On April 4 the Philadelphia Phillies held the first college night of the season at Citizens Bank Park. In theory, this event benefits both the club, who sees a one night spike in attendance, and college students, who are looking for a cheap night out at the ballpark, not to mention the dollar hot dogs.
But what transpired that brisk April evening, and again one week later threatens to bring this novel promotion to a screeching halt.
Sure, the kid wearing the Eli Manning New York Giants jersey deserved every drop of beer and every last kernel of popcorn heaved upon him as he disembarked down the park’s 400 level stairway. And I’ll even look past the numerous examples of public drunkenness in the parking lot because, lets face it, who doesn’t enjoy wild tailgating in April?
After all it’s been four months since the Eagles hosted a playoff game against the Giants at Lincoln Financial Field.
But what happened inside that park in the late innings of the game is downright deplorable, and gives yet another black eye to college students and Philadelphia sports fans everywhere.
In the top half of the ninth inning, with the Phillies holding a 2-0 advantage, and Tom Gordon on the hill, Brian McCann launched a two run bomb to right field tying the game at deuces.
That’s when all hell broke loose in right field.
Hot dogs, beer bottles and popcorn rained down on the field. Granted, Braves right fielder Jeff Francoeur probably should not have taunted the crowd throughout the evening. And picking up the first hot dog and firing it back towards the wall was not exactly the most brilliant thing he could have done. But throwing garbage onto the field served absolutely no purpose.
Despite Francoeur’s actions, there is absolutely no excuse for throwing objects onto the field. Matters reached a critical point when a golf ball landed mere inches from the left fielder’s head. Not quite the D batteries hurled at JD Drew in his Philadelphia debut nine years ago, but dangerous nonetheless.
Later the fans proved it was not just their anger with Francoeur and the Braves, but general frustration with the 3-2 extra inning Phillies loss in the game that provoked the wasting of perfectly good beer and dollar dogs, when two of each flew in the direction of Shane Victorino, the Phillies right fielder.
West Chester first year student, Craig Haber was sitting in the 200 level in right field and was shocked by the fans’ behavior. “It was ridiculous and disgraceful to throw garbage in such a beautiful ballpark,” he said. “I expected better on college night.”
During the second college night on April 13 these actions were repeated several times over, prompting the Phillies to display a message on Phanavision stating “Ladies and gentlemen, please refrain from throwing any objects onto the field or in the stands. Anyone throwing any objects will be removed from the ballpark and subject to arrest. Thank you for your cooperation.”
At one point a fan ran onto the field and attempted to shake Jimmy Rollins’ hand before dashing to the outfield where he was escorted away by several security guards. Published reports have the Phillies seeing an increse of 38 more ejections on average from the two college nights then is normally seen on a given night. While the Phillies will gladly accept the record 8,000 walk up fans seen on April 13, the club could surely live without the unruly behavior at these games.
Nobody is saying that college nights cannot be some of the most entertaining evenings of the year, but is it really necessary to exaggerate the stereotypes college students have been lambasted with for years?
Go to the game, root like hell for the Phillies. Boo until your heart’s content. Even hurl expletive laden insults at fans of opposing teams to the point of going hoarse. But don’t litter the field with trash.
After all, is one beer or hot dog thrown on the field worth spending a night in a Philadelphia jail next to some guy named Bubba? Or worse yet for all of us, losing the hefty discount on tickets to the ballpark and hot dogs for a buck.
Matt Lombardo hosts a weekly sports talk radio show on 91.7 FM WCUR Saturdays from noon-2pm., and is simulcast worldwide at www.wcur.fm