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  1. #1

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    Athletes and the right to not be distracted

    A comment on another forum got me thinking: How much do athletes have the right to protection from spectator distractions? What is the appropriate way to deal with intentionally distracting fans?

    I'm torn about some issues. Competitive athletes should have the ability to see past their distractions and not be a whiny sore loser or sue event organizers for losing. But I also dislike the idea of engineered attempts to sabotage an athlete. It's one thing to cheer for your favorite athlete. It's another to deliberately mess with another athlete.

    Here are some common issues and my take. What are your opinions?

    Flash photography
    When it raises safety issues, such as with gymnastics and diving, it should be banned, and spectators violating the policy should be dealt with swiftly and harshly.

    But what happens if people take photos anyway? Should Tom Daley have been given another dive because of camera flashes?

    Free throw shots
    Home town advantage is a given, but with free throws, I feel kind of uncomfortable with the idea of visually disorienting opponent players. It appears the NBA, and its players, accept the practice of fans on the court ends waving to distract a free throw shot. What about rotating disks that screw with a player's sense of orientation? What if people coordinate flashing lights to maximize the visual disorientation?

    Heckling
    At what point does heckling become harassment, and even if it is harassment, should it be banned if it does not involve physical threat to the athletes or other spectators?

    Dealing with distracting spectators
    What should be the rules, who should set them, and how do you ensure that they are consistently enforced? Should these rules be made clear to spectators before they buy their tickets?

    Should athletes have a say in it? From this article:

    As the feisty South African walked toward the next tee, retired firefighter and paramedic Steve Banky asked Sabbatini, "Hey, Rory, still think Tiger's beatable?"

    Sabbatini turned quickly, pointed at Banky and barked at police to have him removed. Though Banky uttered nothing remotely crude, did not interrupt play and hadn't even raised his voice, the cops walked him out the front gate.

    ...

    In 2004, Davis Love was leading in the finals of the Match Play Championship outside San Diego when a fan started verbally riding him. ... Love, No. 3 in the world at the time, wheeled and said he would not continue unless the heckler was identified and a man in a Tiger Woods hat was eventually thumbed.

    "I wasn't going to play anymore until somebody got kicked out, because he had already cost me a hole," Love said after the round. "I wasn't going to put up with it. I want to win and I want to play and I want to play fair. You can't have people picking on you."
    Other spectators' right to enjoy the experience
    Should that factor into the issue? Personally, I think it should, but I don't know to what extent. When athletes are heckled and harassed, the other spectators suffer too because they're put in an uncomfortable volatile environment. Heysel is an extreme example and thankfully very rare. But I do feel that by allowing excessive heckling and harassment, event organizers are being unfair to other spectators.

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    I just skimmed through your post, but the main thing that popped into my head when I saw this thread was this: sport is not just for the athletes; it's for the spectators too. Without people watching, paying, caring, it ceases to be a "sport" and more of a skills demonstration. Sure, playing in front of a rowdy crowd might be a little distracting for your game, but can you imagine a basketball final in an empty arena? Like it or not, spectators are nearly as much of the sport as the athletes themselves, and athletes have no right to whine when the natural effect of an impassioned crowd comes into play.

    That being said, safety is NUMBER ONE and obviously all crowd distractions that would lead to unsafe conditions should never be allowed, ever. Event organizers work very hard to prevent problems like light flashes before they begin with frequent reminders and swift removal if the rule is violated.

    After that, the only thing athletes have the right to ask for is good sportsmanship from the spectators. It's absolutely okay to get behind your team and cheer to your hearts content, but we all know there is a line and I don't think it gets crossed TERRIBLY often. I don't have a big problem with the home team getting noisy during free throws and stuff like that. It's not your arena, so deal. The athletes on the receiving end of the noise gets to have the tables turned when they travel home. As long as nothing unsafe or abusive is being done by the crowd, then deal.

    Anyway, I think acceptable fan behavior varies from sport to sport depending on circumstances. It's widely accepted that big arena sports like football, hockey and basketball get LOUD, while it's good etiquette to be quiet on a golf course and to be mindful of the music and whatnot at a sport like figure skating or gymnastics. I don't think it would be appropriate for say, a basketball crowd at a PGA tourney or a uber quiet golf crowd at a ice hockey game.

