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Sports Fans Gone Wild

sports fan middle finger
Mike Zoller

It may have happened almost two weeks ago, but the actions of Miami Heat fan Filomena Tobias are still etched in my mind. Sure fans can get rowdy during a game, but when Tobias got into the face of the Bulls’ Joakim Noah with a middle finger the line was clearly crossed.

For some reason when people go to sporting events they think the ticket entitles them to say, do and act however they want. When in fact it’s quite the opposite. Have you ever read the back of your ticket? You give up basically all of your rights when you enter a stadium. Teams let fans get away with a lot and rarely take action publicly against a fan unless the action is grave.

If I’m the Miami Heat I would be embarrassed about what Tobias, a Heat season ticket holder, did to Noah. Yet the team said nothing and in my mind allowed Tobias to represent Heat fans for a few days after the incident.

Fans must realize that when they are at a sporting event there are dozens of professional cameras and thousands of other fans with cameras and every action has a good chance to be captured by someone. Did Tobias really not think she would get her photo taken when a star player was leaving the court after being ejected? Did she even think that her actions might reflect negatively on her and her family?

Her daughter issued a statement saying Tobias was embarrassed and that everyone should get a life. Which is a pretty ballsy statement for a woman whose own history has some skeletons in the closet as well.

One day Tobias was a trophy-wife living in Miami and the next day media all over the country are going into her story. After all if you had to describe a Miami woman Tobias would be the spitting image. Her story is interesting and even a little scary. She was married to CNBC commentator Seth Tobias who was found dead after he drowned in the family pool. The husband’s family is convinced that Tobias lured him into the pool and was responsible for his death. While it never went to trial, it’s amazing how one action at a basketball game can bring so much attention to a woman who I’m sure doesn’t want anything to do with this hoopla.

But this issue goes well beyond Tobias. Fans are getting more and more rowdy at sporting events and the issues seem to be multiplying at an alarming rate. It use to be a fan running on the field here and there and while it was annoying it never caused any real damage.

The real danger of fans and players interacting I think came to light in 2004 when the Pacers and Pistons were playing and the infamous “Brawl at the Palace” took place. Players went into the stands to fight fans and while the players took most of the blame, I was one of the few that really pointed the fingers at the fans for instigating the fight. While the players under no circumstance should ever go into the stands, the fans need to be held responsible for their behavior just like the players are.

Ron Artest was suspended for an entire NBA season for going into the stands in Detroit.

Unfortunately there are many incidences of fans getting into trouble at stadiums and not getting publicly reprimanded for their behavior. While alcohol is commonly the culprit it is not an excuse for people to act like idiots.

If a fan does something stupid they should be ejected (they usually are), prosecuted and the trial or punishment should be made public for all to know about. Will it stop incidences like these? No. But will it make people more aware about them and hopefully have them die down – I can only hope so. It will most likely take a major incident with a loss of life before this issue is brought to light but with small changes now things can change.

This was Tobias’ first incident so I don’t think there is much the Heat can do – short of issuing an apology that they never did. However, if Tobias was to do something like this again I would be all for revoking her season tickets and not allowing back into the arena. It may be harsh but someone has to take a stand and say fan behavior like that isn’t going to be tolerated anymore.


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