A week ago I attended a Cleveland Browns game versus the Cincinnati Bengals. As some may remember from the first class, I work at an alternative education school in Grafton. Our school has roughly 100 students, all of whom suffer from severe emotional disorders that prevent them from attending their area school districts for their education. We were given 20 tickets from the Browns’ community outreach program. Well, more specifically, we were given the tickets from the community service needed by Shaun Rogers, a player who was arrested for attempting to carry a handgun through the security gate at the airport. Kind of ironic, I know. We are attempting to teach young individuals how to maintain behaviors acceptable in public situations and we are given tickets by someone who is supposed to be a model to our young students. But that is a different story.
Of the 20 tickets, we invited 12 students ranging from 7 years old to 18 years old. Eight staff members chaperoned the field trip. Students were only invited if they had been safe in the school for the beginning of the year. Staff required a certain type of trust level in order for the tickets to be offered to the student. That being said, the trip went extremely well. Other than a few students getting very bored while being at the game after they ate (each student was provided with one meal voucher of a hot dog, chips, and a small drink), there were no issues among the students.
Among the criteria for inviting students, we also wanted to take students who would not otherwise have an opportunity to go to a Browns’ game. Our school deals mostly with students whom family income is very low, so finding students who fit that criteria is not hard. My client, whom I am hired to be a One on One Aide for, has a physically disability along with emotional disorders. He comes from a single parent home where his mother works afternoon shift and has low income. So immediately when the word of tickets was offered to me to be a chaperone, I mentioned his name to be a student that would be asked. His typical behaviors include, swearing, spitting, biting, and self harm. When he is having a bad day, it truly is bad. This is not someone most people would think staff would allow to go to the game but this year he has been stellar in his behavior and effort at school (knock on wood). My client is confined to a wheelchair and this is the story of our journey at the stadium.
Let me issue this disclaimer, I understand that some people at Browns’ games are going to be belligerently drunk, unaware of their surroundings, and not concerned with anyone’s needs except their own.
We were given a parking pass to a lot that was no more than 100 yards from the entrance to the stadium, something I had never had the pleasure of being given before. One of the students who is severely mentally retarded is a Browns fan but also, somehow, a Steelers fan. You can imagine how this is could possibly be an ill-fated decision on his part. Well, needless to say, he wore Steelers clothing to the game. Staff mentioned to him several times that it may be best if he wore the Browns t-shirt that was given to us by Shaun Rogers. The student declined, which staff was ok with, but we knew we would have to keep a watchful eye on him. We walked across the street to the stadium entrance. As the group is standing in line to have tickets checked, a few Browns’ fans started heckling our student. It made for a very uncomfortable situation for our student. Eventually, one of the fans saw the student and recognized he is mentally retarded, so the heckling stopped.
My client and I were then offered to use the luxury boxes’ entrance because he is handicapped. Any special treatment for my student is something he just loves! We were then given an elevator pass and our own usher to take us to our seats. When we got to our section we realized that we would not have to deal with unruly fans in our section because the tickets were in the “Family Zone”. There was only one problem. There was no available handicapped seating in that section. We had to go to the complete opposite side of the stadium to guest services to get handicap accessible seating. This is where the craziness begins.
As we began our trek to get correct tickets, the game was about to be kicked off. Fans were rushing to get their food, beer, and various souvenirs in time to be back for the start of the game. We started on our way, first only light traffic around our section. Then the farther we got away from our section, the more dense the crowd became. People began getting so packed that it was almost hopeless to get through. We continued, but as we continued, people began to push in front of us and even yelling things at us such to “get the hell out of the way wheels!” Luckily my student rolled with the punches. The more we pressed forward, the more ignorant most fans were as to what was needed. I’m not saying that anything biblical was needed, there was no need for the Red Sea of people to part. I was expecting some courtesy, maybe expecting any is too much. People shoved their way through, several even spilling beer on my student and me. No apologies were given, just “watch it!”
We finally got our tickets and food and got to our seats with about five minutes left in the first quarter. We spent 20-25 minutes walking 100 yards. At halftime, my student wanted to take a walk and see somethings around the stadium so I warned him about the other fans but he didn’t care. So we went on our way, enduring the same treatment.
After the game, we had to meet the rest of the group downstairs in front of the stadium, so we began our much anticipated travel to the meeting spot. Again, people being more drunk, caused us to deal with the same behaviors. People pushing through, cutting us off, turning and seeing a young boy in a wheelchair and not even thinking twice. We had a few things yelled at us again, and I can say happily, my student didn’t take it. I’m not sure what was said because I was concerned with getting him to the area we needed to be, but all I heard was him yell “well if you weren’t so fat from your beer, we wouldn’t be in your way!” I have to admit, I gave him a high-five. I know, I’m supposed to be treating him to be respectful and nice to people but I know he could have given them the wrath that I see some days. I was happy that he showed that he will not be walked over by people.
We got to the elevator, which is meant for elderly and handicapped individuals but after the game, all hell breaks loose. We waited for the elevator for about 20 mins while other people, ranging from 20’s to their 40’s, fully capable of walking down stairs stepped in front of us to cram into the elevator so we would have to wait for the next one. And the next one. And the next one. It was miserable. Again, my student was a trooper, he dealt with whatever came his way and didn’t let it bother him like I know it could have.
We finally got to the meeting spot, found the group, and went on our way home. Overall, he said he had a great time. That’s all that matters.
What kind of people act like this? Granted there were a few people that would let us by or were considerate of the situation but they were few and far between. Am I wrong in HOPING for some courtesy? Am I wrong for thinking our society has sympathy and empathy? This single time, makes me feel like everyone is out for themselves. They are out to get theirs and not worry about their fellow man/woman. Our society cannot survive like that. We need ourselves, yes, but we need the man/woman next to us to succeed too.