Gene Collier: Pirates' TV viewers need some protection, too

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The Pirates withstood a jolt of mostly undeserved criticism during their previous homestand for adding a layer to their security measures, and though the club formally apologized for a less than artful application, its intentions were good.

But since they're going to all this trouble to make sure the people in the park pose no credible threat, I would like to propose one more tweak to the stadium-entrance protocols, one that would truly enhance the game experience for the fans at home, which is where most Pirates fans are.

Screen the people who are going to be sitting behind home plate.


Not all of them, obviously, just the ones who will be more or less constantly in the lens of the center-field camera, the one through which the majority of the game is consumed by the TV audience.

There's a lot of baseball to be played in the balance of this increasingly dramatic season, and, frankly, I'm missing some of it because I'm repeatedly distracted by the people in the most ridiculously overpriced seats.

I know it's not exactly an issue for Amnesty International, but it's so easily correctable. I've even drawn up a short series of directives and questions that I could put to the people everyone will be watching on the center-field camera that game.

Goes essentially like this:

Good evening (or afternoon) ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to PNC Park. I've taken you aside for just a few minutes because you'll be spending a lot of time on the center-field camera in front of hundreds of thousands of innocents at home, and there are just a few special protocols and guidelines with which we need you to be familiar.

No phoning, no texting, no tweeting, no sexting, no waving, no spitting, no nose-picking, no picture-taking, no eating peanuts like a squirrel, no prolonged or manic gesticulating, and no wardrobe adjustments that could violate our policy that baseball is a family game.

Those are the general guidelines, now just a few specifics for your group.

You sir, what time did you get up today?

Seven a.m.?

You're not going to yawn like a hippo through all nine innings, are you? People at home are trying to follow the flight of a 12-to-6 breaking ball. They don't want to see it pass over your molars, OK? I'm serious; these seats are comfortable, leather, thick, plenty of leg room. Can we count on you stay awake? Good. That fast-asleep-in-the-front-row look isn't a great advertisement for Pirates baseball, agreed?

Now, you two, what are you, boyfriend and girlfriend? Are you getting along? No drama, OK? And no crying. There's no crying in baseball.

Sir, is that a Phillies hat? Seriously? Put that away. Pirates Gear stations are throughout the park. Hats start as low as $19.95. These seats are $200 or more, right? Ya feel me?

OK, you, young man; what are you 10? Do you even like baseball? You do, OK I trust you. No cotton candy though; it's distracting.

OK folks we're almost done; I just have to show you this very short video so if you would just watch the screen behind me you'll see the center-field camera shot at the ballpark in Houston, and right there in the first row, that's the 41st president of the United States, George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara, both A-1 examples of optimum comportment in seats like you're about to sit in. He watches the action in a kind of amiable concentration, and his wife has that unmistakable hey-this-could-be-worse look. They're quietly perfect. No nose-picking there.

But we don't have to go to Texas for excellence in this area. Watch this. This, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, is the greatest center-field camera fan in the history of baseball, Kevin McClatchy.

My God look at him. First row, on the aisle, leaning forward, hands clasped together in fervent anticipation, cheering the ballclub he ran for years, night after night, forgetting that his impact didn't reach much past the first row, but what a ballpark, right?

Thank you for your attention and enjoy big-league baseball.

Now, I'd be happy to stop by the ballpark to help launch this program, but the fact is I'm likely too busy absorbing questionable behavior at other parks as well. It was just Wednesday morning I found myself studying a YouTube video from a Cubs-Pirates game Sept. 17 at Wrigley Field, in which a young man in the front row repeatedly gestures toward the pitcher in a manner such that baseball was no longer a family game.

It was disgusting, but, if you were watching the Pirates and Cubs Sept 17, when they were a combined 43 1/2 games out of first, well, you should have known better.

Almost as shocking, in the second row the other night at Great American Ballpark -- is that Pete Rose? Is he even allowed in a big-league ballpark? Isn't that seat just about where Paul Janszen sat to signal Rose the status of placed baseball bets in the old stadium just down the street?

Hey, say what you want about Pete. At least he wasn't on the phone.

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