    Sorry, it's late and I dunno if I even make any sense, lol.

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    I think the concept of golf in a bubble is dead. Golfer's need to adapt to noise as soon as they're good enough to compete in events that attract more than a handful of spectators. The " quiet please" sign needs to go as its much easier to concentrate with a constant din than it is if most of the folks are quiet and only a few are noisy.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aceon6 View Post
    I think the concept of golf in a bubble is dead. Golfer's need to adapt to noise as soon as they're good enough to compete in events that attract more than a handful of spectators. The " quiet please" sign needs to go as its much easier to concentrate with a constant din than it is if most of the folks are quiet and only a few are noisy.
    Those statements/actions by the golfers I mentioned certainly sound whiny and wimpy when you consider that gymnasts compete on a four inch beam with the crowd and another gymnast's floor music in the background.

    At the same time, the gymnasts are so used to it and have grown up with it, so they can tune it out more easily than a golfer who hasn't had to deal with it, and it's harder to adapt when you're older.

    Are there entry fees for golf tournaments with contracts signed? If not, then suing event organizers for allowing non-flash photography and having snarky spectators removed by police is outrageous. If there are entry fees, then I can see a valid argument.

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    It seemed to me that Todd Eldredge's opening up on the triple axel in the 1998 Worlds short program (which ultimately cost him the title) was due to camera flashes in his face as he took off for that jump. But he never said anything about it that I'm aware of.

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    Julia Sebestyen's fell in the SP at 2003 Worlds, and her program was followed by an exasperated re-re-warning from the announcer about flash.
    "'Is this new BMW-designed sled the ultimate sledding machine for Langdon and Holcomb?' Leigh Diffey asked before the pair cruised to victory. I don’t know, but I know that sled is the ultimate Olympic Games product placement.." -- Jen Chaney

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    For the skating examples, do you think the athletes should have been entitled to a do-over such as was given to Tom Daley at the London Olympics?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazpacho View Post
    For the skating examples, do you think the athletes should have been entitled to a do-over such as was given to Tom Daley at the London Olympics?
    I'm not sure the two can be compared.
    3539 and counting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by milanessa View Post
    I'm not sure the two can be compared.
    Do you think Tom Daley should have been given a re-dive?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazpacho View Post
    Do you think Tom Daley should have been given a re-dive?
    I do but I'll qualify that by saying I only watch diving during the Olys so don't know anything about the rules.
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  11. #11
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    I don't think the athletes have a "right" not to be distracted, as they are playing in sports that have spectators.

    But I do think the spectators have a "right" to enjoy watching what they paid to see, and not to be annoyed by inappropriate behaviour by other spectators. E.g. At baseball games at Safeco Field in Seattle, the ushers (or audience experience enhancement monitors, or whatever their corporate-speak job title is) have signs that they hold up at the top of the stands stopping people from wandering up and down the aisles during an at-bat. I really appreciate this because it means I don't have to get up and move to let some beer drinking bozo climb in front of me while I'm trying to see what's happening on the field.

    Safeco is also very good about throwing out people who are excessively rowdy and/or abusive, although IME what's considered "excessively rowdy" varies from ballpark to ballpark. If Safeco's standards were applied in e.g. Boston, there would be very few people left in the stands
    Who wants to watch rich people eat pizza? They must have loved that in Bangladesh. - Randy Newman on the 2014 Oscars broadcast

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    I don't think the athletes have a "right" not to be distracted, as they are playing in sports that have spectators.
    I think I agree. I also think, athletes have the "right" to respect. Which means spectators following certain rules to ensure the athlete is able to perform the best they can. And that's got nothing to do with them being athletes but I'd say everyone has a right to be respected. And it also ensures, I would think, that the spectator gets the most out of what they paid for because everyone would be able to perform at their best

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by ballettmaus View Post
    And it also ensures, I would think, that the spectator gets the most out of what they paid for because everyone would be able to perform at their best
    When the home team is playing, fans don't want the other team to do well. That's why they try to distract them when they shoot free throws. Or in the Davis Love case, the other guy obviously didn't want Davis Love to do well since he's a Tiger Woods fan.

