During last night’s NWSL game between the Houston Dash and the Orlando Pride, a pitch invader managed to jump down onto the field and approach Alex Morgan, holding out what looked like an older USWNT jersey and his phone. You can catch it at about 1:52:07 in the replay of the game.
It being the middle of the game and the Pride trying to catch up to the Dash with two goals and 10 minutes to go with playoff hopes on the line, Morgan was understandably uninterested in stopping to take a selfie or sign this guy’s jersey. He jumped a barrier and approached her at a completely inappropriate time; her teammates led her away from his advances and the game went on after he turned back.
The pitch invasion was bad enough, but the responses afterwards indicated a complete lack of understanding from some people of why it was bad. Identifying information about the pitch invader has been blanked since this isn’t specifically about one or two people, but an overall attitude of entitlement.
From the pitch invader himself, a now-deleted tweet disparaging Morgan’s teammates for protecting her.
And from others, disbelief that being a pitch invader could be interpreted negatively or warrant anything less than the attention being demanded.
Why didn’t Alex Morgan stop and give this guy her attention when he broke the rules for her? He’s a good guy, didn’t she know that?
Well actually, no she didn’t, and neither did anyone else on that pitch, and it’s not like violent people with bad intentions have never attacked a sports figure on the field or court before, as Monica Seles and Tom Gamboa and Chris Kirkland well know. Just because pitch invaders tend to turn out to be benign doesn’t mean that they always will be, and in any case it’s disruptive and dumb and can even affect the game. Morgan herself clearly found it offputting.
Alex Morgan, or any other athlete, is not required to stop and give a fan her attention just because they did something for her that she neither requested nor wanted. Just because you’ve done something in someone else’s name does not mean you’re entitled to a reward from that person when they never asked for it in the first place. It’s an extension of the same attitude that says when someone catcalls a woman walking down the street, because they’ve paid attention to her, they’re then entitled to a positive response from her. “I just gave you attention even though you didn’t ask for it, now you owe me your attention” is the transaction that is being argued for here, and it’s a bad and wrong one.
So no, breaking the rules and approaching someone at a completely inappropriate time is not the way to be a “huge fan.” It’s the way to get a swift ban from the stadium, and also to negatively affect the game, not just in that moment with things like having to add stoppage and get over the disruption in play, but in making it harder for everyone else to be a fan. American women’s soccer fans have until now enjoyed a pretty unprecedented level of access to the players, but that only works if everyone is cool about it and accepts there are times when they can and can’t do things like ask for selfies and autographs.
Don’t be that guy. Don’t think that just because you’re a fan that means you can break the rules and act like a player should know your intentions are good without any other information than that you’ve just broken the rules. Don’t think that being a huge fan automatically makes you better or cooler or more deserving than the other guy sitting next to you. Don’t think that a player owes you anything more than their best effort on the field. Just be cool and enjoy the game.