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Romanians bite back, put fans in their place

So you’re still really worked up over the final play of the San Francisco 49ers-New York Giants playoff game on Sunday, huh? Too bad — we’re not going there, girlfriend. There’s a much bigger story on the sports wires this week.

In an effort to control fans, a Romanian soccer team is constructing a moat around their field, and filling the moat with crocodiles.

There — just let that sink in for a minute. Got it? Should I repeat the crocodile part?



When I first read about this the other morning, a wave of calm and serenity rushed over me, as if all of the Kenny G albums ever made had been combined into one soothing musical number. The pure genius of this concept is hard to describe. Hats off to the Romanians, who frankly have not been pulling their weight in the great idea department for these past few centuries. They were due, and they came through in a big way.

Here are the details: Steaua Nicolae Balcescu, a fourth-division professional team, was facing expulsion from the league due to repeated incidents of crowd shenanigans. And so club chairman Alexandra Cringus did what came naturally — ordering workers to dig a moat around the soccer field, “wide enough so that no one could manage to jump over it. Anyone who attempted to do so would have to deal with the crocs.”




In the absence of overzealous fans dropping in, the reptiles would be fed on meat scraps from a local slaughterhouse.

“I think the problem of fans running onto the pitch should be solved once and for all,” Cringus said.

Oh, we know what you’re thinking: “Will the moat be heated?” Yes. With underwater pipes. Also, it will be far enough from the field so that players don’t accidentally fall in. But if the ball should bounce in there, then man, unwrap a new one, cause that ball is lost.

Two thoughts immediately come to mind on this. The first: “Cool!” The second: We need similar measures instituted here in the U.S. But here in The States, it is not the fans who need to be kept from the field, but rather the players who need to be kept from the fans.

In Eastern Europe, you see, they have their priorities straight. Athletes compete, and fans become enraged at the outcome and run amok. That’s the way God intended things to work in sports, and it’s even the way we conducted ourselves here in America until very recently.

Now, in the U.S., it is the fans who sit on their hands, barely showing interest. If you don’t believe me, have you been to a professional baseball game in the Los Angeles area recently? The Angels have to show film clips of a deranged monkey to get people to clap. And the Arizona Cardinals wrack their brains every week trying to figure out ways to get people to even show up.

Then there are the actual athletes. We’ve got Roger Clemens throwing pieces of baseball bat at Mike Piazza, triggering a bench-clearing brawl. We’ve got NBA players pummeling Shaquille O’Neal on a nightly basis, trying to make us watch him shoot free throws (shudder!). Fights abound in the NHL, where fisticuffs are now actually scheduled around TV commercials. And how about boxing? Shouldn’t we build a moat around the next Mike Tyson press conference?

But the worst disgrace is the NFL, which has become an activity exclusively devoted to trash-talking, cheap shots and physical intimidation. It really is out of hand — I would no more let my son or daughter near an NFL playing surface than I would let them play in a nuclear waste facility. The thought of one of them coming into contact with radioactive sludge, or the Giants’ Jeremy Shockey, just sends shivers up and down my spine.

And so we Americans need a burst of Romanian inspiration. We propose that each NFL stadium be equipped with restraining apparatus, to keep the players as far removed from the fans as possible. Building a moat and filling it with dangerous beasts is a fine start, but we have to take the idea to the next level.

Each stadium should have its own signature barrier. Tampa Bay could have the moat — that would fit nicely with the pirate ship motif. Dallas could have a herd of longhorn cattle, which, when trouble arises, could be made to stampede between the players and the fans, like you see in a lot of western movies. And how about quicksand? The sight of Terrell Owens slowly sinking into the earth, until only his helmet remains on the surface, might dissuade other players from going into the stands to autograph a ball during the game.

And if you decide to go with the moat (and we don’t blame you), there are other ways to fill it besides using crocodiles. How about piranha fish? It’s

said that a school of hungry piranha could strip Gilbert Brown to the bone in less than 20 minutes. That would be sweet.

These are ideas to start with, that’s all we’re saying. Our professional athletes are totally out of control, and need to be sequestered. We can’t let

the Romanians beat us to the punch in this department. Thank you.

Ooh, wait! … an electrified fence. There’s a good one. See you next week.

Rick Chandler’s interactive sports column, Capacity Crowd, can be found at NBCSports.com. You can contact him at RickChand@earthlink.net.


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