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Fan ejections from NFL games on the rise

By Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer, Published November 19, 2012, SBJ

Ejections and arrests at NFL stadiums were up at the midway point of the season compared with a year ago, as the league pushes clubs to enforce fan codes of conduct that penalize out-of-line behavior at games.

Ejections rose 7 percent to 3,520, NFL officials said, though without a wave of smoking-related ejections in California stadiums, especially in Oakland, that number would have fallen from 2011. Arrests were up 19 percent, to 453. Those numbers translate to about 27 ejections and three arrests per game, with approximately 130 games having been played at the season’s midpoint.

League and team officials do not see the increases as a negative. Rather, they cite the numbers as evidence that clubs are cracking down on the type of poor fan behavior that has brought the NFL and its teams the wrong kind of attention for the in-stadium experience in recent years.

“This is part of a pretty positive trend,” said Jeff Miller, NFL head of security, who pointed to text-messaging services in stadiums as a big factor in helping teams identify trouble early. “Clubs can have more ejections or arrests because they are committed [to enforcing fan codes of conduct].”

That has been the experience in Oakland, where the Raiders ejected nearly 100 fans at their first home game for refusing to put out their cigarettes, said Amy Trask, team president. That count represented most of the ejections on that day.

Trask has been working hard to change the perception of the Oakland fan base as unruly, if not scary. Almost 1,000 fans have been ejected since the season began, with a healthy portion of that number being for smoking-related offenses.
“We are certainly committed to enforcing our fan code of conduct,” Trask said.

The NFL developed an official league-level fan code of conduct several years ago, seeking to stamp out behavior such as public intoxication, foul language and harassment of fans wearing visiting club colors. Most teams already had such codes of their own in place, but those that did not subsequently developed team-specific codes, as well.

Teams communicate these codes of conduct online, through public-address announcements at games, and postings in-venue.

While the NFL is not trying to slice off smoking ejections as a different category of fan behavior — stressing that the activity can be a clear disturbance for any surrounding fans — the league does note that without these ejections, the number of ejections overall would have declined in the first half of the year.

In Philadelphia, another city with a reputation for aggressive fans, ejections and arrests are up, but also because of increased enforcement, said Leonard Bonacci, Eagles vice president of events.

“Where we are having success is with the use of technology,” Bonacci said, principally referring to text messages that fans can send to security. “Fans now have an outlet [to immediately report] if someone is eroding the quality of their experience.”

The Eagles survey their fans online four times a year through J.D. Power and Associates, and Bonacci said there has been a statistically significant increase in positive fan satisfaction responses.

In Arizona, the Cardinals have seen a decline in ejections, said Michael Bidwill, team president and chairman of the NFL committee that’s in charge of policing fan conduct.

Bidwill stressed the importance leaguewide of fans thinking well of the NFL game experience.

“This is a business issue,” Bidwill said, “because if fans have a negative experience, they are not as inclined to come back and buy a ticket.”

Health inspectors call foul at high school concession stands

Volunteers at Florida high schools scramble to bring facilities to code after inspections
Annabelle Tometich, Fort Myers News-Press, Nov. 16, 2012

Referees haven’t been the only ones calling penalties in high school football stadiums this season.

In Florida, state health inspectors are calling fouls on the concession stands where hundreds of parents, students and fans are eating.

Of the more than two dozen sets of high school concession stand inspection reports obtained from the Lee County Health Department, no stand rated satisfactory during its first inspection. The Collier County Health Department only provided its schools’ most recent inspection reports. Of the 14, only one — the Community School of Naples’ ball field concessions — rated unsatisfactory.

The state Department of Health started requiring school concession stands be permitted and inspected last year. School principals had to submit permit applications to their county health departments. Concession-stand inspections began this year.

“Concession stands have evolved from handing out candy bars and sodas to full-service food operations,” said Ken Danielson, an inspections supervisor with the Lee County Health Department.

