Unconstitutional M's

ANOTHER TRIP AWAY from the great Northwest, more wins for the Seattle Mariners. Through 31 games this season, including an impressive three-game sweep this past weekend at Yankee Stadium, the team was 14-2 on the road but only 8-7 in the all-too-friendly confines of Safeco Field. It's hard for a team to win at home when its fans act like they don't care, but now it seems that apparent apathy might not be the only reason for this home-cooked malaise of mediocrity.

Late last week, Mariners CEO and fascist dictator Howard Lincoln announced he will not back down after his controversial and boneheaded decision to suspend the right of free speech at a ballpark we fund with tax dollars every year. Lincoln defended his action in the name of G- rated fun, saying the Mariners "strive" for a family-oriented atmosphere akin to Disneyland. He said that enforcement of a "code of conduct" improves the baseball experience for everyone—even the majority of Mariners fans who usually just sit there quietly anyway.

What Comrade Lincoln failed to mention is that the Mariners' new policy to ban the word "suck" at Safeco Field flouts a larger, more important code—a code called the Bill of Rights. According to Doug Honig, public education director for the American Civil Liberties Union, the policy is blatantly and egregiously unconstitutional. "Ballparks can make their own rules, but it should come as no surprise that the Constitution of the United States trumps everything," says Honig, whose organization was still deciding whether to take the case. "You'd think Mariners management would be more concerned at this point with finding fourth and fifth starters than trying to censor their paying fans. It just doesn't make sense."

Meanwhile, back in the Bronx, the M's played perhaps their best ball of the entire year. From my family's season box in Section 622, I heard the word "suck" yelled at least 2,000 times, describing the impotent Yankee offense, directed pointedly at reliever Jeff Nelson, and in wonderfully creative taunts including "Lattes suck" and "Pine trees suck." On Sunday, in the midst of a 10-6 Seattle rout, one particularly inebriated, Kavu-wearing Mariners supporter turned around and bragged, "You might have four rings, but this year your whole team sucks." For once, this uncharacteristically vociferous idiot was right. At least he could say it in our house without worrying about getting thrown out.

Matt Villano


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