We had an NFL first in Week 5. A Lions fan tried to discombobulate the Bills by shining a green laser pointer into the eyes of quarterback Kyle Orton and holder Colton Schmidt, but — and this might be the best part — he got caught because he made the mistake of tweeting about it (something that never happens in Mickey Spillane novels).
Now Mark Beslach will have to pay a fine for disorderly conduct, and he’s been banned from Ford Field for all eternity. Of course, “all eternity” means different things to different people. To somebody from Detroit, the Lions’ 2008 season, when they became the only team in league history to go 0-16, might qualify as “all eternity.”
Fans have been trying to insert themselves into the fray for as the NFL has been blowing up footballs. Minersville Field in Pottsville, Pa., home of the Maroons, was a particularly inhospitable place to play. Don Thompson, a guard for the Los Angeles Buccaneers in 1926, once told the Los Angeles Times, “The spectators stood on the sidelines and threw chunks of coal at us through the entire contest.”
Here’s the first known video of a fan running on the field and interrupting the game. It wasn’t just any game, either. It was the 1958 championship game between the Colts and Giants — the famed Sudden Death Game won by Baltimore, 23-17. It also wasn’t just any fan. It was a business manager for NBC News, Stan Rotkiewicz, who on Sundays would stand on the sideline and keep statistics for the network.
Impulse didn’t spur Rotkiewicz’s mad dash, though. Technical Difficulties did. Late in the game, some of the crowd had come down on the field, and somebody “behind the end zone had kicked [NBC’s] cable and unplugged America,” Mark Bowden writes in The Best Game Ever. The Colts were at the New York 8, about to push across the winning score, but fans at home had no picture on their TV screens.
So the business manager caused a brief — and necessary — delay by doing this:
By the time police escorted him off the field, technicians had identified the problem and reconnected the cable. Rotkiewicz’s heroics kept millions from missing the last three plays, capped by fullback Alan Ameche’s 1-yard touchdown run.
Then there was the Baltimore fan who ran on the field and snatched the ball during a Colts-Dolphins game in 1971. It might have been Colts linebacker Mike Curtis’ most famous forced fumble:
Ball, hat, fan — everything went flying. Any list of the NFL’s Greatest Hits has to include this one. Curtis had no qualms about it, either, no Pulverizer’s Remorse. Decades later he told The Associated Press: “We were trying to win a football game, trying to get to the playoffs, and this guy [Don Ennis] shows up on the football field. My intention was to get him out of there as quick as possible. Usually they run around for 15 or 20 minutes, and you can lose concentration and momentum.
“If somebody busts into my office uninvited, it’s trespassing. Just because it’s a stadium, that’s no different.”
Can’t fault that logic.
Finally, there was this episode in Denver in 1965, one of my personal favorites:
That’s right, a Broncos fan was fined $50 for throwing ice cubes at the visiting Chiefs.
From Ice Cube Man to Laser Guy. What a glorious tradition.