In America, it’s widely accepted and occasionally, if rarely, disputed that Philadelphia sports fans are the absolute worst when it comes to vile behavior at games. After this week’s behavior, and several instances in the recent past, it seems that Toronto Blue Jays fans are becoming Canada’s equivalent to the puking-on-children, battery-throwing, rioting Phillies faithful.
With Philly pretty much irrelevant in baseball for recent years, there had to be one fan base that would represent the lowest of the low among contending teams, and the Blue Jays supporters are running away with the crown. Just a few days ago, in the winner-take-all Wild Card playoff game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, a fan in the upper seats tossed an apparently full beer can at Baltimore Orioles left fielder Hyun Soo Kim. Afterwards, O’s center fielder Adam Jones, who is African-American, said he and his Korean teammate were subject to racial slurs throughout the game.
“People cussing, flipping you off, I get it, that’s fine,” he said after the game. “But to go out of character – to put us in harm’s way, we’re here to play baseball, nothing more, nothing less, and to put us in harm’s way, that’s not part of the game.”
The Jays released a statement offering their “sincere apologies” for the “embarrassing incident,” and police investigated the matter, finding the fan and getting an apology from him. Usually the matter would be forgotten and the teams could move on, but it’s becoming the new normal at Rogers.
The ugliest example came during last year’s playoffs, when fans, angry at the umpires’ call on a supremely bizarre play, started throwing trash and beers onto the field from all reaches of Rogers. One spectator nearly hit a woman and her infant with a can, with the landing spraying them both. Several Blue Jays left the dugout to chastise their supporters for the conduct. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.
In response, the team announced it would no longer sell beer in cans in the upper level of the stadium. But prior to the baby incident, there were a few other times when Toronto crowds chucked their Labatts, Buds and Alexander Keith’s onto the field. In 2013, Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth was nearly beaned by a can after making a spectacular catch.
In 2012, umpire Bill Miller got nailed at the end of a game after ejecting Blue Jay Brett Lawrie and manager John Farrell.
Earlier that year, a can just missed soccer star David Beckham while he prepared for a corner kick there.
The Blue Jays have yet to announce any changes in their alcohol policies for the remainder of the postseason and beyond. Aside from the projectiles being thrown at the athletes, security and booze appear to be a larger problem. In 2015, the Toronto Star published a piece where Jays fans talked about the brawls and excessive drunkenness they witnessed at the annual opening home game.
There’s an onus on the organization to try to prevent this stuff, but it’s not likely that they’ll stop serving beer in cans throughout the stadium – after all, it’s a lot faster, and therefore way more lucrative, to hand someone a can opposed to pouring them a draught. What they need is an institutional reset to make sure concession workers aren’t serving to the hammered, tighter security to make sure drunks don’t get into the game and that those who get too tipsy are responsibly ejected and the majority of Toronto fans who won’t tolerate this kind of stuff to make sure it doesn’t happen again.