It’s a familiar scene to us all…. time is running out, the players are in motion, the band is blaring, the cheerleaders are working the crowd. The excited fans lean forward in unison, the air is filled with electricity and spilled beer. Primal emotions turn into a full-throated roar as Violetta suddenly, tragically dies in the arms of Alfredo! La Traviata ends with an explosion from the 80,000 in attendance…
Is there a parallel between opera and professional football? The NFL sure thinks so. Or at least the council for the San Diego Chargers, and by proxy the NFL, does. He made this connection during the trial of a fan who was ejected from a football game at Qualcomm Stadium for using “obscene gestures and foul language” by asking, “If somebody stood up at an opera and gave everybody the finger or started saying obscenities, they would be ushered out.”
Let’s start with the idea that what is unruly and obscene at an opera might not be so obscene at a football game (though I’d love to see his thesis tested). Possibly the only thing they have in common is their obscenely high ticket prices. After that the two share no other obvious similarities. In fact, they work hard not to foster any. It’s a bumper sticker argument that doesn’t hold water — at least not in Judge Gale Kaneshiro’s Superior Court.
The judge also saw through the NFL’s argument of an implied contract in the form of their posted code of conduct. The prosecution argued that the fan code of conduct (PDF) is enforceable “because it was hung over urinals.” The defense rightly argued that “to have a contract, you have to have an offer and acceptance” and that the NFL, a private entity, couldn’t legislate personal conduct on public property.
So in review, no matter what the NFL may say, you are not contractually obligated to anything you may read on a bathroom wall. And if you do plan on screaming *%#&@*#% while flipping the finger at Rigoletto during an upcoming performance, please give me a heads up so I can purchase a ticket.