After a disappointing season in 2013, the Blue Jays are back in Toronto with something to prove.
The Jays will face the Yankees in their home opener Friday night before a sell-out crowd of more than 46,000.
But musician, author and Jays fan Dave Bidini suggests that over the last few years, the people filling the blue plastic seats are increasingly drunk, boorish and entitled.
“Guys with reversed baseball caps with wrap-around sunglasses coming in from Oshawa or Whitby...who act like jerks and then leave”, is how the Etobicoke native describes the problematic fans responsible for “a lot of vomit, a lot fighting” in the stands.
Bidini suggests the Jays’ own marketing is partly to blame for turning their home field into a “drunken destination point”.
“Baseball, I think has become very anxious and neurotic in terms of their fanbase eroding or dying off. They’re trying to make it come across as a bit more of a young people’s sport.”
Though not a problem exclusive to Toronto, Bidini feels the team is pushing the wrong elements of the ballpark atmosphere to line up with a younger, more party-oriented crowd: lots of contests, big screen displays, giant beers and women’s team shirts that declare “I <3 BJs”.
Bidini is baffled by the level of drunkenness under the Dome, given the price of stadium beer. “It’s not a cheap drunk. Like, you’re blowing a hundred, 150 dollars.” He’s convinced the rowdy, young fans are people just passing through Toronto for the night or a weekend. “If you’re a kid living in the city, you don’t really have the disposable income to go down to a Jays game and drink 17 beers.”
The party mentality has soured Bidini on Friday night Jays games. He calls last year’s home opener “a nightmare”. But the beer-guzzling isn’t the only problem in the stands.
“People go to the games now, have too many beers and expect to be somehow rewarded by a victory by the team, just simply because they bought a ticket.”
It’s that expectation that leads to a steady chorus of boos, “you suck” and insults hurled at opposing players, but also the Blue Jays, especially when they’re trailing.
Bidini will on occasion challenge people he calls “ugly-minded fans”.
He did at a game last spring, one he was enjoying with kids despite a couple guys blasting the home team through an 8-2 loss. Bidini says they were especially cruel to outfielder Rajai Davis, now with the Tigers.
“Their behaviour was reprehensible. And it struck me as inherently racist because Rajai was the only black dude out on the field at the time and they were all over him.”
Bidini says he told the bawdy fans the Jays were trying their best. Other people nearby supported him, trying to shout down the negativity of nasty fans.
Bidini thinks the future of fandom is not in noise and roar but a safe place away from a rushed life focused on instant gratification.
“To me the atmosphere of baseball is gonna to become more and more important to successive generations who are gonna wanna slow down. We’re gonna wanna find peace in the stadium, in the arena where the din and the tumult of the world is pushed outside.”
“Maybe I’m a crazy dreamer, I dunno.”