Time Out with Newt Clark

With the NFL season kicking off last weekend, Fox televised the self-proclaimed “America’s Game of the Week” with the Packers traveling to San Francisco to take on the 49ers. It definitely lived up to the hype, as the 49ers and Packers battled it out in a back and forth game.

Unfortunately, in an often occurring theme at stadiums these days, a fan fell to his death at the game. It’s not the first time a fan has fallen to his or her death; it’s not even the first time that it has happened at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.

Due to the reoccurrence, it seems to be an issue that leagues are sweeping under the rug.

If you have paid any attention to sports news lately, or even news in general, there has been a lot of talk about player safety, especially when it comes to football. Millions of dollars are being spent determining the effects of playing football twenty years down the road.

I don’t mind the investment by the League and other researchers because I think it’s important, but why is there so much emphasis on player safety in comparison to the safety of fans? Professional athletes are valuable to their league; in fact they are their leagues most valuable assets, but without fans the leagues wouldn’t be able to operate either. Fans, who as a whole are spending a collective $51 million per team on NFL tickets last season, shouldn’t have to worry about falling over the railing at a game.

One of the problems is compromising viewing pleasure in order to make the venue safer. Obviously nobody wants to have to stare at a fence right in front of their face when they are trying to enjoy the game. Finding the balance in this situation can be extremely difficult, but what about the fans who are falling of areas outside of where the game is being viewed? In Houston last season, a fan died after falling off the side of an escalator. In 2011, there was a fan who fell over the railings of a staircase to his death at Coors Field in Colorado.

It is a fairly safe assumption that some of these incidents are partially due to alcohol, though I do believe fans should make sure they are acting responsibility to make sure they aren’t putting themselves in danger. Fan behavior should not justify teams from not doing their very best to prevent these incidents. If it takes spending some extra money to make railing on escalators and stairs higher, then that is something that should be done. Unlike the railings that are in the area for viewing the game, there really should be no compromise here. I can’t imagine too many fans complaining that the railing on an escalator was too high.

There has been several of these falling type incidents in Atlanta over the past year: one at the Georgia Dome, one at Turner Field and two even here at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Luckily for the fan at the Dome and the fans here, the incident did not lead to death, but the fan at Turner Field was not as lucky. As someone who visits these places regularly, I hope the organizations are doing their very best to ensure safety of the fans just as much as they are the players.

Although this is something that will never be eliminated altogether, hopefully we will see the number of incidents reduced in the near future.