    I wonder if golfers demanding that spectators get kicked out will fly at the Olympics. If not, I can foresee major upsets. Or maybe they'll make all the spectators stand back?

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    Quote Originally Posted by overedge View Post
    But I do think the spectators have a "right" to enjoy watching what they paid to see
    I agree with you on this point, but for me, enjoying what I've paid to see means that I get to see the athletes I'm watching performing at the peak of their abilities - so not being distracted by flash photography, shouts from the crowd when they should be quiet and so on. Equally, I think most people understand when they buy a ticket for an event, they are expected to adhere to a certain standard of behaviour & can't do whatever they want as they would when watching at home.

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    Yeah, but that standard of behavior can and should vary by sport. Basketball and football are pretty much going to be loud all the time, while figure skating will vary between loud and quiet depending on the point in the competition, and golf is a fairly quiet sport. What is acceptable fan behavior in one venue isn't in another.

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    I never said it shouldn't. You buy a ticket for an event, you are expected to behave by the standards of that event. I didn't think it would need spelling out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by milanessa View Post
    I do but I'll qualify that by saying I only watch diving during the Olys so don't know anything about the rules.
    Diving's rules clearly allow for it. (From FINA)
    D 6.14 In exceptional circumstances, the Referee may allow a diver to repeat a dive without penalty. The awards for the first dive must be noted should a protest be lodged.
    It is up to the referee to decide what is exceptional, Daley could have asked for a re-dive and been told no. I wouldn't think the same thing would be applicable for skating, because of the ways the rules are written. (Not to mention skating being a continuous thing, not a single skill). From a fan's perspective it does seem pretty similar to the discussions about the allowed medical break, and what constitutes an allowable need to stop, and where the program should be picked up from. Lots to argue about 'fairness'.

    However, if Yuna Kim skates in the Olympics in Korea, we may see if there is a restart when she is blinded by flashes at her first jump... the idea terrifies me, since her fans seem to be especially rabid.
    Hopefully fans will respect the rules of the arena. And I think that is the most important thing. For different sports there are different audience conduct. Basketball players should expect unruly fans during free throws, gymnasts expect tons of noise, golfers expect quiet, and skaters/divers/any other sport where they tell you not to do that should not have to deal with flash photography.

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    While I think noise and rude comments are unfortunate. And, I would hope that common sense and courtesy would always be the norm. That is not the case. Those things can be distracting, but I do think that professionals should be able to ignore them or channel it into fighting harder to win. Flash photos, however are a whole other thing. They are not simply distracting, they can temporarily blind the person and cause physical harm. People who use flash photography should be made to leave an event. And if an athlete is injured because of their carelessness, they should be punished.
    Last edited by cruisin; 06-28-2013 at 09:44 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cruisin View Post
    While I think noise and rude comments are unfortunate. And, I would hope that common sense and courtesy would always be the norm. That is not the case. Those things can be distracting, but I do think that professionals should be able to ignore them or channel it into fighting harder to win.
    I agree, which is why the golfers I mentioned seem like wimpy sore losers.

    Quote Originally Posted by cruisin View Post
    Flash photos, however are a whole other thing. They are not simply distracting, they can temporarily blind the person and cause physical harm. People who use flash photography should be made to leave an event. And if an athlete is inured because of their carelessness, they should be punished.
    I wish they could implement a rule in which someone caught using flash would have their camera confiscated for good. It would be announced at the beginning of the event and also at the time they purchase their tickets.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gazpacho View Post
    I agree, which is why the golfers I mentioned seem like wimpy sore losers.

    I wish they could implement a rule in which someone caught using flash would have their camera confiscated for good. It would be announced at the beginning of the event and also at the time they purchase their tickets.
    They do announce, at skating events, that flash photography is not permitted. But, people do it anyway. I don't know if they can confiscate the camera, but they certainly can make them leave. Maybe it should be printed on the ticket, like a contract. so, if they violate the contract, the ticket is void and they have to leave.

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