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Article:Life as a Sports Usher: Episode 22 - Hello Dalai (Lama)

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The psychology of a crowd. Thousands of individuals comprising a group, yet continuing to think as individuals.


You’re attending a sold-out sporting event with standing room tickets. You get inside the stadium 10 minutes before the game starts, and you’re trying to find a good vantage point to watch the action. But there’s a thick crowd everywhere. You see an open spot in front of an aisle, and you stand there.

You’re not a jerk for doing this. You’re just an individual. And individualism is what makes America great. After all, you can get out of the way if someone wants to get by. One person can’t clog up an 8 foot wide aisle. You also paid money to see a GAME, not the backs of people’s heads.

Then someone else sees you in the aisle, and wonders why they can’t enjoy the breathing room and excellent view you now enjoy. So they join you. Then someone else follows, et cetera.

And that’s why you can’t stand in the aisle. We all live in our own worlds, and that’s fine. But in a crowd of 8,000, or 10,000, or 40,000, or 70,000 people; that’s a lot of worlds to deal with, and people struggle with all these worlds colliding, jockeying for position, struggling to think as individuals while existing as a group.


Why am I getting all philosophical? Because the Dalai Lama came to Gillette Stadium a few weeks ago. I’ve worked many events: Football, hockey, basketball, soccer, concerts, comedy shows. But nothing was quite like the day the Dalai Lama came to Gillette Stadium.

It was a prestige event. I don’t think the Patriots organization made much money from it. The Tibetan organization that ran it didn’t have to pay any rent to use the facility. I’m sure a few bucks were made at concession stands, and in Patriot Place, but I’d wager that a Revolution game pulls in much more cash.

We had around 11,000 people, mostly in the West Side Stands, with a few hundred in seats on the floor. It was a quiet event, and I mean that in every way it could be meant. We actually had people complaining about too many conversations on the concourse. Yeah, people were bitching about talking.

But that was understandable. The Dalai Lama just talked. There was a morning session about the basics of Buddhism, a lunch break, then an afternoon session that got into more deeper, personal kinds of topics.

And of course, I quoted Caddyshack about three dozen times.

Not surprisingly, there were no ejections. There were a good number of US State Department officials, and even some Secret Service. And that was kind of cool. It was also scary and reassuring at the same time.

From the parts of the talk I could listen to and/or understand, it was a pretty interesting discourse. I hesitate to call it a speech because it didn’t have the prepared undertones of a speech. And I hesitate to call it a discussion because it was only one man talking. How about a philosophical soliloquy open to anyone willing to tune in? How about I stick to “discourse?”

One interesting story was when he talked about his frustration when his flights are delayed. His solution is to meditate. He then pointed out that his inner self is going to be the same, no matter where his outer self is, whether it’s on the plane, or in the terminal (he called it “the waiting place” but you get the idea). That slightly blew my mind.

But what really got to me, what really made it a spiritual experience, was when the sun got in his eyes and he put on a hat:


So the Dalai Lama’s a Pats fan. We got that going for us. Which is nice.

As you might imagine, it was a very relaxed crowd. I frequently had to double-check my radio to make sure it was on, the periods of silence were so lengthy. I did have a noteworthy interaction with one of those individualists I talked about in the beginning of this.

In between his morning speech, and his afternoon discourse, there was a 90 minute lunch break. I was on the field, in between the seats and a row of portajohns. Now during the speech, they were open to the public. During the break, they were open for those with disabilities, and NO ONE else.

My job was to tell people this, and most understood and continued up the stands to the Stadium’s permanent facilities. Except for one. There’s always one. He approached me and asked if the portajohns behind me were open.

“To disabled patrons only.”

“But I really have to go.”

Now this was a man in his late 40s to mid 50s, talking like a child. And talking like a spoiled child at that.

“I appreciate that, sir, but you’re going to have to use the facilities upstairs.”

“Come on man, just let me by.”

I thought of starting a dialog on how allowing one individual to break a rule creates a chain reaction in crowd control, it also creates a moral dilemma (people coming up and saying “If you let him go, why not me?”), and in this specific incident, the rule is in place to prevent ADA patrons from having to wait in long lines with people who can, you know, walk up stairs.

But instead of engaging in what could have been a fruitful debate, I simply said:

“If you have to go so bad, why are you standing here arguing with me?”

He gave me some more selfish BS before getting back in line. Now I don’t like upsetting people, but I didn’t mind upsetting him. I hope he peed his pants.

The only other drama worth mentioning came after the event, standing outside the gate to ensure that nobody came back inside. A pair of girls asked if they could go inside to look for their jacket. After informing them they’d have to try to pick it up on Monday (this was Saturday) once the lost and found was sorted out, they walked away, without even letting me give them the number to call on Monday. One called me a lemming. I wanted to call her an animal name too, specifically a female dog. But I simply replied “Thanks!”

She was referring to the lemming’s habit of running off cliffs into the ocean, but if she’d studied more in biology instead of smoking pot and playing hacki-sack on the quad, she’d realize that if lemmings had rules and regulations like we have at Gillette Stadium, and if they had proper event staffing, they wouldn’t jump off cliffs.

The next day, we had a Revolution game. And I was so close to my 100th ejection. Apparently some guy was staring at some other guy’s girl in the parking lot. They wound up in adjacent sections, and the staring was once again noticed. Add alcohol to the recipe, and you get drama. I didn’t see the drama, but that’s what I’m told happened.

One of the actors was drunk. Not fall down drunk, not stumbling drunk, but difficulty making consistent eye contact drunk. Difficulty calculating a tip drunk. You can get away with being this drunk at an event. Believe me, I’ve done it (Bruins’ Game 5 vs. Carolina I was this drunk). But if you’re that drunk, and you’re involved in drama, that’s two strikes and you’re very behind in the count.

Then one of this kid’s associates, an older gentleman, approached a supervisor, asked what was going on, was told of the possibilities of the kid leaving on his own with a sober friend, or staying with the police. Then this older guy threatened to sue the supervisor for “false suspicion.” Once again, I flirted with the thought of debating and lecturing this man on the law, teaching him that Gillette Stadium is on private property, and a ticket is technically owned by us and not the ticket holder. Instead I let the supervisor, a friend of mine, handle it.

The kid got to stay, so long as there was no more drama.

I feel like David Ortiz, sitting on 99 ejections. I don’t want to kick someone out for no reason. I’ve never gone into a situation seeking to eject someone, but when the guy or girl is a jerk, and/or making the event less fun for everyone else, and/or being dangerous, it’s gratifying and occasionally fun to ruin their night.

But it will happen. I have faith. And the summer schedule of events might see me hit 200 by the time football season starts. The NCAA lacrosse championships are coming this weekend, we’ve got an AC/DC concert, a pair of U2 shows, Elton John & Billy Joel, Kenny Chesney, A.C. Milan vs. Inter Milan. I’ll be busy.


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