Stadium Justice


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Stadium Justice Shortly after Minnesota Vikings receiver Randy Moss mock mooned Packer fans a few Sundays back, the careful observer might've asked, "Where's the anarchy?" Sure, Moss' crass little gesture put the media in a snit, but imagine a similar act by an NBA player. Blood on the hardwood, baby. Melee city.


Hoops fans are no more Neanderthals than football fans. But compared to the NBA, the NFL has got crowd control mastered. How does football's governing body keep the rowdies in line? With a mother's measure and a father's fist.


I've been going to Giants games since I was nine. In my experience, the Meadowlands' turnstiles at halftime are a roving crush of beefy guys in "LT" jerseys huffing herb like it's downtown Kingston. It's interesting how stadium security never seems to make much of that. Meanwhile, league wide stadium policy restricts the purchase of alcohol (at a prohibitive $7.50 a pop) once the third quarter begins. I phoned the NFL to ask them about this.



While nobody was willing to admit as much to me on the record, the anecdotal evidence points to an enlightened policy regarding fan substance abuse: High is safe; drunk is dangerous.



Still, let's suppose Mr. Moss flashes his bony cheeks in some future playoff game and thereby causes a riot. The league's got ways of dealing with that, too. In the late 90s, teams began installing makeshift penitentiaries in the bowels of their stadiums. The old Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia was first to erect an in-house jail to deal with the Eagles' infamous "700 level" unrulies. These were men?raging drunks, mostly?in the habit of wagging their unclothed beef at females, spitting, cursing, puking and projecting debris on to the field. (According to a former security specialist with the Eagles, one locally famous lawyer in this section allegedly took bets on who could nail the opposing team's coach with a snowball. The odds maker's name was Ed Rendell.)



Things got so bad in Philly that the team outfitted their detention area with a muni court presided over by the Hon. Seamus McCaffrey. Hooligans brought before McCaffrey were tried on the spot. Those found guilty were stripped of their season tickets (if they held them), fined $400 and thrown in the stadium jail until the end of the game. Franklin Financial Field, the Eagles' new digs, also boasts a lock-up. But fan unruliness has subsided and Judge McCaffery has since moved on.



About half of all NFL arenas are now prison-equipped. In-house jails come standard at the stadiums managed by SMG, one of the world's largest public facilities management companies.



"All of our NFL facilities have some form of detention," says Glenn Mon, SMG's senior vice-president of stadiums and arenas, "though currently none has on-site judicial." (Among the arenas that SMG manages is Jacksonville's Alltel stadium, the site of this year's Superbowl.) The NBA should take note. Let fans smoke dope. And if they act up, chuck 'em in the dungeon.


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