Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, a fan interfered with Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who was chasing down a fly ball. Cruz tried to catch the ball, but the fan got in the way and it turned into a home run, giving the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

The very same night at Xcel Energy Center, a Wild fan made a remark to Canucks enforcer Dan Rypien, who reacted by grabbing the man’s jersey. Rypien earned an indefinite suspension, while the fan and his friend simply moved to another seat.

These incidents reminded this observer of a time when a brat named Jeffrey Maier stole the ball from Tony Tarasco in the ALCS in 1996. It was considered a home run, and the Yankees eventually won that game. The Orioles were not tough enough to rebound from that.

Maier  knew what he was doing. He may have been a kid, but there’s no question his father told him to be in a position to take the ball from Tarasco. No one does this by accident. It takes skill to do this.

Moreover, he would not have done this if the Orioles were hitting.

What was particularly galling about the incident was that Maier and his family used their 15 minutes of fame by going on shows, sending a message that it’s okay to promote stupidity. Shame on the media in this town and networks for publicizing a kid that did not deserve it.

What Maier deserved was the Steve Bartman treatment, but since it did not hurt the Yankees, it was no biggie. The national media thought it was a cute story.

It wasn’t. The Orioles played hard all year to be in a position for a championship, only to see their season ruined by the interference of a twelve year old boy.

Maier should have been thrown out, and the Yankees should have not enabled this type of behavior even if it benefitted them.

If there was something good that came out of this, Maier got plunked for his stupidity by a pitcher from the Red Sox farm system.

Much like Maier, this Wild fan now wants to get his 15 minutes of fame. He did an interview with the Star-Tribune’s Wild beat writer Michael Russo about what happened.

Why does this fan even want to be a story? He should have declined and moved on with his life, but that was not the case. He continues to insist that Rypien should be charged with an assault despite its extreme unlikelihood.

Meanwhile, the Rangers won Game 4 despite the fan interference. It’s a good thing, because it would have been insufferable to watch that idiot get his shot at fame for stealing a ball from Cruz.

At some point, the fans should heed the message about not getting too involved in games. Their role is to go watch the game and support the team, not to harrass a player or try to get involved in a game by swiping a ball out of a fielder’s grasp.

If a fan can’t live up to the rules, he or she should be tossed from a game. Heckling is fine, but touching a player is out of line.

Fans know this, but they don’t want to listen. If they feel they can give their home team a competitive advantage at their ballpark, they will do whatever it takes; neither will teams stop this behavior as long as it benefits them. 

It’s a clear double standard. A fan is tossed if he interferes with a home team’s fielder, but it’s okay if a fan can do this to an opposing outfielder.

Nothing good comes out of a fan getting involved in a game. Besides unfairly affecting the game, the fan himself could get hurt.

There are numerous examples of this. A fan and several Texas Rangers exchanged blows at Network Associates Coliseum in 2004. There was also that memorable brawl between Ron Artest and several Pistons fans.

This is what happens when teams enable this behavior.

Sports are not the place to heckle one another. Spectators should be enjoying the talent that is out there on the field, not starting fights with players.

It’s up to teams to tell security to end this type of behavior. There has to be a consistently enforced no-tolerance policy on this type of fan behavior before it will go away.

If teams enforce these rules, maybe it will save the umpires from making stupid calls. Maybe no one will get hurt. Maybe opposing players will feel comfortable.

On top of that, it’s time for the media to stop promoting this type of stuff. There is no need for sports reporters to go interview a fan about getting into a fight or interfering with a game.

Here’s hoping change is made, but don’t count on it. The Yankees, or for that matter any other team, will take any break they can get.  Even if it’s from the fans.

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