Monday, October 4, 2010

Can't Duck Problems with Fans

The following article highlights that even a pre-game show broadcast can generate a crowd and crowd management problems.
Oregon football: It's bedlam on GameDay at Autzen Stadium |
Fans provide a raucous backdrop for ESPN’s live college football show
By Ron Bellamy

The Register-Guard

Appeared in print: Sunday, Oct 3, 2010


The scene was, well, just ducky as ESPN College GameDay analyst Lee Corso donned the Duck head Saturday morning, embraced the Oregon Duck mascot, tried to join him in a push-up — not easy, wearing a Duck head — and was carried away on the shoulders of Duck cheerleaders.

For the fifth time in as many GameDay appearances in Eugene, Corso predicted an Oregon victory, and for the fifth time those associated with the production praised the enthusiasm and the “passion” of an estimated 3,200 Oregon fans who turned out before dawn.

However, that enthusiasm became dangerous when waiting spectators — some of whom had been in line since Friday evening, others since the wee hours of Saturday morning — pushed forward behind the permanent gates between the Casanova Center and Autzen Stadium around 3:15 a.m., breaking through to get to the set area in the Cas Center parking lot.

In a crush that was described as “scary,” several spectators fell, others were pinned against restraining barriers and a spectator in a wheelchair suffered an apparent hand injury and had his wheelchair “trashed.”

“The chants kept getting louder and more often and then people busted through the gate and it was like a madhouse,” said Jordan Schmidt, an 18-year-old Sheldon student who’d been waiting in line since 8:30 p.m. Friday with another Sheldon student, Eric Levine.

“I left the ground for about 90 seconds,” Levine said. “My feet didn’t touch the ground.”

The spectator in the wheelchair, 31-year-old Joshua Slonecker of Eugene, said he “got smashed into the fence by however many thousands of drunk college students rushing to get in here.”

Slonecker said he was spun around “three different times” in his wheelchair, but kept from falling out by grabbing the fence “or I would have gotten trampled.” One wheel of his chair was damaged — UO officials found Slonecker another wheelchair so he could watch the show — and Slonecker said paramedics told him he might have a hairline fracture of his ring finger.

Vicki Strand, UO director of athletic events services, said the melee forced security officials to open restraining barriers about an hour ahead of schedule.

“We made the decision that it was safer to get people where they were going than try to hold them back,” she said. Strand said some fans suffered minor injuries, but none requiring an ambulance to be called.

Even before the show started at 6 a.m., the assembled fans were revved and enthusiastic.

“We’ve been here five times now, and at other places that are regular stops on the tour there is a concern about complacency,” GameDay anchor Chris Fowler said afterward. “Are they going to get pumped up? Is the student body going to feel that the attraction has worn off?

“We did not have to worry about that in Eugene. The fact that people showed up so early, hours and hours before the show, was very flattering, and it really says more about their passion for their team and this program and their school than just seeing people do a TV show. I think it’s reflective of the spirit here.”

In the throng, fans held up signs that extolled the Ducks, mocked Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck — “Luck be a lady tonight” — and took shots at former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. Read one sign: “Masoli stole my other sign.” When the big screen showed a clip of Masoli, now at Ole Miss, warming up for Saturday’s game against Kentucky, students began chanting “Where’s my laptop?”

Although Oregon coach Chip Kelly made another appearance — in a business suit for an on-set interview, rather than popping out from under the Duck head like last year — the star of the show was arguably the Duck mascot, whose antics at one point caused analyst Kirk Herbstreit to quack up, as it were.

“The Duck’s awesome,” Fowler said. “The Duck is what a college mascot should be. He’s creative, he’s fun, puts a lot of thought and energy into his job. ... Of course it’s distracting, but that’s all part of the fun. If we wanted a non-distracting environment we’d stay in a studio.”

Producer Lee Fitting rated the show as “tremendous. I don’t know if it was the early morning, or the mood the guys were in, or the crowd was so passionate. I laughed the entire show. ... This place is always one of our favorite stops and it didn’t disappoint today.

“It’s sort of this eerie, wacky, crazy setting, half in the dark, half out of the dark, the day-glo signs, the passion from the fans, looking for respect from the Pac-10, it’s a great spot.”

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Monkey Business

Plan of the apes: Security officials use langurs

NEW DELHI (AP) - Security officials at the Commonwealth Games aren't monkeying around anymore, deploying langurs at several venues in New Delhi to keep the smaller simians from causing any trouble.

Langurs are a common type of monkey in south Asia, and because they are large and fierce they are often used in India to keep other species in check in public places.

The New Delhi Municipal Council said it will put 10 langurs on duty outside several venues starting Wednesday, but that number will increase in the days leading up to Sunday's opening ceremony.