Are pieces of game-used equipment fair game when leaving the field of play? Or are fans obligated to give them back? The line is blurring now that such memorabilia clearly has value.
Monday night, disgruntled New York Giants’ running back Brandon Jacobs tried to fire his helmet against the team bench during the team’s 38-14 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Instead, he said, the helmet got caught on his glove and sailed several rows into the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium.
A fan snared the errant lid and tried to keep it (see video below) but security forces descended on him and muscled it away just in case Jacobs needed it again. In return, the fan got what the Colts called a game ball–and shout out from Jacobs, whose fling could have easily struck a less focused fan on the head.
“I want to apologize one more time for accidentally tossing my helmet into the stands,” said Jacobs Monday. He finished with four carries for eight yards against the Colts, was flagged for a personal foul early in the game and benched by Coughlin following the helmet incident. On Monday, he was fined $10,000 by the NFL.
“It was something that happened because I was frustrated with the game, and I had no business tossing my helmet in the first place, and I am thankful that nobody was hurt,” Jacobs said.
Clearly, the fan knew that a game-worn NFL helmet was probably worth more than his ticket to the game. Jacobs is no star–not anymore at least–but on the open market, especially with the story behind it, it could have easily fetched a couple thousand dollars. After all, there are plenty of ordinary game-used helmets on eBay selling for good money.
Media members were able to track down the fan who said his phone has been “ringing of the hook”. Here’s what the suddenly famous fan who wants to be known as The Helmet Guy said to 1070 The Fan, an Indianapolis all sports radio station.
“Initially, a representative from the Colts showed up on the scene as quickly as the NBC feed picks up. That was probably a good 30 seconds after it happened. He was trying to take the helmet from me. You can clearly see me saying there, ‘Absolutely not. What goes in the stands, stays in the stands.’ He was not disagreeing. While we were having this discussion, I kind of looked up and coming across the railing from the field level up into the stands was some of the Giants staff, I don’t know if they were trainers or equipment managers or what, but they were starting to come up into the stands. Some of the Crescent security, the house security there, were starting to crawl over the railing. Also a Sheriff from the field level was crawling over the rail. He quickly made it up the five rows and was quickly standing right in front of me demanding the helmet. That’s when we got the idea verbally that either the helmet went with him or I went with him… It’s very unclear. When things go in the stands, what’s the protocol there?… Him coming up and ripping it out clearly put an end to the situation, but I’m not sure that was the right way for this to be resolved.”
One member of the Game Used Universe collecting forum relayed a similar tale…albeit one that didn’t attract any fanfare.
” I was sitting in the front row of an A’s game and Frank Menechino came off the field and was pissed about a play and threw his glove,” he related. “It hit the top of the dugout instead of going into the dugout and flew up into my lap. He stood there looking at me waiting for me to give it back. Had it been anyone worthwhile I may have put up a fight but since it was a ‘nobody’ I threw it back to him. He ducked into the dugout and came back out with a bat and handed it up to me and said ‘thanks’.”
As late as the early 1980s, many NFL teams didn’t raise nets behind their goal posts and several footballs kicked into the stands each game wound up as souvenirs. Of course, some kicks sail over the nets and fans go to great lengths on national TV to make spectacular grabs like Mike Pantazis in 1995: