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Fans, players at risk when rushing court

Commentary

March 4, 2013
By John Mehno , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - A lot of people don't like Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, and I don't like writing about him because his name is too hard to spell.

But Coach K (that's better) made a salient point about the practice of fans storming the court after a big win. It's been an issue this year because No. 1 teams have been knocked off.

It seems like fun: Fans celebrate by charging out of the stands and swarming the court. But it's dangerous for the fans, and for the players. Coach K's concern is primarily with the latter.

"Put yourself in our position," he told the Associated Press. "I'm not saying anybody did this, but the potential is there all the time for a fan to come up to you and say, 'Coach, you're a [expletive], or push you or hit you. What do you do? What if you did something? That would be the story, right?"

No matter what the circumstances are, fans have no business on the court or the field. The ticket is for a seat, not for all access.

As crowds grow even more uncivil (there was a report that Duke fans taunted an opposing player about his deceased grandmother), up-close interaction with players after a game is a situation filled with peril. It's also unsafe for fans, who can easily get knocked down in a mad charge to the court.

Rushing the court looks good on ESPN, and that's why it's become popular. But it's a bad idea that endangers fans and players.

Getting ink

Covering spring training has always required a certain resourcefulness, the ability to make something out of very little for six weeks.

Truth be told, even a team like the Pirates has about 80 percent of its roster set before the first wild pitch is even thrown. Maybe you had to be there when the great battle for the 25th roster spot was waged between Benny DiStefano and John Cangelosi to appreciate the concept of manufacturing journalistic mountains from relative molehills.

One standard spring training story used to be somebody's weight loss. A player would come to camp 15 pounds lighter, and that was a headline. In later years, laser eye surgery was an easy headline. It was long forgotten when the .220 hitter was again hitting .220 in July, but at least he could read his sad stats without contacts.

Now the nothingness of spring training is broken with news of tattoos. Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata had a Roberto Clemente tattoo removed from his chest. Tabata explained that he needs to focus less on Clemente and more on his own foundering career.

Later came word that Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers was unavailable for an exhibition game because he was in pain after having a likeness of his late father tattooed onto his arm.

One man's pain is another man's spring training headline.

Mehno can be reached at: johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com.

 
 
 

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