Fan runs onto field in Atlanta and gets destroyed

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This has turned into a lively little discussion on Twitter, so let’s share it here. Bonus: it involves one of what I am well aware is one of my more unpopular opinions, so it gives a good many of you a chance to yell at me about it. Yell all ya want.

Last night, at the Cardinals-Braves game in Atlanta a fan who, I’m gonna guess anyway, was either over-served or under-brained, decided to run out onto the field like a moron. It happens.

As also happens, especially these days, he was utterly creamed by the SunTrust Park security team. Watch as he’s slammed into the wall and then dog-piled. Bonus: I am about 85% sure that the guard who did the slamming is the one who fell down just before, which shows that he has some serious recovery skills and closing speed:

Not gonna lie: there’s humor in this sort of thing, at least assuming the fan rushing onto the field has no more than mischief on his mind and assuming everyone is OK in the end, which seems to be the case here.

Still — as I wrote, gosh, nine years ago when that kid ran onto the field at Citizens Bank Park and got tased — I do have to ask if the force used in this case was truly necessary. The guy gets slammed into that wall pretty hard and it’s quite a dog pile on him at the end. Part of me wonders if, perhaps, an exhausted drunk idiot could’ve been corralled a little less forcefully than that.

At this point I know what you’re thinking: Tom Gamboa. Monica Seles. Crazy stuff — violent stuff — has happened at sporting events in these kinds of situations. I get that and I won’t for a moment diminish the sort of threats that could, theoretically, present themselves when a fan runs onto a playing surface.

At the same time, however, the theoretical possibility of such things does not absolve security or law enforcement from actually assessing threats and using force commensurate with said threats in stopping them. Maybe it’s different if the guy is making a beeline for a player (in fact he ran right past several apparently unconcerned players) and maybe it’s different if he’s not acting, in every obvious way, like your garden variety streaker from 1974, absent the courage to actually get naked. The circumstances matter and it’s part of the job description of security to determine the circumstances when acting.

I’m not saying that the security guards in Atlanta last night were necessarily over the line. It’s debatable. Heck, the cut on his left arm notwithstanding, the guy looked not very much worse for wear after the fact:

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

I’m just saying that, contrary to what a lot of people like to say (e.g. “Once you’re on a field, all bets are off!), there is, in fact, a line and that a misdemeanor trespass does not necessarily justify any and every amount of force security doles out. It seems to me that, in recent years, security and/or police at sporting events tend to err far closer to that line than they used to and sometimes cross it and that, maybe, that’s not really necessary in every situation.