Every sport has endured its own unique setback that, in spite of its detriment, didn't do nearly enough to ravage its landscape. Baseball had its Black Sox Scandal, a tarnish quickly eradicated by Babe Ruth's colossal home runs (and, in the grand scheme of things, the Mitchell Report merely defecated on Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, not the entire sport, as the excruciating hours of Sportscenter coverage would have dictated). The NBA was dealt a gargantuan blow with Michael Jordan's retirement, which, contrary to prior belief, hasn't totally destroyed the sport, with the likes of Lebron James, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash, and (dare I say it) Kobe Bryant ushering the game into a respectable era. Football had its Dark Ages (also known as the period before the Super Bowl, when television networks shied away from any attempt to market a sport too sluggish to appreciate on a widespread level). Ice hockey's television contract was never re-upped by ABC, and yet, the sports thrives off of....off of....hmmmm....what exactly? I mean, a team gets awarded a point for making it to overtime, even if it loses? Ice hockey, a sport supposedly so punishing, demanding, and throttling with energy, barely pulls ratings good enough to rival bull riding and the Tour de France on the Versus Network? Do you see where I am going with this? There are certain decisions made, certain trends infused into a sport, that can lead it to a putrid demise. This is why the following fads need to go the way of Charlie Hustle, Mr. Pete Rose: PERMANENT BANISHMENT. To a degree, fans and ownership are responsible for these idiotically stupefying practices, all of which deserve immediate attention, or else. You've been warned: fanships nationwide are in danger, code red style.
5. The Tomahawk Chop
Attention Florida State Seminole and Atlanta Brave fans: you are causing your organization great shame by engaging in this practice. Here's what you consider a 'bright' idea: thousands of spectators conduct, in unison, a bellowing chant to capture the spirit of Native American warfare, complete with a chopping motion to symbolize a figurative scalping of an opponent. And if that weren't enough, Atlanta Braves fans can actually purchase a neon luminary in the shape of a tomahawk. Let me ask you this, Atlanta Brave Nation: how many opponents succumbed to the Tomahawk Chop during your glorious fifteen year run? Homefield advantage, complete with your moronic chant, only produced one friggin' World Series? Maybe it's not the product on the field that lost those games for you---perhaps your opponents delivered a shellacking just to spite your sorry excuse for a unified cheer.
4. The dreaded Thundersticks
While present at an NBA Finals contest between the New Jersey Nets and the San Antonio Spurs in 2003, I was granted my very own set of Thundersticks, two pieces of blown-up vinyl that, when struck together, produced a hollow popping sound. Multiply that by 20,000, and you get a sense of the sheer hysteria conducted at Continental Airlines Arena that evening. Although they create quite a ruckus, Thundersticks can also be used to distract a shooter at the free throw line. So, when a shooter is aiming at the rim (colored orange), he is thought to be detracted by a moving flurry of Thundersticks (colored white). Unless you are looking to deter a guy like Shaquille O'Neal, there is a good chance that this practice does not work. Which makes you wonder: when has a fan fad EVER altered the course of a game? Wait for it....NEVER! All these Thundersticks do is provide another irksome device to a child with low-grade attention deficiency who has already pissed you off with his thirtieth request for either a bathroom break, some cotton candy, or the desperate and absolute need to purchase a foam finger.
3. The $8 ballpark brew
Seriously. Eight dollars. Twelve, if you want your very own souvenir cup to accentuate your less-than-fizzy, watered-down, piss-warm excuse for a brew. Don't fret, sports fan: the wide array of choices for this said concoction are Budweiser and Bud Light (Bro Code, Article 2: you are never to trust, under any circumstance, a man who savors Budweiser on a regular basis). There is a word for what these vendors commit to on a nightly basis: extortion. Shame on you, oh peddler of ballpark ale.
2. Jock Jams
Gary Glitter, original composer of Rock and Roll Part 2 (better known by fans as the "Hey!" song), has parlayed one-hit wonderdom into arena-rock immortality. Such a classic song pretty much fits every peak and valley that outlines a typical sports contest. Your team just took the lead late in the fourth quarter? Cue up the Romantics' "That's What I Like About You!" What song helps the crowd get through a lengthy time out? Todd Rundgren's "I Just Want to Bang on These Drums All Day!" Time for the seventh inning stretch? Yankee Stadium has just the cure: the Rednex and "Cotton Eyed Joe!" There is no eloquent way of putting this: it is a horrid state of affairs when such tracks hurl sports fanatics into a state of utter pandemonium. Think about it: if you were 'that guy' who chose any of these tracks on the jukebox to liven up a barroom soundtrack or opted to roll the windows down in your Hyundai hatchback to blare these tracks down the avenue, you better be willing to parry the furious advances of some rabidly pissed off people. If the playing of these songs could cost you your reputation, what makes it apropos to jam to them amongst 50,000 sports fanatics?
1. Ballpark Giveaway Day
Talk about a process rooted in discriminatory practice. Why should those 14 years or younger get a souvenir bat and I don't? Then, there's 'cap day.' You get to bring home your very own bright orange Mets cap, emblazoned on all sides with Hebrew National and Pfizer advertisements. Just what you wanted: a special edition bobblehead doll of future Hall of Famer Stephon Marbury! Whaddya know--more crap to magnetize to the fridge: your very own 8" X 11" schedule, to keep you informed of the next 'here, you throw this crap out 'cause we don't want it' giveaway day! Maybe Jerry Seinfeld was right: more fans would show up to the games if 'cap day' suddenly became 'unadulterated fitted caps the pros wear day.' Don't you worry: the billion dollar Yankee machine could afford it.