It’s Not My First Rodeo

While ballparks across Florida and Arizona are coming to life with the sounds of Spring Training baseball, there is another tradition of the season that has arrived a little closer to my Texas home.

It is rodeo time and all throughout town the sights, smells and sounds of barbecue, bucking broncos and music abound as the annual salute to all things country and western rolls into town.

Rodeo time has come to Houston and everyone is getting into the spirit. Photo R. Anderson

Rodeo time has come to Houston and everyone is getting into the spirit.
Photo R. Anderson

For several weeks the days and nights will be filled with livestock auctions, skills competitions and nightly concerts. As part of this rodeo bonanza television ads for everything from trucks to mattresses focus on stampedes, herds and other buzz words of the season.

Another tradition of the season is the unexplainable need of the local television reporters to dress up in rodeo gear while they are covering the various activities. Some of the reporters look the part, but most of them definitely look like they are all hat and no cattle.

I have always said that you either are something, or you are not. So the dressing up as a cow poke, when you are a obvious city slicker, really is not fooling anybody. Still, I am sure when rodeo rolls around next year there will still be the pretenders that dust off those once a year duds or go to the Western wear store to get something new.

In the decade plus that I have lived here I have yet to attend a rodeo. When people ask me if I am going to the rodeo, and I reply that I am not, often times it is like I have stomped their balloon animal into tiny little pieces.

It is not that I am anti rodeo per se, I just don’t feel the need to battle the crowds to see the events and concerts. Plus, growing up I was not really exposed to the cow and horse events where it became something that I am drawn to.

Don’t get me wrong, I have much respect for the rodeo performers and I know that they each have spent years honing their craft on horse and bull. I can also respect the people who raise livestock for the various judging.

Countless hours and sleepless nights go into any effort to become the best at anything. While there are always the exceptions and phenoms that seem to have everything come easy to them, for the rest of us we get where we are through hard work and practice.

The same can be said for the baseball players kicking up dirt on those various Spring Training ballparks. Each of them has spent years honing their skills and making countless sacrifices to reach the pinnacle of their field.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Ben Zobrist was a popular target of hecklers at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. Photo R. Anderson

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Ben Zobrist was a popular target of hecklers at Rangers Ballpark at Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

While not working with temperamental bulls or raising sheep with the best looking wool, they have nonetheless paid their dues and earned their place in the spotlight.

This is why I have never understood the activity of heckling players when someone attends a sporting event.

Even if someone does not necessarily like the other team or certain players it seems like one could respect the amount of time and effort they took to get there without the need to resort to name calling and other tactics.

To be clear, I am not talking about the “little league” heckling about “belly itchers” which is started as a way to focus wandering minds in the dugout and create team chemistry.

I am talking about the heckling that amounts to personal attacks and other areas that seem to go beyond the line of good taste. And yes the players can usually tune out the stands but there have been a few times when I was sitting in the outfield that I could see a physical reaction from the player who was the target of the heckling.

Proponents of heckling, when confronted on the issue, will usually quote the First Amendment or say that buying the ticket gives them the right to shout down at the players. While I am a huge believer in freedom of speech  and the First Amendment I also believe that the freedom of speech comes with responsibility and does not protect all speech.

Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas is the only ballpark where the bullpens are surrounded on all sides by the fans giving hecklers prime access. Photo R. Anderson

Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas is the only ballpark where the bullpens are surrounded on all sides by the fans giving hecklers prime access.
Photo R. Anderson

The level of heckling I have seen at ballparks varies and some regions definitely tend to raise it to an art form more than others. Still, whenever I am around heckling I cringe.  I especially find it unsettling when the heckling is multi generational.  When one heckles in front of their children they are basically ensuring that the trend continues for another generation.

There are so many better traditions of baseball to pass along to one’s children than heckling. There is teaching them how to keep score or explaining the various rules of the game etc.

While I hold little hope that ballparks will ever become heckle free zones I do hope that the amount of heckling will be minimized. Maybe baseball could set up sound proof heckle zones where people could heckle to their hearts content without the rest of the fans being exposed to it.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am suddenly feeling the need to find a savings stampede. After all, like rodeo time they won’t be here for long.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson