Posted by: Ian Ross | April 17, 2008

YouTube Baseball Brawls Good or Bad News For Jays?

YouTube appears to be fueling a sudden fantastic frenzy of fan fights at Toronto Blue Jay games.

During the first few games of the season, some drunk young fans in the upper deck of SkyDome (you can’t rename the Taj Mahal of 1980s concrete) have been scrapping it out, taping their exploits, posting them on YouTube with invitations for challengers to duke it out at future games.

Paul Godfrey, the club’s CEO, isn’t happy. He commented this week in the Globe and Mail that “when you aim at a younger crowd, you hope to catch people interested in baseball who didn’t come before or felt they couldn’t afford to come – not a night at the bar.” The Globe described the situation as “public relations wreakage.”

I’m not so sure. The last generation of Jays fans grew up with Jesse Barfield, Joe Carter and Tony Fernandez. I was one of them. We showed up in record numbers. We politely clapped when the Jays scored. Some let loose with a second beer. Rarely did anyone yell or get out of their seats. Everyone generally held up the image of polite Canadians.

It seems Godfrey is totally focused on bringing back the good ol’ days. However, I’d argue the next generation of Jays fans are social media savvy and demand more entertainment value. The game of baseball may not be enough to keep them interested.

So maybe, just maybe, a few extra beers and battles in the blue seats may just be what many young fans want in a ballgame.  I’ve been to Buffalo Bills games where there are more crowd fights than touchdowns. And the place is always packed, even if the team stinks.

I was at the Jays home opener this year. And I’ll admit after four innings of scoreless baseball my interest started to wane. A few runs, a few fights one section away from us and a few beers later, I was having a great time.

Check out the video below. Nearly everyone is trying to catch a glimpse of the fight.

I am certainly not encouraging the violence. I’m just suggesting that the Jays may not want to react too quickly to YouTube, alcohol and isolated aggression. Instead, they may want to seriously think about what the next generation of ball fan wants when they come to the game.

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