We all love the game we call baseball. Many of us love sports in general. We enjoy competition, and it's merely human nature. Since the beginning of man, people have been finding ways to prove their worth against others. Competition and rivalry brings out the best in some and the worst in others.
It's been said that it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. I believe that applies to fans of organized sport as well.
While I do not agree that the outcome of sport takes lower priority over sportsmanship, I agree that the way a fanbase conducts itself in general influences widespread opinion, and the way opposing fans treat them during interactions.
With that being said, I delayed writing this article by over week purposely. The attack on Giants fan Bryan Stow following opening night in Los Angeles enraged me. It enraged me to the point where I was worried about what I might say on this site, which is read by enough people to make me think twice about what I write.
What happened to Stow, a vicious and unprovoked attack, is one of the most cowardly acts in the history of American professional sports. No one deserves to be beaten because of what they believe or who they are. And although we may not all get along or share the beliefs or lifestyles of others, that doesn't give anyone the right to attack anyone physically.
I'm pretty realistic about this stuff. There are some people that simply look for fights. People get drunk and obnoxious. Idiots feel tough in a group and pop off to the stadium's cheering minority. It's part of the game, and it's part of the cross section of any society-- especially when it comes to sporting events. I get that. There are bad apples everywhere; morons in every walk of life.
I also know what Dodger Stadium is like. I've been there many times, beginning as a young kid with my dad. I've been lucky enough to be to a lot of different ballparks and arenas over the years, including the East Coast, and although I'm by no means an expert on these topics, I can tell you what I know to be factual.
Most Dodger fans are not despicable criminals like Stow's assailants. A lot of them are just like you or me... save of course the obvious fact that they are unfortunate to have been born in the worst part of our beautiful state with parents misguided enough to raise them as Dodger fans. Hey, nobody's perfect.
There is an element as Dodger Stadium however, that is unlike anything else you'll see at professional sporting events. The Oakland Coliseum for Raider games is the closest thing you'll find to the criminal element at Chavez Ravine.
There is no coincidence in the tie between the former Los Angeles Raiders and Dodgers, their rough element of fans, and the fact that opposing fans rightfully have their heads on a swivel at these games.
LA's gang culture exploded in the 1980s and 90s. The rise of rap and hip hop stars and groups like Ice Cube, NWA, etc. gave a lot of these criminal groups a public identity to attach itself to. The ESPN/Ice Cube 30 for 30 documentary "Straight Outta LA" detailed this.
Gangs began attaching themselves to The LA Raiders, their colors and clothing becoming associated with thug life and the rough street lifestyle that suddenly became glamorous. Long story short, the LA Coliseum became a dangerous place, a place dangerous enough where players didn't want their families in the crowd and opposing gang members frequently fought in public.
The reason I bring up the Raiders and their thuggish fans in the 80's and 90's is that once Al Davis moved the team back North to Oakland, this culture no longer had a local team to attach itself to.
Sure, they like the Lakers, but the Lakers have 20,000 seats, and it has always been a tough ticket. The NBA in LA is reserved for celebrities and people with money.
What's left? The Kings? No. Street toughs don't like hockey. USC football? Ehh, to a certain extent, but what does this rough element have in common with the University of Spoiled children? Not much.
That left the Dodgers... now a magnet for LA's thriving thug element.
These days, if this element of bad apples wants to go to a game for a reasonable price and hang out with their kind, they go to Chavez Latrine to cheer on people like Matt Kemp and Casey Blake, primarily filling the outfield pavilion sections (left field being the most notorious).
Most of these thugs don't care about the game. They care about getting drunk and talking smack. Paralleling the gang mindset of "us against them" and strength in numbers, it's a perfect public place for them to assemble.
Now I'm not saying that all of these bad apples are all in organized criminal street gangs, because that would be inaccurate. It's the lifestyle and mindset of "I'm tough, these are my homeboys, this is our hood, and this is my team."
That's just as dangerous as anything else.
And I know this is ALWAYS a very touchy topic, and some people can't handle having discussions about this without dismissing valid arguments, but there unfortunately is a racial element to this subject.
I won't harp on this, but I will state that there is a stereotype of what a "scary" Dodger fan looks like. Again, it's not everyone, and there are tons of exceptions to every rule, but the stereotype of the rough Hispanic Dodger fan looking for a fight is not a stereotype for no reason.
The gang population of the greater LA County area is estimated to be as high as 85,000. It is a huge problem to say the least.
Again, it's not mostly gang members intimidating people at Dodgers games, but there is a gang culture in Los Angeles that has influenced large amounts of young people, whether they do illegal things or not.
There is simply an element and culture of aggressive inhumanity and rudeness by some Dodger fans that cannot be ignored.
