Promotions run amok Ballgame or circus?: From skydiver deaths to projectiles, game 'festivities' out of control.

April 14, 1997

IT'S TIME TO rein in the excess in promotions and pageantry before and during sporting events. We don't just mean the rock music blared at Orioles games, although plenty of fans feel that detracts from the experience at Camden Yards. We're talking about contrived events that threaten the life and limb of participants and spectators.

Recently, a Maryland National Guard paratrooper was killed while practicing a jump before the home opener for the Wilmington Blue Rocks minor league baseball team in Delaware. Master Sgt. David C. Horan Sr., a 50-year-old retired Maryland state trooper from Kent Island, was killed when he got tangled in a cable and fell about 90 feet. His accident followed by two months the death of a bungee jumper who was practicing for the halftime extravaganza at the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Though not as inherently risky, the giveaway of free baseballs at most major league ballparks on Opening Day in a hardware-store promotion soured when idiots in the stands heaved them toward the diamond. Texas Rangers manager Johnny Oates twice had to pull his team off the field at Milwaukee's County Stadium for its safety. "I wasn't just concerned about the players," said Mr. Oates, a former Orioles manager. "I was concerned about the kids in the lower deck."

Fans who attended the opener at Oriole Park know that announcer Rex Barney had to admonish miscreants not to hurl the souvenir balls after a few dozen landed in left field following a Cal Ripken homer.

Many in attendance were also disturbed that the Orioles released scores of helium balloons during opening ceremonies. The team's promotion staff wouldn't have had to walk more than a few blocks, over to the National Aquarium, to learn about the balloons and debris that divers had to extract from the belly of a beached whale they rescued in New Jersey a few years ago.

The value of these circus acts is zero compared with the freakish deaths of performers or the threat to fans or players. To the teams: Bring back the organist. Leave the stunts to Ringling Brothers. And hand out gifts with any heft as fans exit the park, when they are more apt to appreciate them.

Pub Date: 4/14/97

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