July 26, 1993 12:00 PM


A CONVENTION OF BASEBALL BROADCASTING strikes me as hypocritical, if not perverse: the fan-on-the-field taboo. When some yahoo jumps from the stands onto the playing surface, TV cameras, as a matter of policy, immediately fix on a neutral tableau—the on-deck circle or pennants atop the stadium—until the trespasser is rousted. The idea behind this visual embargo is that showing miscreant behavior on TV might encourage other goofballs to gambol on the greensward. Yet when there is a brawl among players (and there have been more than usual this season), the camera doesn’t shy away. We see the fight in its entirety and then in replay. The same footage will invariably be featured on the nightly local news and the national sports wrap-up shows on cable. Isn’t showing fights likely to lead to copycat conduct much more antisocial than some lone knuckle-head cavorting on the diamond? Football and hockey don’t draw such unruly crowds because thuggish fans just enjoy seeing toothless men in helmets; no, they’re emulating their hard-hitting heroes. If pro golfers started duking it out on the greens, soon there would be rumbles in the galleries as well. Major league baseball and those who beam it into our homes seem to be saying: Go ahead and riot if you’re in uniform; otherwise, stay seated. Nobody’s ratings were ever improved by a scuffle between two fans from Scarsdale.

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