Take the account of Giants fan Teresa, who attended Opening Day in Los Angeles, the same game that resulted in Bryan Stow fighting for his life:
"I sat in LF (Pavilion) at Dodger Stadium on Opening Night. I went alone (came from Fresno). Beforehand, I gave some thought to how I would conduct myself and what I would wear because I am very aware of the hostile nature of Dodger Stadium. Everyone with a Giants hat or jersey was loudly booed wherever they went by large groups of people. While in the stands, one man got really bossy. He demanded that I stand when Vin Scully was introduced. I didn't. But the second time he yelled at me, I did what he said because it scared me. (He told me to take off my visor for God Bless America.)
I left in the 8th inning because I had a bus to catch and I also had no interest in being around if the Giants lost. There was a bad vibe in the stands. No one would converse with me because of my Giants visor and t-shirt. People were plain rude. In the 3rd or 4th inning, I was yelled at by a woman for sitting in the wrong row. I moved down one. I realized I had forgotten my water bottle under the bench and asked her husband to pass it to me. He refused. He moved his leg and said, "You get it." It was such a strange evening. I will never go back."
Booing Giants fans I understand. Fine. I boo Dodgers fans too. That's not a big deal. But just the fact that people can't feel safe in the stands at a baseball game is just unacceptable.
This isn't football, or European soccer, Thai kickboxing, or that game that they play in Afghanistan in Rambo III where they drag the goat carcass around. This is baseball, in America.
It's just extremely discouraging.
People just go there to have a good time and root for their team. For some Dodger fans, that apparently entails yelling at women and children, throwing things at men, and purveying a general sense of irreverence and mob-style intimidation.
Just look at what they have to do to keep the peace in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Once you park, you have to leave your car and immediately go into the ballpark. Drinking alcohol of any kind is prohibited, and you will be asked to dump it out or asked to leave if you refuse any of their bullying.
This happened to me only last year in a game against Pittsburgh. I was sitting with 3 other college students that all looked like me. We were in a Honda Pilot with the windows rolled up, and we were listening to Paul Simon while drinking a Coors Light.
We were badgered, harassed, and had our beers poured out by parking lot Nazis, then told we couldn't even smoke a cigarette outside the car. We had to go in, or we'd be asked to leave.
Where were these parking lot Nazis while Bryan Stow was getting his skull bounced against the pavement?
I suppose they were busy harassing peaceful groups of people enjoying the fact that baseball was back for another exciting year.
Do I blame them for the no-tolerance policy? No. I get it.
In 2010, there were 132 arrests at Dodger Stadium during Opening Day. 132! That is just unfathomable to me.
I guess the crackdown has had some effect as ONLY 25 people were arrested this year.
I'm waiting for that number to increase to 27.
The pieces of human garbage that attacked Bryan Stow don't deserve to live. They really don't. If they think that sucker punching and kicking a father of two until he nearly died is acceptable behavior, then they are better off dead.
Unfortunately, we don't live in a society anymore where people who do bad things are always punished. I like to think that even if people like these two get away with stuff like this during their lifetime, that they will burn for an eternity in hell.
And if you don't believe in heaven or hell, at least start believing in hell, because if those guys just get to live out their pathetic, violent lives, then die and don't have to pay for their crimes, then there really is no justice in the world (or afterworld for that matter).
I'm not giving up hope that someone will finger these two scumbags, but honestly, these guys could be anywhere. It's like finding a needle in a haystack even in the parking lot, let alone a metropolitan area of nearly 9 million, where they could easily blend in.
As angry as we are as Giants fans. We absolutely cannot retaliate against Dodger fans or anything else. We are the San Francisco Giants and we are Giants Nation. WE DON'T DO THESE THINGS TO OTHER PEOPLE. We ARE better than Dodger fans as a group.
Any person that decides to start a fight or causes any harm to one of these people is also causing harm to other Giants fans in the court of public opinion. Just with poor Bryan Stow and how his story was plastered over the national sports and news media, so will any signs of violent retaliation by Giants fans.
The microscope is on AT&T Park for this series.
Although two wrongs feels right, it unfortunately isn't always the best thing to do.
The best thing we can do to get our justice and vengeance is to send our thoughts and prayers to Bryan Stow and his family, make a donation to help pay his mounting medical bills if we are able, conduct ourselves with the class that makes us better than Dodger fans, and for God's sake, sweep these bastards on the field.
Consider the plea from Stow's cousin:
"We would like to use this as a rallying cry to stop unnecessary violence in our greatest pastime and all other sports, not only here but abroad. This would be one of the greatest gifts you could give to us, especially Bryan. So I ask for one last thing on behalf of Bryan -- that we all enjoy a safe and competitive and exciting year of baseball and a successful Giants home-opening weekend at AT&T Park."
I don't know Bryan Stow, but he was a Giants fan. He is one of us. He is just a guy who's day job is to save lives as a paramedic, and his night job is to raise his children. His life will never be the same, and I hope that no one that considers themselves a Giants fan will change anyone else's life in that manner.
On that note, I hate the Dodgers possibly more than I ever have, and I will always hold this incident against them and their fans, deserving or not. Everything about them makes me sick, but when I begin to get angry I remember two things:
1) We won the World Series & they suck
2) We are a better fanbase of classy individuals who would never do anything like that.
On that note...
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