The NFL claims that any fan ejected from a league stadium for boorish behavior this season will not be allowed to attend another game until he or she -- let's be honest: he -- completes a four-hour course on how to behave at sporting events. But it doesn't take four hours to learn the etiquette of attending ball games. It takes four minutes, if you follow my syllabus:
Introduction To Your Seat: You know the guy who arrives late, looks at his ticket and imperiously announces that you're in his seat -- a seat that you or your forbears have occupied every game for the last 65 years? Don't be that guy. Trust me: The other day, at Fenway Park, two minutes before Red Sox starter Jon Lester threw the game's first pitch, I stood over a man and his wife and haughtily informed them that they were -- ahem! -- in our seats. "We're not," the guy said, flashing the season tickets that his family was handed upon disembarking the Mayflower. At which time I re-examined my own pair of tickets and said -- less haughtily this time: "I see now that we're one section over. Good day to you."
Anthem 101: Remove Your Dunce Cap: When the PA announcer says, "Please rise and remove your cap," he is subtly reminding you to a) rise and b) remove your cap. Why is the second instruction so difficult to understand? (It would be nice if you also put down your beer and stopped yammering into your cellphone, but let's take baby steps here.) Also: When the singer sings "land of the free" -- and pauses dramatically before getting to "the home of the brave" -- you are not required to fill that short interval of silence with yows, yee-has or woo-hoos.
Levi's 501: Down In Front. While I admire the sheer stamina of the man in front of me, his status as a one-man standing ovation is impeding my view of the game. Instead of watching the Patriots play the Dolphins, I've spent the day contemplating his denim-shrouded rear end. The leather sizing patch on those jeans informs me that the only blowout I'll be witnessing firsthand this afternoon is his waist-to-inseam ratio: 52 to 28. A good rule of thumb: If you're the only one standing in a stadium filled with 50,000 fans, be embarrassed and then be seated.
Putting the Fan In Profanity: I love a colorful stream of vulgarity as much as the next Teamster, and generally agree with Mark Twain, who said, "Let us swear while we may, for in Heaven it will not be allowed." But it can be overdone, and your cartoon cloud of asterisks and ampersands is making Quentin Tarantino blush. While it's kind of you to enumerate the umpire's many inadequacies for the listening pleasure of those around you, consider working a less profane modifier into your vocabulary every now and then. "Flipping," for instance. Or "frigging." "Fracking" isn't just for gas companies anymore. Imagine Goodfellas playing on the USA Network and you'll think of all sorts of cleaned-up demi-curses that won't violate the ears of neighboring nuns and children. (A personal favorite, gleaned from network airings of Saturday Night Fever: "You fakers!")
For Those Landlocked in the Center of a Row: I will happily stand so that you may exit the row to avail yourself of concession stand or restroom. But it would be nice, before your third or fourth trip to the john, if you uttered, "Excuse me." Better still would be a self-deprecating apology. It is not enough simply to approach me in silence and wait for me to rise. (Unless you're a judge or the Queen of England, your mere presence does not require me to stand.) Try instead: "I'm sorry to do this again, but I drank a case of Keystone Light in the parking lot and my bladder's the size of a walnut. Would you be so kind as to let me pass?"
"Armrest": Short For "Arm-wrestling"? This is American Airlines Arena, not American Airlines. Arriving first to your seat does not entitle you to both armrests. Rather, think of your seat as a ride at Busch Gardens. Keep your hands and feet inside the car at all times. Failure to do so could result in serious injury.
Finally, and I cannot stress this enough ...
The Souvenirs Are for Children: Please don't throw yourself in front of me as if I were the president and you were a Secret Service agent taking a bullet, when in fact you're risking your safety (and mine) to catch a $2 T-shirt shot-gunned into the stands. To watch grown men fighting for a foul ball like bridesmaids on America's Funniest Videos fighting for a bouquet is to witness one of sport's saddest spectacles.
If you catch a baseball, T-shirt or other projectile, hand it over to the nearest child. These aren't emergency rations, thrown from the back of a truck. They're mini basketballs, slung-shot into the seats. Get a grip -- and not on your neighbor's neck -- or I'll see you in class again next summer.