Interesting idea. I like the phone number.
Bengals fans who spot bad behavior can call hotline
Posted 8/8/2006 10:00 AM ET
By Barrett J. Brunsman, The Cincinnati Enquirer
CINCINNATI If you act like a jerk at Paul Brown Stadium this Sunday, somebody with better manners could end up in your seat for the rest of the Bengals' home games.
All it would take is a phone call.
The football team has set up a telephone hotline 513-381-JERK (5375) that fans with cellphones will be able to call to report obnoxious behavior in the stands.
Those who use excessive foul language will be warned. If they persist, they risk being ejected from the game and having their season tickets and seat licenses revoked. Those who behave worse might also be arrested and jailed.
The Bengals won't target a fan who lets an expletive slip should quarterback Carson Palmer be sacked or a pass intended for wide receiver Chad Johnson be intercepted, said Bob Bedinghaus, the team's director of development for Paul Brown Stadium.
"We're not going to be the curse police. You need to understand you're coming to an NFL football game," Bedinghaus said. "On the other hand, we want to make sure that we're paying attention to those folks who are going over the line."
The stadium's 38 video cameras will enable security officials to focus on people who are reported to the jerk line.
Some of the more than 500 security and police officers who work each game will respond.
"We have more than enough cameras to zoom in on every position in the seating bowl close enough that we can clearly get photographic images of the people sitting there," Bedinghaus said.
Beer is fueling the problem, fans have complained to team officials. It has escalated in the past three years, as more young adults have packed the stadium because of the Bengals' improved performance.
"They were complaints (of) excessive drunkenness. People that were kind of falling down drunk," Bedinghaus said. "And there were some fights last year. Whenever you put 65,000 people together, you're always going to have some fights. But there were a few more than normal."
Drunks have offended people such as Jeanie Dittrich of West Chester, Ohio, who took her son, Austin, 12, to the January playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"All he wanted for Christmas was a playoff ticket," said Dittrich, 42, a season ticket-holder who usually goes to games with her husband, Gary, 44.
Her son had never attended a game at Paul Brown Stadium.
"We told him beforehand, 'You might see some drunk people, you might hear some F-words and swearing.' But at the game, I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I'm going to mar my son for the rest of his life by having him come to this game.' It was so bad."
Usually, she said, people who sit near her along a goal line in the lower section don't act that way. But many of them apparently had sold their tickets to people who were wearing Pittsburgh jerseys.
Drunk from the start
"At kickoff time, people were just sloppy drunk," Dittrich said. "I was really concerned for my son to see all this."
Security removed some people in front of them, she said. A woman next to Dittrich kept spilling beer on her. "And there was some inebriated guy next to my son. And he kept just swearing, and then he kept apologizing to him. And he helped start one of the fights."
The Bengals hope the hotline will curb such boorish behavior, as well as people who throw things in the stands or onto the field.
Bedinghaus said unruly fans have been an issue nationwide and that Paul Brown Stadium is more fan-friendly than most.
But "one thing that has been a consistent problem ... for the last three or four years is the issue of foul language at football games," Bedinghaus said.
The Bengals will notify season ticket-holders this week about the jerk line and the consequences of misbehaving. The team also plans to produce a video that will air during home games to tout the hotline.
According to the National Football League, it's up to the 32 teams to deal with unruly fans. Policies and procedures vary by stadium.
The team expects some crank calls to the jerk line.
"You can get a lot of abuse with these things," Bedinghaus said. "If you get 6,000 people calling this line 'Hey, Ben Roethlisberger is a jerk' then it becomes less effective. The thing to remember is we have caller ID on this line. So if you're crank calling, we are going to be able to ID who you are."
Dittrich said she and her husband will continue to go to Bengals games. While leery about taking any of her four children, she welcomes the hotline to report jerks.
"I would definitely use it if I saw cause for it," she said. "I'm glad they're rethinking the whole alcohol issue and trying to get people to be smarter about it."