I am, I hope, some way removed from being one of those “it was better in my day” merchants. But there was a time in the not-so-distant past when you could attend a cricket match and not be showered with other people’s repellent dregs by one of those wretched “beer snakes”. Or you could watch a day’s golf and not hear some drunken tosser shout inebriated inanities like “Mashed potato”, “You’re the man” or “Get in the hole”. Or, even worse, things like “Get in the water” or “Get in the bunker” when a player is on his backswing.
As for rugby union international matches – and especially so at Twickenham – don’t get me started. Why is it that so many half-wits, who are completely oblivious to those folk who’d actually quite like to watch the rugby, can’t even wait for a break in play to go and procure yet more beers, thereby forcing others in their row to miss some action on the pitch? And then, of course, these utter prats return shortly afterwards, staggering along the row (again, natch, without waiting for a break in play) and spilling their beer everywhere.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a puritanical teetotaller, whether at sporting events or otherwise. Some way from it, actually. But why has the relationship between sport and alcohol deteriorated so? In days gone by, would a rugby journalist have had his laptop ruined by a drunken, beer-throwing cretin, as happened recently at the Principality Stadium when Wales were playing Italy? Or would Rory McIlroy, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando a few days ago, have felt it necessary to opine about an idiot who kept yelling McIlroy’s wife’s name? By observing that “Now it seems like everyone’s walking around with a cocktail”, the Northern Irishman was tacitly saying that copious quantities of alcohol are too readily available.
And he’s spot on. Take any new “state-of-the-art” sports stadium… and a plethora of bars, restaurants and hospitality facilities will be at the very centre of its planning. Take any sporting event of a certain stature… and food and drink will be at its very heart. It’s all about maximising income. Money, money, money, don’t you know?
It makes you wonder whether the core product – in other words, the sport itself – is generally attractive enough for a rapidly changing society that seems to possess an increasingly short attention span. Do some onlookers truly want to watch the sport itself? Or would they rather dress up as a nun or a daffodil, sink 10 pints and get their drunken mugs in front of the cameras? Mind you, these attention-seeking imbeciles are given outrageous encouragement by broadcasters who incessantly pan in on them.
As so often, it’s the minority who cause the problems. Short of banning alcohol at such events, I’m not sure of the solution. But I do know it would be an absolute travesty if the innocent majority were made to suffer because of the ignorance of a selfish few.