Monday, April 4, 2011

Fan Violence

A San Francisco Giants fan was beaten up in the Dodger Stadium parking lot after the home opener last Thursday night. He was wearing Giants' gear and was taunted by two Dodgers fans, who hit him in back of the head, causing him to fall down and bang his head on the pavement. The two cowards then proceeded to kick him before escaping into a waiting minivan. I'm not sure how nobody in the area managed to get the license plate of the van given that Dodger Stadium parking lots are notoriously difficult to leave after games. Regardless, the two scum who committed the act have yet to come forward, which is not surprising given that those who gang up on somebody aren't going to have the balls to face the punishment they deserve. Authorities describe them as Latino men in their early 20s, but have no solid leads. Turns out that the victim is a paramedic and a father of two, just to make the story sadder.

The Dodgers also look pretty bad in this, with owner Frank McCourt stating, "It's very, very unfair to take what was otherwise a fantastic day — everything from the weather to the result of the game to just the overall experience — and to have a few individuals mar that." With that stunted emotional outlook, it's no wonder he's getting divorced.

As someone who travels to sporting events, often in the colours of the visiting team, this story makes me sick. I've been yelled at, had peanuts thrown at me, and had the home team mascot cover me in silly string, but it was all good natured. Unfortunately, it just takes one idiot who feels that rooting for a different team gives him the right to ruin your experience and possibly your life. Teams have a responsibility to protect visiting fans and as Paul Oberjuce writes, the Dodgers have not been doing it. If it means selling less booze or maintaining a list of problem fans, so be it. But teams are loath to forgo any revenue streams, so don't expect any real changes. If you are a visiting fan, be aware that your safety is your own responsibility in Los Angeles.

I'll be attending a Dodgers-Giants game in San Francisco next week and wondering if anything will happen. I'm not a fan of either team in particular and just hoping to see a good game, but you never know if some inebriated Giants' supporters will try to take revenge. I expect security to be tight and obvious in an attempt to deter more moronic behaviour, and Dodger fans might be a bit less obvious in their cheering. In soccer, hooligans have led to fans being forced to sit apart from each other which means that you get a crappy seat when you are a visiting fan. Here's hoping that American sports don't follow that path because of two louts in LA.

Update: I'm adding a bit to this post as it's getting a lot of media play back home. The victim, Bryan Stow, remains in a coma and might have brain damage, while the perpetrators continue to hide. Their friends and family know who they are but no one has the courage to do the right thing. Shameful, but not unexpected, as cowards run together. I doubt that they are even aware of the damage they are doing to their own community, as all young Latino males at Dodger games are now suspect. It's going to be racial profiling all over again.

ESPN has also been following the story closely. Skip Bayless, America's most obnoxious sports commentator, said that visiting fans shouldn't wear their team's paraphernalia or cheer too loudly. I know it's his job to be outrageous, but this is just stupid. Watching your team on the road can be a great experience and is the whole point behind the sports road trip. It is fun to get to know the locals and have a friendly rivalry during the game. Unfortunately, a few fans base their self-worth purely on the teams they follow and cannot deal with the fact that there are people who root for other teams. It is because of these idiots that I need to keep my Leafs jersey at home? No! Simply put, teams need to protect visiting fans just as much as they do their own supporters. Drunkards need to be immediately removed and repeat offenders banned for life. Security has to be noticeably present throughout the venue, including the parking lots, until well after the game. Visiting fans should be aware of their situation and have an avenue to report any potential problems. And if you are a visiting fan, be mature. Cheering and friendly heckling is OK, being an asshole is not. If your team wins, enjoy it but don't rub it in. You are not a better person just because your team is better. Anyway, the sporting gods never take kindly to such behaviour and will punish you eventually.

The Giants are dedicating the first game of their LA series to Stow among other initiatives. In L.A., there will be far more security at Dodger Stadium. For the rest of us, all we can hope for now is that Mr. Stow recovers and this story stops other morons from taking out their personal issues on those wearing different team colours.



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