Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Audience (And Player) Participation

The past week's sports news had Burger King's Wynne Arboleda's succesful attack on a fan Alain Katigbak at the Araneta during a semi exhibition game. (the game only counts for 1 of the teams).

What rights do tickets to any kind of game entail? Fans pay good money to watch games mainly to be part of history, the possibility to be part of a moment they will remember for a lifetime. Some do it because watching live certainly brings a lot more to the viewing experience than staring at a square screen nomatter how HD it is. For some it gives them a chance to be within an earshot of the larger than life athletes you normally only see on billboards, newspapers and television.

So who draws the line and where is it drawn as far as interaction between players and fans go? Hecklers are part of the game. It's part of the elements athletes have to contend with when they sign up to play for pay. For all of us who have watched thousands of games, we know that some passionate fans say the nastiest things specifically to distract and rattle some players to get them off their game. The good players learn to ignore and the great ones even use it to fuel themselves and take their game to the next level and get the W's.

Unfortunately, Mr. Arboleda isn't one of the great ones. He is at best an average PBA point guard (for the record, an average PBA point guard is still among the top in the country) who a couple of weeks earlier had his manhood questioned when he was on the wrong end of a blowout when two National Teams competed for a cause. In a semi rematch (same coaches and many players) he couldn't ignore the verbal assaults from Mr. Katigbak and in fact took it personally and instead of his game going to the next level, he took his emotions to the next level and went into a full assault. He would have made Dana White of the UFC proud.

We all know basketball can create very emotional situations. But it's still only a game. At the end of the day, whether you win or lose, it doesn't affect things that matter most in real life, your health, family, and friends, etc.

So my hats off to the commissioner for sending a strong message. Professional athletes are paid to play their best regardless of the elements around them. There are security personnel to take care of the rowdy fans. We rely on them for security and order just as we rely on the players to play good basketball. And oh yes, we rely on fans to keep the league alive.