MORE: PDFs of Inspection Reports (See ‘Related Links’ on Left)

“Now they’re grilling, they’re frying. Since they do have potentially hazardous foods there — foods that require refrigeration or require hot holding — Tallahassee decided these stands do need permitting.”

Unlike restaurants, which are inspected by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, each county’s health department is responsible for inspecting its schools’ concession stands. The stands are usually inspected in tandem with the schools’ cafeterias. Inspectors grade stands as satisfactory, unsatisfactory or incomplete. They have the authority to shut down stands in extreme circumstances, though Danielson said his goal is to educate rather than reprimand.

Missing refrigerator thermometers was the most common violation, with dirty equipment and improperly stored chemicals also frequent.

When Estero High athletic director Jeff Sommer submitted his school’s permit applications, he was sure his stands would easily pass. Sommer should know, he eats from them three nights a week some weeks.

“We had the rubber mats on the floor so the volunteers weren’t killing their joints. We went in and cleaned everything up top to bottom,” Sommer said. “Our inspector was tough.”

She found a broken sink, an improperly stored mop, water that wasn’t flowing hot enough, foam cups stored on the floor — the list of violations from the first inspection of Estero’s football/soccer concession stand spanned three pages.

Everyone from Estero Principal George Clover to booster club volunteers sprung into action, buying thermometers by the fistful to monitor refrigerator temperatures, and reusing crates and shelving from other parts of the school to get cups and soda cans up off the floor.

Those easy-on-the-joints rubber mats had to go. Food could get trapped and become unsanitary.

“We’d been doing everything we thought was right,” said Terry Roharman, president of Estero’s booster club and mother to senior baseball player Brooks Roharman, “but when you’re not in the restaurant business it’s different — you don’t know.”

A few hundred dollars and three re-inspections later Estero’s football/soccer concession stand was up to code. The stand had zero violations during the inspector’s most recent visit Aug. 23.

“Like anything new, this has taken some adjusting,” said Vito Mennona, athletic director at Mariner High.

“They went into our football concession stand in the spring and found ants and cobwebs, but no one was in there for six months. These are buildings that were built by boosters in 1988, so in 2012, yes there are going to be updates needed.”

Booster club presidents said updates and repairs have been mostly minor, and that knowing their hot dogs and hamburgers are coming from safer places is worth the extra work.

“I go to games at other schools, I eat their concessions,” said Holly Marth, president of Fort Myers High’s athletic booster club. “I think the health department getting more involved is beneficial to all of us.”

Crescent Valley’s bleachers fail inspection

Prep sports: Crescent Valley’s bleachers fail inspection
November 27, 2012 12:00 am • By AARON YOST, Corvallis Gazette-Times

Two weeks shy of opening basketball season, Crescent Valley High athletic director Craig Ellingson began reworking both the boys and girls schedules.

A simple inspection of the school’s bleachers — no less than 35 years old and reportedly in use since the school opened its doors in 1971 — as part of routine maintenance ended their use. That decision set a number of wheels in motion that won’t come to rest until after an emergency meeting of the Mid-Willamette Conference athletic directors on Thursday.

Even then, motion will continue.

The Raiders’ bleachers have been deemed no longer safe to be used. That means nowhere for fans to sit for basketball.

“This couldn’t come at a worse time as far as winter sports are concerned; however, safety is, of course, the top priority,” CV principal Cherie Stroud said in an email.

Practices and physical education classes continue uninterrupted at Raider Gym. Games, which start Dec. 4, are another matter.

Ellingson spent the Thanksgiving break reworking the Raiders’ schedules — switching to doubleheaders whenever possible on Fridays or moving games to Corvallis High.

Ellingson and CHS athletic director Bob Holt met before school on Monday to go over an initial proposal and blend the schedules into something workable.

“I had in mind kind of what would work without disrupting Corvallis High,” Ellingson said. “We’re playing there on nights or Wednesdays when they’re away.”

