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A sports writer explains fan behavior

Why Do Fans Continue to Run on the Field at Sporting Events?

Alcohol is a good answer, but there are plenty other reasons.

When the best from the AL and NL squared off at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game last month at Citi Field in New York City, what caught my attention more than the game (The AL won 3-0 in case you’re wondering) was of 18-year-old New York Yankees fan Dylan McCue-Masone running on to the diamond then getting slammed to the ground by security near second base.

Sure, we’ve all seen this before: fan runs on to the field, other fans cheer and capture the moment on their cell phones, security chases fan, fan gets tackled, fan gets arrested, game continues. But McCue-Masone’s moment in the spotlight came with a twist – instead of getting coaxed by drunken friends in the stands, he decided to take center stage at the Midsummer Classic because 1,000 people on Twitter dared him to. Now there’s some originality in what’s become a relatively routine behavior at sporting events.

“The first time somebody ran on the field, everyone was taken aback,” said Dr. Rick Grieve, Coordinator of the Clinical Psychology Master's Program and the director for the Clinical/Applied Research (CAR) group at Western Kentucky University. “Now it’s been done. There’s a feeling of ‘someone is supposed to do it, so why not me?’ When you look at rioting behavior after games, people riot in cities where there team loses, and people riot in cities where their team wins a title. They riot and burn things in places in West Virginia after they win a football game. Why? It’s because people think that’s what they’re supposed to do. That’s the tradition.

“It’s the same as why athletes pour Gatorade over coaches’ heads. It’s because now it’s tradition. It’s part of what you do when you win. That’s just part of the sporting environment and what you’re supposed to do to show that you’re excited.”

It didn’t take long for that excitement to wear off for McCue-Masone, who just three days after getting escorted off the field and arrested, was back on Twitter @MasoneDylan telling anyone who would listen: “Biggest mistake I have ever made, I regret what happened to the fullest extent. I will be paying for this the rest of my life.”

Facing possible jail time and fines likely changed his tune, but if you think his experience is going to prevent others from behaving similarly, think again. @DrewBello4 had this Twitter exchange with McCue-Masone less than a week after the All-Star Game:

@MasoneDylan Yo what happened to you after you ran on the field? Im considering doing it at a phillies game in the future

@DrewBello4 all I can say is I regret my actions, so don’t do it seriously

Seems like solid advice, but there are just too many reasons – aside from alcohol – why fans will continue to run on to the field during your favorite sporting event.

“If you look at fans that run on to the field, it could be sensation seeking, looking for the thrill and wanting to have a little bit of excitement,” Dr. Grieve said. “There could also be the thoughts of ‘I know I’m not supposed to do this, so the heck with the cops, I’m going to do what I want.’”

At least until security reaches them.

Matt Beardmore is a Chicago-based journalist and blogger.

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