Afternoon delightful: Nighttime not the right time for a Game 7
By James Alan Fox
Wednesday, October 5, 2005

What a relief to enjoy a local sports celebration untarnished by riots or senseless tragedy. As it should be, Monday's front-page photo featured Big Papi and his mates spraying each other with champagne inside the Fenway clubhouse after clinching a playoff berth - not police in riot gear spraying pepper pellets and tear gas on delirious fans on Lansdowne Street.

Much of the credit for Sunday's tranquility has gone to the police - and rightly so - for being better prepared, in terms of both numbers and strategy, to take on a swarm of happy celebrants.

Credit should also go to the fans themselves, and not just those wearing ``Real Fans Don't Riot'' T-shirts.

Yet other factors contributed to the orderliness of Sunday's jubilation. There may even be a lesson for scheduling future games, all those listed with TBD times.

As it played out at the old ballyard on Yawkey Way and the new one out in Cleveland, the local favorites actually secured the coveted wildcard spot long before Sox closer Mike Timlin fanned Bubba Crosby to finish off Sunday's 10-1 win. Lacking drama, the victory failed to produce any uncontrolled emotion.

By contrast, last year's Sox vs. Yanks prelude to pandemonium was a gripping, do-or-die, backs-to-the-outfield-wall, seventh-game thriller. The ``greatest victory in team history,'' as it was characterized by broadcaster Joe Castiglione, also led to the greatest tragedy in local baseball history, the death of Victoria Snelgrove from ill-advised and ill-fated attempts by the cops to control a mob scene.

The sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals a week later fortunately lacked much post-victory lawlessness. More than just anti-climactic in the wake of defeating - rather humiliating - the hated rivals from New York, the World Series seemed to be more a case of when, not if, the Sox would prevail.

Of course, the 2004 Super Bowl also possessed the kind of sudden-victory excitement that tends to incite fans. The Panthers-Pats game was deadlocked until virtually the last second when Adam ``Adamatic'' Vinatieri booted the field goal that sent throngs of students into Hub streets for an all-night melee.

Speaking of ``all-night,'' the other significant factor impacting crowd behavior is time of day (or night). Night contests and conquests, especially on weekends, follow many hours of pregame drinking by fans.

Plus the nighttime is just more conducive for acting out and acting crazy.

On Sunday, the playoff spot for the Red Sox was clinched before 4 p.m., when hundreds of miles away, Cleveland lost to Chicago. No great suspense and especially no pregame binges.

Of course, we have no control over the drama of the game, but we do over its starting time. Obviously, it is not likely that World Series games can all be played during the daytime as they were a generation ago before prime-time TV advertising revenue became the deciding concern. But with planning, rubber games could and should be scheduled under the weekend sunlight.

Sure, the barkeeps would not be happy, nor would the networks (and the powerful NFL that might have to accommodate). But for the sake of public order, not to mention young fans who wish to see their favorite team win a title (Live, not on TiVo) or even chilled-to-the-bone ticket holders in northern cities watching in late October, Game Sevens should begin at 1 p.m. local time.

James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University. Talk back at