When you go to a ballgame, you probably think of yourself as a spectator, not a participant. (Derek Jeter and Russell Westbrook, you can stop reading now.) But with TV cameras constantly scanning the stands for fans who have caught foul balls or covered themselves in blue paint, a box seat can be a fast track to a few seconds of televised quasi-fame.
But what if opportunity knocks and you’re sleeping? That’s what happened to Andrew Rector, who was caught dozing during an April 13 Yankees-Red Sox telecast and became an object of amusement for the announcers; John Kruk of ESPN said “This is not the place you come to sleep.” Upset, Rector has now sued ESPN, the Yankees and Major League Baseball to the tune of $10 million, claiming that his reputation has been damaged as a result.
Of course, as he has discovered in the past 24 hours, filing a semi-coherent lawsuit about falling asleep on-camera at a ballgame (Sample of complaint: “Nothing triggered all these assertions only that the plaintiff briefly slept off while watching the great game something or circumstance any one can easily found them self”) is not the most effective way to get people to forget that you once fell asleep on-camera at a ballgame. Not surprisingly, Rector has quickly become the subject of scorn and ridicule all across this great Internet of ours.
Basically, he had turned himself into a real-life George Costanza: in the Seinfeld episode “The Lip Reader,” George was caught on-camera at the U.S. Open, gorging himself on an ice-cream sundae – an embarrassment that quite possibly caused his girlfriend to break up with him.
But Rector shouldn’t feel bad…after all, he’s certainly not the first fan to be cursed by the camera.
Take, for example, Jane Fonda, the Academy Award-winning actress who was married to Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner. During the late innings of playoff games in the Braves 1990s glory days, she was caught repeatedly taking a nap on Turner’s shoulder. TV writer Ken Levine complained, “that’s a seat some real Braves fan couldn’t get.” Although we’re not sure how many Braves fans wanted cuddle time with Turner.
Pro tip: If you’re holding your young child in a red wagon on a grassy outfield hill at a Marlins-Mets game and a home run ball comes your way, don’t let go of your child in an effort to catch that ball, letting your offspring roll toward an uncertain fate. Not only is it embarrassing, but no one is going to think a Spring Training ball is that cool anyway.
In 1995, a snowball fight broke out at Giants Stadium: in the week before a game against the Chargers, a foot of snow had fallen, and much of it remained under the seats. Hundreds of fans started throwing snowballs and iceballs onto the field, knocking the Chargers’ 60-year-old equipment manager unconscious. 175 fans were ejected; 15 were arrested; one unlucky dude, Jeffrey Lange, who was caught on camera, was convicted of improper behavior and had to pay $650.
The worst-case scenario for being on camera at a baseball game? Overenthusiastically going for a ball in a way that hurts your team. Want to up the stakes? Let’s say if you hadn’t grabbed that foul ball, your team may have made it to the World Series for the first time in nearly 60 years. That’s what happened to Cubs fan Steve Bartman in 2003: he went for the same ball as Chicago outfielder Moises Alou, and became the scapegoat for the Cubs’ defeat. It wasn’t really fair – but at least he knew better than to file a lawsuit.