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BottleGate: My View From The Beer Garden

Big D Soccer writer Jay Neal was in the stands Saturday, here is his perspective on the beer throwing incident.

A screen shot of John's lovely cut.
A screen shot of John's lovely cut.

I have been thinking over how I wanted this article to go since I left the game on Saturday night. Do I try to crucify the idiot who threw the bottle? Do I defend those of us who sit in the Beer Garden every game and behave? Do I defend the honor of the Dallas Beer Guardians and The Inferno that call the Beer Garden home?

In the end I decided that the best approach here is to just to tell you guys what I saw and let you make your own opinions on the situation.

First of all, I want to make some things clear upfront as to avoid the questions later. I am a member the The Dallas Beer Guardians. In fact, I am the Coordinator of Community Outreach for the group. I know it may sound shocking to some people that we aren't JUST a bunch of beer drinking, problem causing, rowdy good for nothings. We do charity work and attempt to improve community relations and the world around us by using our love for the game of soccer as the anchor that brings us together and gives us the strength in numbers to try to make a difference. That's not to say that we don't love to drink and have a good time but it's certainly not the only thing we do.

Secondly, I was standing about 8-10 feet from the guy who threw the bottle. I had a front row seat to the amount of booze they consumed over the course of the evening and all events leading up to and immediately following the incident.

Finally, most importantly, I want people to know that I recently stopped drinking alcohol and had consumed none on Saturday night. (Yes there are a few of us Guardians that don't drink.) Thankfully I was able to witness everything without having to view it through booze tinted glasses. All that said here is my take on what happened the other night.

When I had arrived at the tailgate at 3:40 that afternoon there were already a large amount of people out in the east parking lot where we all get together before games. The beer was flowing, as usual, and the man we lovingly refer to as "RV Scott" was already heating up the water to boil the roughly 40-60 lbs of crawfish he had brought. Everything went as normal as it usually does and to be honest I never saw the guy who threw the bottle until we got down into the beer Garden.

There was a large amount of people in the BG (as I will refer to the Beer Garden from now on) on Saturday as there is for every Galaxy game. It was the most people I had seen down there possibly all year (maybe even the Houston Dynamo game).

The eventual bottle thrower, identified by Frisco PD as Brandon Burns, was with several friends (two women and two other men as I remember it). They seemed a little intoxicated but then again that's not something out of the ordinary down in the BG right before a game and certainly no more than many people down there. His friends acted a little rowdy towards other people before the game got started but were quickly informed by DBG members sitting around them that if they didn't behave they would be asked to leave. They seemed to get the hint and acted like normal for most of the match. I should say that Burns was NOT one of the people causing a wrinkle before the game it was one of the guys he was with.

Once the game started everything seemed to be going normal in the BG. For those who have never witnessed the BG we have a tradition that when a goal is scored (and only when a goal is scored) a beer shower rains down on everyone. I guess someone told Brandon and his friends about our tradition and they decided to take it to a different level. They started tossing beer around at every opportunity they got and again they were warned by BG patrons that if they didn't calm down they would be asked to leave.

At some point during FCDrum's playing and our chanting Burns and his friends started jumping and stomping as hard as they could on the bleacher seats they were standing on. By the end of the night they had dented and cracked the metal bleacher bench. I started to really take notice that the group was incredibly intoxicated once the second half started and the stomping seemed to be amping up with every chant the BG got started along with them throwing beer all over everyone. After several people had asked them to stop throwing beer they seemed to get it and the beer wasting stopped.

And then George John scored........

From my perspective I saw the goal go in (I was standing just to the keepers right just past the pole) and along with everyone else I started jumping and screaming. All of a sudden I see something hit John and he went to the ground. I did not see Burns throw the bottle towards the field. In the first few seconds after it happened I thought that somehow the keepers water bottle, which was laying just to the right of the goal, had somehow been knocked up and had connected with GJ's head. That's when the chaos started.

Amid the cheers of joy and the beer raining down on us, people started to angrily yell about something. It was at that point that I realized that it was one of the metal beer bottles that had hit GJ and that unfortunately meant that it had come from the BG.

Suddenly our area was swarmed with FC Dallas Security people, on the field and at the top of the bleachers. I looked to my left and noticed Burns grab the back of his friends shirt and say "I'm heading up." When his friend looked at him quizzically and asked him why, he responded "I'm going to go have a cigarette." and then he bolted. As a smoker I understand the need to go have a smoke but it seemed very odd to me that he would choose the 88th minute to go have one but to each his own.

Of course after the smoke had cleared and the perpetrator was identified his quick exit made a little more sense. I don't know Burns or any of his friends personally and I know that both the Beer Guardians and The Inferno have checked their membership databases and confirmed that none involved were registered members of any FC Dallas supporters group.

I spoke with one of our members who just happened to be standing next to Burns and had been speaking with him throughout the night and this is what they had to say.

Just to clarify, the "bottle thrower" was standing next to me...but I DO NOT know him. You know he was standing right next to me. But I didn't actually see him throw it. Really sucks because he was really a nice guy. He told me he was home on leave. He's a Marine serving his 3rd tour in Afghanistan. He was buying beer for everyone around him. No idea what came over him to throw that bottle. He was there with a few of his friends. They said it was their first time out to the stadium. He was there, having a good time. That's all I know.

The leaders and members of The Inferno and The Dallas Beer Guardians were QUICK to condemn what happened and I know that the DBG leadership made sure to send out an email with the Code of Conduct attached to it to remind everyone of what is expected of those sitting in the BG.

We welcome anyone over the age of 21 to come sit with us and enjoy the unique atmosphere that comes along with being down in the BG. This is a perfect example of how one drunk apple can ruin the experience for so many and make the group over all (whether they are associated with the group or not) look terrible. If I understand correctly the Front Office has announced that there will only be kegs and cups in the BG from now on, no more aluminum bottles.

I was also asked by a few people about the green laser seen being shined in LA Galaxy players eyes during the game. The only time I saw the laser was during the second half when Landon Donovan was standing at the southeast corner of the field preparing for a corner kick. Other than that one incident I didn't see the laser any other time. I don't know where the person shinning the laser was standing nor have I heard anything.

Unfortunately morons such as this can ruin the game experience for all involved. I don't know what the moral of this story is. In fact I'm not sure that there is one. Ask any pro sports club on the planet and they will tell you that they deal with trouble makers (both intoxicated and not) all the time. What we need to do as responsible attendees is pay attention to those around us and to report any issues that we may see in the stands. I believe that all involved, the Front Office, supporters groups, and stadium security have all learned valuable lessons here that we can all take forward to ensure that moments like this don't happen again.

Editor's Note: FC Dallas released a statement on the incident late Saturday evening: "It is always unacceptable to throw anything onto the field of play because it endangers the safety of all players and personnel. In this specific incident, we have identified the individual and we are proceeding according to protocol with FC Dallas Stadium security, Frisco Police and Major League Soccer." It should also be noted that John has decided not to press any charges for the incident.