So a Spartans program will run its practice after school, and the Raiders will come into the building afterward for its games.

“It’s no different from when Corvallis played its football games here while Corvallis High was being built,” Ellingson said. “It’s not ideal, but like I told our kids, by the end of the season, travelling won’t be a big deal to us.”

There will continue to be tweaks and adjustments — Ellingson had made five modifications between Monday morning and 3 p.m. — up through the AD’s meeting on Thursday.

The Raiders won’t go all season in borrowed locker rooms. CV’s girls team — coached by Ellingson — will play at home on Dec. 4 against Churchill.

They’ll use chairs for seating, which will be limited, and if it’s a disaster, there will be more adjustments made.

“I talked to Churchill’s AD and logistic-wise it wasn’t going to work,” Ellingson said. “I said let’s try a game here and see how it feels. If it doesn’t work, we won’t do the other ones here.”

Playing the doubleheaders — something CHS and CV have done in the past on occasion for the crosstown rivalry games — brings some perks with it.

“There’s some upside to it,” Ellingson said. “We’ll do a lot of doubleheaders on Friday nights. We’ll get to watch the boys play a lot more and actually I’m kind of excited about it. It’s nice for the kids to watch each other play.”

The tentative final schedule will — hopefully — emerge from the AD’s meeting. Ellingson is already aware of a couple difficult nights; including contests with Woodburn and Dallas impacted by gym size and district furlough days.

Further tweaking as the year wears on are a certainty.

“Safety has to be the key, and that’s what we’re going with,” Ellingson said.

No timetable for replacing the condemned bleachers is in place, though Ellingson believes it’ll likely happen sometime next summer.

There was an inevitability, given the structure’s age, but they had passed inspection last spring and functioned throughout volleyball season.

A series of inspections in preparation for basketball and wrestling, though, resulted in the failure.

“The one inspector just determined that things were getting looser and swaying more than they had been,” Ellingson said. “The district is doing what they have to do, making sure that things are safe for everyone.”

Unlike the bleachers at Corvallis, which are backed against a structural wall on each side of the court, the bleachers at CV are freestanding when collapsed, creating three distinct courts of play.

Patriots’ Owner Sued as ‘Social Host’ for 2 Tailgating Deaths

By Andrew Lu on November 28, 2012

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is being sued by the parents of two young women who blame Kraft for their drunken driving deaths.

In 2008, three friends — 20-year-old Debra Davis, 19-year-old Alexa Latteo, and 20-year-old Nina Houlihan — took part in tailgating festivities outside the New England Country Music Festival held at Gillette Stadium.

The tailgating event was allegedly well-known to be a haven for underage drinking and partying, and the three underage women got hammered as they partied, Boston’s WBUR radio reports. When they left the party, Latteo got behind the wheel of a car and crashed into a tree, killing herself and Davis. Houlihan suffered serious injuries, but survived.

The parents of the women argue that Kraft should be held responsible for the deaths as he was essentially a social host, charging people to come onto his property to drink and party.

In his defense, Kraft says that he should not be held liable. His lawyers compare him to the parent of a teenager who leaves town to discover that his child threw a party at his house. A court had found that in this situation, the homeowner would not be liable for any injuries or deaths so long as the homeowner did not provide the alcohol to the underage party-goers, according to WBUR.

While no one is claiming that Kraft personally gave the underage women alcohol, the plaintiffs argue that he created an atmosphere where underage drinking was allowed. They claim that underage tailgaters were openly carrying alcohol and were playing drinking games with complete impunity, reports WBUR.

And unlike the parent of a child who throws a party, the plaintiffs argue that Kraft should be distinguished as he is a business person who profited off the party-goers.

It will be interesting to see if the court will hold Kraft personally liable for the deaths of the two women. While he did not provide alcohol to any underage individuals, the argument has been made that he was a social host who essentially turned the other cheek to underage drinking.

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