added 6/28/2009 by Bob Hulsey
Back when David Letterman was funny instead of just crude, he used to do something called "Stupid Pet Tricks". It seems at Minute Maid Park, they could entertain the crowd with "Stupid Fan Tricks" except that the fans wouldn't understand it.
Twice now in one month, fans along the foul lines have reached over to grab balls that were still in play. Sunday, it cost the Astros a run that might have been handy in their 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
But that's only the start. It is not uncommon to see fans interfere with Houston players going after pop foul balls that land in the front row. Rooters of most other teams seem to understand that you don't touch live balls in play and you don't block your own players from catching balls.
Astros fans are notorious for starting "The Wave". If that isn't criminal enough, they start it while their own team is at bat. Who, attending the game or watching the crowd on television, hasn't seen fans jabbering away on their cell phones or sending text messages instead of watching the game for which they plunked down $20-$50 (plus parking) to see?
Perhaps their attention would stay riveted if their team's play wasn't so predictable. This year, the Astros are near the top in team batting average and near the bottom of the league in runs scored. How can this be? Well, they also lead the league in caught stealing, grounding into double plays and if there was a stat for most boneheaded baserunning blunders, they'd pace the league in that department too. Throw in a poor average with runners in scoring position and you'll understand why a team with so many .300 hitters can't light up the scoreboard more regularly.
In other words, the Astros play down to the IQ of their fan base.
I grew up in Houston. I love the people. I love Texas. I'll be an Astros fan until I die. But I'm not sure I would use any Astros fans for lifelines if I'm ever on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?"
Of course, I don't travel very much any more but I do watch a lot of baseball and I just don't see any fans at other ballparks (Steve Bartman excluded) committing such acts of stupidity. Yes, there are teams with more drunks in the stands and at least our fans aren't picking fights with police officers like they do in Anaheim or dropping out of the upper decks reaching for foul balls but it's just embarassing to watch Astros fans at times.
Yes, I know there are many smart, sensible, restrained and attentive Astros fans attending games and they are probably the ones who don't sit where they can be shown on television. But it just takes a few bad apples to tar an entire group. We have to figure out, if nothing else, a way to keep the numbskulls off the field of play.
Here's my suggestion. If you're sitting in the front row at Minute Maid Park and you see someone near you about to reach over for a fair ball or block an Astro from catching a pop foul (or especially preventing Hunter Pence from grabbing a visitor's home run), give that person a strong, swift kick to the groin. Apologize afterwards and explain you have a muscle reflex disorder. You have my permission. You'll do your city proud and perhaps you'll get Carlos Lee home from third in the process.