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A beer can lands near Baltimore Orioles leftfielder Hyun Soo Kim as he gets set to catch a fly ball during the seventh inning of the wild-card game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct.4, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)
A beer can lands near Baltimore Orioles leftfielder Hyun Soo Kim as he gets set to catch a fly ball during the seventh inning of the wild-card game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto, Tuesday, Oct.4, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

Globe editorial

The new deplorables: Beer-tossing Toronto Blue Jays fans Add to ...

Toronto has a drinking problem. What makes it worse is that it’s also a baseball problem. Beer and the Blue Jays turn out to be a bad combination, at least in the post-season where Toronto fans are becoming notorious for their alcohol-fuelled idiocy.

In the seventh inning of Tuesday’s taut wild-card game that the Jays would go on to win, Baltimore Orioles left fielder Hyun Soo Kim faded back toward the wall, tracking a high fly ball. Just as he prepared to make the catch, a beer-can plummeted down from the seats – an attempt to distract that wasn’t just dumb in the context of a do-or-die game but also dangerous.

Sports enthusiasm often shades into anti-social misbehaviour, much of it sadly tolerated in the up-close, highly partisan context of the packed stadium – such as the racial abuse directed at the Baltimore players when they complained about the tossed can.

The false courage provided by the anonymity of the crowd seems only to heighten the drunken fan’s bravado. It would be better if Jays fans could self-police and call out the bad guys, but who pays top dollar for playoff tickets so that they can confront the mentality of the mob?

There’s a history here that makes Tuesday’s incident look much worse. A year ago, Rogers Centre fans showed their infantile dismay at an umpire’s call by hurling beer cans from the stadium’s top decks, blindly targeting fans and players below. It’s incomprehensible that these projectiles continued to be made available. Why aren’t all beers served in plastic cups only?

But the problem at the ballpark isn’t just the mode in which beer is delivered. The intoxicant itself is the issue. Rogers Communications, the owners of the Blue Jays, have fostered a party atmosphere at their stadium. Baseball is generally a slow-paced, cerebral and potentially boring sport. Alcohol makes the game more engaging for some fans, transforming all that stats-counting into a group-bonding experience of high emotion and excessive fandom that you’ll never forget – at least until the police come calling.

Wiser team owners would consider an alcohol ban at the ballpark. But this will never happen. There’s too much profit in beer, and too much riding on its fan-boosting properties. Prepare for more bad moments in the post-season run.

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