Tommy Pham swears he’s ready to fight any fan who swears at him.
After another big performance at the plate for the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, Pham took issue with fans at Great American Ball Park who directed profanity at him during a 5-4 victory against the Cincinnati Reds.
Pham, whose bat has been sizzling for weeks, went 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and a walk. Since May 15, when Pham’s numbers sank to their lowest, he’s batting .315/.431/.587 with all nine of his home runs. He’s hit three homers since Friday.
The 33-year-old seems to be emerging from a slow start that almost certainly can be traced to a terrifying stabbing in October outside a strip club in San Diego that required Pham to get 200 stitches in his back. Pham sued the establishment for lax security and won in a settlement.
Pham’s resurgence on the field probably can be traced to regaining physical strength and having better timing at the plate after a serious injury knocked him for a loop. Still, it’s not all sunshine and roses at the ballpark for Pham.
After beating the Reds on Tuesday, he said some fans in the outfield at GABP heckled him and went too far with foul language. While some might scoff at a professional athlete being affected from profane language directed at him, it’s easier to see how Pham might feel about being confronted with it while playing ball when informed about his recent past.
“Just some fans crossing the line, you know?” Pham said. “I guess a little liquid courage. I had some fans yelling at me: 'F you, Pham, F you Pham.' That's my issue that I have. I don't believe that should be tolerated in a baseball stadium, when we start cursing. I mean … that's different from 'Pham sucks.' That's perfectly acceptable, but just you know, the curse words, I have a problem with that because that's not something you would say to me face to face.
“Where I'm from, in the state of Nevada, it's labeled as assault. When someone comes up to me cursing at me like that, I could defend myself and, you know, I'm a very good fighter. I don't I don't do Muay Thai, kung fu and box for no reason.”
Added Pham: “I can't hear individual threats, but I hear curse words.”
There really are laws in Nevada that prohibit using profanity in public, and it’s possible to be charged with a misdemeanor for it. Pham isn’t right about how being assailed with foul language alone gives one the right to defend themself by using martial arts, but, short of that, he wishes the league would do something about profane fans — and not just in Cincinnati.
“MLB needs to step up,” he said. “I don't know if they need to provide ushers; if an usher hears any vulgarity, then that person needs to be tossed. People feel like they're entitled right now. It's really a privilege to even be at the game, like it's a privilege for me to play this game. People forget that."
Pham reached the majors in 2014 and said he’s used to typical heckling, citing having played for the St. Louis Cardinals at Wrigley Field as an example. But he also says that fans are more profane than ever.
“(Using) curse words is what's new,” Pham said. “The curse words, it's just unreal.”
Pham speaking out, of course, is likely to have the opposite effect to what he desires. But this is his experience as he sees it. It’s hard to say that fans across the board are more profane or even violent than they used to be, considering how many examples we have over many years of them being profane and violent. This kind of behavior might not be new, especially in the NBA where several fan incidents made headlines, but perhaps the reaction or pushback that’s happening is because we’re just tired of it and want to change it. That probably should be the takeaway from Pham’s complaint regardless.
Asking sports fans to stop swearing (or just to limit it, or stop when asked) sounds like a fanciful wish. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t wish for it. Ballplayers shouldn’t have to hear it. Other fans either. Not to sound like a scold, but kids go to these games. Sure, they hear and perhaps even use the same or worse language at home, at school and within their circles of friends. That doesn’t mean we just have to let it happen at the ballpark with impunity. MLB and the clubs should step up, like Pham said.