Orioles still chasing the fans away?

May 23, 2008 | Drew Forrester

I wonder if The Examiner will start getting blamed if attendance drops in June?

In today’s edition of the paper, they’ve devoted a front page photo to highlight a story that has been circulating in Baltimore for the last 10 days or so.  Here’s the story, written by Tony Giro, about 20 fans who were ejected from the ballpark on Tuesday, May 13 when the O’s hosted the Red Sox.
As the story goes, these “kids” (all 20-somethings…mainly guys with their girlfriends – check out the photo and see for yourself) were loud, energetic and enjoying the game.  Last time I checked, isn’t that part of the experience?  Cheering, jeering and having fun at the ballpark…that’s why we go, right?
So, at some point during the game, these kids were so enthusiastic they were featured on the big jumbo screen and selected as “Fans of the Game”.  They got free t-shirts and some other O’s swag — a great idea from the PR department to get them to come back again.
Then, minutes later, the “Fans of the Game” got the boot.

These 20 – for fun, we’ll refer to them as, “The Departed” – say all they were doing were cheering, LOUDLY, and engaging with Red Sox fans in typical “our team is better and your team sucks” banter.  They say no swearing took place and I have e-mails from people who don’t even know the kids (and were sitting near them) and attest to that — they were “loud and obviously enjoying themselves, holding up signs, starting section chants and stuff like that,” wrote Gary, “but they weren’t cussing at all and more than anything, they were just poking fun at Red Sox fans at how the Orioles were beating the mighty defending World Series champs.”

Were these young men and women having a few “refreshments” at the game?  Sure.  Even they admit that and the photos in The Examiner support it.  But that doesn’t make them rowdy, drunk and obnoxious – and that doesn’t automatically qualify them to get ejected from the game anyway.  Lots of people go to sporting events, get drunk, cheer and jeer and don’t get booted from the facility.

Some Red Sox fans must have been offended, either by their starting pitcher’s performance (Josh Beckett) or the volume of “The Departed” and their on-going effort to enjoy the game, but at some stage they contacted stadium personnel and the decision was made to evict the O’s fans.

So, if all that stuff is true and these kids were well within the guidelines of acceptable fan behavior, why, then, did they get ejected from the park?

Here’s a shocking development for you:  The Orioles have (had) no comment.
20 fans get kicked out of the stadium – BALTIMORE baseball fans, by the way, – and they run from the truth without making any formal comment?
Like Gene Hackman kept saying over and over at the end of The Birdcage — “I don’t understand…”
Why not just admit that your ushers and stadium operational people over-reacted?  There’s nothing wrong with that, really.  In fact, I’m a dummy and I just wrote a “comment” for them to use.  It goes like this:
“On May 13, our operations staff ejected a group of fans from the ballpark after receiving complaints from other fans in and around their seating area.  We are striving to develop and maintain Oriole Park as a facility that can be enjoyed by all fans who attend the game and we are constantly monitoring the behavior of all fans during the game to ensure a friendly, safe environment for everyone who is enjoying Orioles baseball.  On any occasion when we eject a fan or fans, we have a review process that includes a one-on-one interview with the operations personnel who ejected them to ensure that our procedures and policies were followed.  In this instance, after reviewing the incident that led to the dismissal of these fans, we have determined that our staff might have over-reacted to the complaints that had been filed.  We have apologized to the group of fans that were removed and provided each of them with complimentary tickets to two (2) future Oriole home games.  We will continue to do our very best to provide our fans with the safest, most comfortable environment at Oriole Park.”

Apology made.  Good, sound, Public Relations achieved.  Most importantly – FANS KEPT.

I usually send out a memo or two on Friday, so here’s one for today:

Memo to the Orioles:

Stop fighting with your own fans.  All you’re doing is hurting yourself.