Two bizarre incidents last week put security at major sports stadiums around the nation under the microscope. The incidents took place during Monday Night Football between the Eagles and Redskins and a meaningless contest featuring American League Central cellar-dwellers on Thursday night. The two horrific scenes illustrate that fans are too bored to behave like human beings if the activity on the field isn’t worth the ticket price.

With five minutes left in a 37-7 yawner on Monday Night Football, the Eagles bench inexplicably ran onto the middle of the field. Members of the team either plugged their noses, or covered their mouths with their hands to protect themselves from a gas-like substance. Was this another reprisal of September 11?

Sit back and carefully think things out, and it very conceivably could be. The first Monday Night Football game after the anniversary of the September 11 attacks ? a game on center stage in our nation’s capital ? athletes falling to their knees, on a network’s highest rated prime time show, in a sport that is the very heart of our nation. The scene was simply the product of a drunken brawl that caused police to spray pepper gas to break it up. The nation gave a collective sigh of relief.

If that wasn’t strange enough, I turned on Sportscenter last Thursday night to see the Kansas City Royals empty their bench. At first I figured this was another fight due to a hit pitch, but the White Sox players remained on the bench. A father-son combination ran onto the field, throwing Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa to the ground. Thankfully, Gamboa’s team came to his rescue before the assailants could cause serious damage. A pocket knife was found on the ground afterward.

Flashes of Monica Seles appeared in my head when I saw this sickening display. Seles was on the verge of setting every female tennis record in history back in 1993 when she was stabbed mid-game. Her career has never been the same.

I am not saying that athletes need secret service protection while they play a game, but wasn’t security supposed to be dramatically increased since September 11? I don’t think I would feel completely safe going to a stadium on a daily basis, were I a player. It is not difficult to hire a few more security guards to form a human fence at the edge of a baseball field.

There are very few recreational activities that are more important to Americans than professional sports. Taking your son to a baseball game is about as American as apple pie. If our nation’s fans aren’t responsible enough to limit their alcohol consumption and keep their fist down, it is the job of security to maintain peace in the stands. Security must do a better job, because last week wasn’t a safe time to take your son to a game.

Rybaltowski can be reached at

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