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Barron, who loves to taunt fellow councilmembers and even mayors over just about anything, took offense at the bill's explicit banning of "taunting, baiting or ridicule," suggesting that a parent can't even take a verbal shot at a plate-averse umpire. Ex-councilman Henry Stern recalled two examples of the council violating its own new rulewhen the Manhattan members branded one of their own "Benedict Arnold" for his decisive vote for Peter Vallone in the 1986 Speaker election and when Bronx councilman Mike DeMarco "almost came to blows" with Sanitation Commissioner Jerome Kretchmer.
"If I say, 'Are you blind, ref?' is that taunting?" asked Barron, who insists that he went to his son's games for years and shut up because "I didn't want my son to feel tense as a result." There is, says Barron, "a certain level of sounding off that comes with sports; it's supposed to be an aggressive event." Like politics, for example. Bob Still, spokesman for the National Association of Sports Officials, couldn't agree with Barron morepointing out that none of the 17 states that have passed fan conduct bills have included taunting. "Verbal abuse and taunting are in the nature of sports," Still says. "It comes with being aggressive and venting frustration."
Barron also charged that the law "puts an additional burden on referees" by giving them the power to eject fans. "Refs have a hard enough time ejecting players. Now you want them to police fans? Imagine you're at a basketball game, there are 20,000 people, and the ref is shouting, 'Get that fan in the third row; he's outta here!' "
The bill's chief sponsor, Youth Services chair Lou Fidler, whose district abuts Barron's, told the Voice that taunting was "kind of like pornography; it's hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It's when someone conducts himself in such an awful way in front of a young person, you know they shouldn't be there anymore." Fidler says he watches Little League games every year and "there's always at least one out-of-control incident, where everyone wants to crawl under the grandstand." Then rotund Fidler repeatedly mentioned fat jokes at the expense of kid athletes as an example.
Barron, as usual, put a racial twist on the bill (Harlem councilman Bill Perkins deliberately abstained, citing many of the same reasons). Barron said it could "lead to conflict and chaos, particularly in black and Latino communities," where "we get on each other but don't consider it a big deal." Fidler replied: "I think that starts from an incredibly racist perspective." The Voice is happy to report, however, that the councilmanic dispute did not lead to profanity or a scuffle, both of which are also barred by the bill. Anger management classes, however, one of the remedies of the Fidler law, may be in order.