." The third: "Go!" In the same way it's hilarious when a dog doesn't realize it's chasing its own tail, it's funny to watch someone do something idiotic, from afar, and feel proportionately smarter.
- It's sorta of surreal. When you watch as many sporting events as I do, anything out of the natural order of matters can look like a Dali painting. A baseball game features everyone in their expected places, doing expected baseball things. Then, suddenly, a guy shows up and starts dancing. It's like a fish wearing pants.
- The announcers always get so scolding about it. Every broadcaster, when someone runs on the field, makes sure to tell us, in their best schoolmarm voice, just how awful the fan is being, how sad and tragic this is. They have to do this, of course: This is not something you want to encourage. But their reaction is the exact opposite of how normal humans react to a streaking fan. People don't like being scolded.
- The stealth. Because there are so many people paid to make sure fans don't run on the field -- again, quite understandably! -- a fan who makes it onto the field has had to exhibit at least a tiny bit of wit and cunning to get there in first place. We always like to see someone get away with something they're not supposed to. The best example of this is without question the guy who dressed like a ref during the UCLA-Arizona game a couple of years ago. (That clip is also a good example of why running on the field is so dangerous, by the way. The fan distracted the real refs from noticing that a fight was breaking out until it was too late.)
- The chase. This is the best part. The fun part isn't necessarily watching the fan running around like an idiot; it's watching the security guards all try to catch them. It becomes a game within a game, like watching someone play the old Serpent computer game. How long can they pull it off? This is particularly fun when it ends with a satisfying crunch of the fan being pummeled from a direction they weren't suspecting.
These things end one of three ways.
*** With the fan being apprehended.
*** With the fan being crunched (sometimes by a player).
*** With the fan getting away. (This has only happened once, and they ended up grabbing him outside the stadium. Still a riveting video.)
Last night in Kansas City, a fan added the wrinkle of pilfering the rosin bag, a nifty twist. I can't think of anything else on a baseball field as readily available and uprootable as a rosin bag. You can't take the ball out of a player's hand, you can't pull up a base in time without being tackled and pulling up the grass would just make you look even more like a lunatic. If you're going to act like a mouse avoiding a room full of cats, you might as well make the resin bag your cheese.
I want to be as clear as possible about this: Do not run on the field. It is very bad. Please do not do it. You're going to get yourself or, worse, someone in the game hurt. It is irresponsible and immature and idiotic. It won't seem so funny when you're in jail the next morning.
Before then, though? While it's happening? When I watch the clip later? Well, I'm not going to encourage you by saying it's funny then. But I cannot deny my nature. And neither can the 40,000 screaming fans watching.
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