Fenway trouble could be alcohol related

Commentary

PITTSBURGH — There was a problem last week in Fenway Park with someone yelling racial slurs at Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones.

But maybe it’s part of a bigger problem, which is the over-consumption of alcohol at sports venues.

Even though tickets are already expensive, some people view that as a cover charge to come in and get loaded with a game as a backdrop.

Personal experience — once in Wrigley Field (not the bleachers), a guy nearby flagged down the beer vendor every time he made a pass.

By the fifth inning, the guy was so hammered that he could no longer figure out his money. He’d put the crumpled bills and coins in his extended hand, and trusted the vendor to take the right amount.

Despite his obviously impaired state, they didn’t stop selling him beer. By the time the seventh inning rolled around, the guy was barely steady enough to stand and sing with Harry Caray.

Let’s remember that a lot of people get a head start on their drinking, either at the neighborhood bars or at a tailgate party. They wobble through the gates and then scope the nearest beer stand because what’s a game without a fresh brew?

Was the Fenway Foul Mouth emboldened by alcohol? Maybe. But there’s no doubt that beer muscles often sprout at games.

When Joe Walton was failing as the Steelers offensive coordinator, a couple of guys waited until the end of a game to hang over the railing and viciously curse Walton as he left the field. Their faces were red with fury as they unloaded profanity on a guy who had committed the crime of running an offense that wasn’t very good.

If someone had recorded them and replayed the tape on Wednesday, they probably wouldn’t have recognized themselves. Or at least they would have been ashamed of themselves.

But with Budweiser on their side, they thought they were on a righteous crusade. Beer isn’t going away. It’s a huge profit center for sports franchises. People love it, and they’ll pay a premium price to get it.

But woe to those who have to endure the behavior of the overserved.

n The first month of the Pirates was the disjointed win-a-couple-lose-a-couple wheel spinning that was distressingly similar to last year.

At least this could be explained by the absence of two key starters — Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte — and the subsequent injury losses of two important backups in David Freese and Adam Frazier. Take four key players off any team and it will suffer.

But it shouldn’t be ignored that Gregory Polanco answered the challenge of being given the cleanup spot by producing virtually nothing. Andrew McCutchen hit some home runs and drew some walks, but couldn’t get his average above .240.

As much as some people want to obsess on John Jaso, there are more important players than Jaso either absent or failing to meet expectations.

Good signs? The rotation was actually pretty good. Tyler Glasnow started badly, but now appears to be making tangible progress with each start.

Josh Bell seems to be figuring things out and offering hope he can be the long-term power threat the Pirates badly need. Maybe Jose Osuna has more to offer than the organization has projected from him.

Gift Ngoepe is a great story, but an average player on his best day. This is his ninth year in the Pirates organization and his first major league experience. A player who’s been around that long without getting a promotion isn’t a prospect. If they can use a roster spot on a good glove who could be a late-inning defensive replacement, Ngoepe can stay.

He isn’t the kind of player who has any future as a regular in the major leagues, though.

They got through April without getting buried. Now they need to sustain some success, something they couldn’t do last year because of the lousy starting pitching.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

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