During Monday night’s game against Cleveland there was a delay as fans in the right field bleachers lost control of a cup snake they’d been creating since the first inning. Cups fell past the basket down to the warning track in right field. And look, cup snakes are whatever. But seeing the grounds crew hustling to clean up a totally preventable mess in the late innings is embarrassing and as much as I love the bleachers and bleacher culture, it can be fun without being a free-for-all.
Don’t get me wrong, I love watching games in the bleachers. Yes, even when the bros spill beer on me the fourth or fifth time. It’s the price of admission to watch the game in one of the best spots in baseball: the general admission seating area above the historic ivy-covered brick walls where fans crowd together enjoying (many) beverages, baseball in one of the most beautiful parks in America, and throwing back opposing team homers. But as the ballpark has reopened to full capacity, the bleachers have lost whatever modicum of respect they once had. A friend recently asked me where his elderly father should sit in the bleachers to see the game there, while avoiding the wildest parts of the experience. It told him to get his dad a seat in the grandstand, instead.
I think there are three pretty easy ways to keep the bleachers wild and fun without alienating fans who would like to sit there.
Heckling is fine, being a jerk is not
Heckling is a bleacher tradition, and a good one. I have booed Ryan Braun with the best of them, and definitely made sure to teach the fans in left field at Dodger Stadium how that is done when I visited. I’ve watched opposing players like the late José Fernández revel in bleacher culture. We heckled him, he gave it right back, along with a few baseball souvenirs for the kiddos. One of the greatest parts of the bleachers is interacting with the players, both Cubs and opposing teams, in a mostly good-hearted way.
But it is flat out embarrassing to be sitting in left field as Jesús Sánchez plays for the first time ever in the Friendly Confines listening to fans make inappropriate comments to a 23-year-old kid who’s just trying to enjoy his moment in beautiful Wrigley Field. It is possible to heckle a player without making ableist comments that I will not repeat here. An aside, you sound like a fool making ableist comments about an athlete who is clearly in the 0.1 percent of all baseball players as evidenced by his presence on a big league diamond as you get drunk in the bleachers.
It is possible to just take the baseball he threw up to fans home as the souvenir he intended it to be rather than throwing it back at him like a child. Better yet, give it to a child. As much as I always want the Cubs to win, I was personally happy Sánchez hit a home run that a fan refused to throw back. You can’t see it in this video but the ball that was thrown back came from someone much higher up than the home run [VIDEO].
Cup snakes: Keep them in the stands
What used to be a pastime for drunk fans in the sixth or seventh inning of a game is now a mission from the bros as of the first or second inning. Like, by all means, you do you but it’s more than a little obnoxious to see fans more interested in stacking cups than in watching the actual baseball game. I also can’t see how holding a cup snake for seven innings is anything other than annoying, but since I’ll never participate in one I won’t judge how y’all spend your time.
What I will judge is dropping your cups on the field to disrupt the game. That is amateur hour and ridiculous. Under no circumstances should a game be delayed because fans in the bleachers are too drunk to hold onto the cups they’ve been accumulating for two hours. Buy as much beer as you want. God knows the Ricketts could use the money to pay Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Javier Báez and Willson Contreras, but don’t make the grounds crew clean up your mess on the warning track and when the ushers ask you to tear it down, tear it down like an adult.
Hey, right field, get your cup snakes under control. Smh pic.twitter.com/53WsmOstRh— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) June 22, 2021
Look, the bleachers are always going to be weird and a bit wild. I admit, coming back to the bleachers after the pandemic was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had. It was awesome to see old friends and know that this exceptional ballpark wasn’t going anywhere. But the bleachers are better when fans keep it at a 9.9 rather than pushing it to an 11. The bros can try (and fail) to start the wave, take their shirts off on the coldest day of the month, and build cup snakes — just do it in a way that doesn’t cross the line to abusive comments towards players, interfere with other fans enjoyment of baseball or disrupting the game itself.