Phone users at ball game really should hang it up

August 02, 2004|By Kevin Cowherd

TELL ME IF THIS makes any sense at all.

You buy a ticket to an Orioles game.

You get a terrific seat, too, right around home plate, the kind of seat for which most fans would cheerfully sacrifice an arm to a wood-chipper.

Then you spend the whole game on your cell phone, waving in the background when the TV cameras zoom in on the batter and shouting to your friends watching at home: "Can you see me?! You can?! THEY CAN SEE ME!"

Oh, yeah, we can see you, all right.

And to tell you the truth, we're kind of sick of you.

In fact, we're kind of hoping someone whacks you with a rolled-up game program so you'd cut that out.

OK, fine, the idea of fans trying to get on-camera at sports events is nothing new.

That's why you see so many knuckleheads in the stands holding up what they think are clever signs -- "JAVY WILL YOU MARRY ME?" was a recent witty entry -- hoping the TV cameras will notice them.

And it's why so many drunk fat guys -- and it's always fat guys -- still insist on taking off their shirts in sub-zero weather at football games.

And it's why whenever you see a player or coach being interviewed, there are always a few yo-yos behind them mugging for the cameras and holding up their index fingers and screaming: "We're No. 1!"

But this waving-and-shrieking-into-your-Nokia stuff, this is something different.

It's even more annoying.

And the reason it's even more annoying is that it combines the two most irritating elements of a modern-day trip to the ballpark: dilettante fans and cell phones.

Hard as it is to believe now, there was a time when people went to baseball games to watch baseball.

And to talk baseball with other baseball fans.

I know, I know ... is that off-the-wall or what?

Now people go to baseball games to drink beer and socialize with their friends.

Or to laugh at the goofy mascots and dance to the rock music between innings.

Or -- apparently -- to yell on their cells and get their mug on TV.

There sure are a lot of them doing it, too -- you see at least four or five of these dopes every time the O's are on the air.

And they have no shame, either.

Are you kidding?

There are people swallowing cow intestines and sucking up to Donald Trump on these reality shows with more shame.

Bill Stetka, the Orioles media relations wizard, has an interesting theory on these cell louts.

"The guy waving with the cell phone has become this year's John 3:16 guy with the rainbow hair," Stetka says.

Yep. Perfect.

Remember the John 3:16 guy?

His real name was Rollen "Rock n' Rollen" Stewart. And he was the guy with the rainbow-colored Afro wig who seemed to show up at every big sports event back in the '80s holding a sign that read: John 3:16.

The reference was to the scriptural passage: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son ... "

And Stewart so loved attention that he gave his life over to popping into background shots at the Super Bowl, golf tournaments, the World Series -- wherever there was a national TV audience.

Oh, Stewart was a nut case, all right.

In fact, he was such a nut case that he reportedly went to prison in the '90s for a string of bombings and a kidnapping he apparently committed.

But at least when he was doing his John 3:16 act, he wasn't annoying the people around him by blabbing on a cell phone.

So far, Stetka says the Orioles haven't fielded any complaints from fans who are cheesed about sitting next to someone who's jumping up and down and waving like a lunatic and jabbering into a cell phone.

And officials at Comcast SportsNet, which broadcasts most Orioles games, say these dopes haven't been a real distraction during their telecasts.

(Amazingly, Ernie Baur, the executive producer for Comcast SportsNet, told me he hadn't even noticed these people during the broadcasts.

(Ernie, Ernie, Ernie ... are you doing these broadcasts blindfolded? How could you miss these idiots? They're practically in every shot! Could be time for that yearly eye exam.)

Anyway, here's hoping this stupid fad dies out in a hurry, and we can get back to just watching the players when they come to the plate and seeing them do what they do best.

Which is, of course, spitting and adjusting their batting gloves.

Now that's baseball.

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