January 21, 2020

No Violence at Your Cathedral Please…

April 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The beating of  Bryan Stowe, a Giants fan, at the LA Dodgers home opener by Dodgers fans last week is sad and tragic, but I can’t say that the story is unfamiliar.  Why do we as sports fans feel the need to ignorantly maim and injure opposing fans?  Why is it that we cant get through a single season with out a fan being beat up, shot, stabbed or killed outside (or inside) of a ballpark?  After having read several online articles, tweets, blurbs and notification on this situation it prompted me to sit back and think about this a little deeper and do some light research.

~2009 – Arthur Alvarez was stabbed post game in the parking lot a Chavez Ravine after a Dodgers game
~2005 – Uniform patrols are started at Dodger Stadium due to the rise in post game violence – however an altercation between private security and illegal merchandise vendors landed several people in the hospital with stab wounds post Dodgers v. Cardinals at Dodger Stadium.
~2003 – Mark Antenorcruz was shot post game in a parking lot by Pete Marron at Dodgers Stadium.  Marron was tried and convicted.
I’m not picking on Dodgers fans here (as you will see with my upcoming examples from other baseball teams) because this problem is not centralized to the LA Dodgers, let alone the sport of baseball.  There are numerous incidents of post game violence in other sports as well (most notably football and soccer).  I also realize that there are other types of violence in sports – the nature of the sport itself, player-on-player or player-v.-authority – these are understandable and sometimes reasonable violence. Football is not football without tackles and sacks.  After all the players are in the heat of battle and adrenaline is flowing. There is also fan “mob mentality” type violence which is a whole other category in itself – post game riots and violence by a mass of spectators is also all too uncommon in spectator sports from college to pros.  Focusing strictly from an on the field contact position, baseball is historically one of the least violent spectator sports which makes this most recent rash of fan violence even more perplexing.  I’m focusing mostly on the fan-on-fan violence that seems to be ever more prevalent in today’s sporting society.
One of the most interesting things I found in my research about fan-on-fan violence is that it is very non-discriminatory.  It doesn’t matter if the fans involved are happy or sad, disappointed or overjoyed, old or young, black, white, purple or green polka dotted – fans of all types act out and it cannot be stereotyped down to one particular type of fan..

~2008 – A man is stabbed at the Anaheim Angels Stadium after the Angels won the World Series.

The whole point of fandom as we perceive it to be is to provide cheers, support and that little extra amount of oomph our favorite team needs to surge ahead of the competition day in and day out through 162 games per year.  As fans, we feel a very strong connection with our team.  At times this connection rides the line of becoming part of our identity.  However,  we fans really serve no tangible purpose to the players (other than buying merchandise which in turn helps to pay their salaries).  People are attached to their favorite teams – some dedication is life long and instilled in us from the start, others are recent converts but still the commitment is just as strong.  At some point, that passion and dedication can become an incredibly tough badge of honor. Some fans believe that they are entitled and superior just because they made a wise (or dreadful) decision of which team they would support to the bitter end.  This sense of entitlement parlays into them having a need to prove something.  Perhaps if they prove to another rival fan that they are superior to them (by stabbing or shooting them) it portrays their team as being superior because, after all, in their mind they are linked – by them being superior their team is therefore superior.   Proud to wave your team’s flag, sing their praises, protect and defend them whenever the need arises.  Sadly, in some instances, defending ones team can literally mean to the death.
There are also some outside factors that can lead to this manic and violent fandom.  Stress at work and at home is one that comes to mind.  Personally, I don’t buy this theory. Everyone has stress in their lives but very few pick up a knife and stab another person to death over insignificant things such as one person preferring a turkey sandwiches over ham.  The biggest outside factor in all these situations, though implied but unproven, seems to be alcohol.  As you guessed, I’m not buying that one either.  No one forced these malicious spectators to drink their 401K’s empty and brains stupid at a ballpark.  Alcohol can be a catalyst for unreasonable behavior but there are some safeguards put into place at many stadiums to help prevent these types of situations from getting out of hand (whether they are enforced or not is a whole other story).  Alcohol is not a reason for the violence; it’s an excuse to help rationalize stupidity.
Above all else, I believe that this perceived uptick of violent acts has more to do with our changing social norms than any other outside force.  In the way back past, baseball games were seen as an event.  They were the social outing of the week.  Ladies put on their Sunday best and men wore bow ties and spats and took their wives and families out for a day at the park.  Today, we fans in the stands are saddled with the sights of some hoochie momma in her way too short shorts and barely there tube top sitting on the lap of big drunken dude who hasn’t showered in weeks scraping his flip flops on the back of your chair (this is a true story – it was my chair the flip flops were resting on).  This evolution of the social norm has also affected how the sight of violent behaviors affects us as well.  These behaviors are something we see in our daily lives and we have become numb, if not immune to the emotion they are supposed to evoke in us, let alone the action that we should take against it.  Actions that were seen 50 years ago as intolerable and unacceptable are now a part of our day to day lives.  The thought of taking out a knife and setting a fan-on-fan argument in the park was not a thought in years past.  But today, it seems almost commonplace due to the modern chain of thought seen through society.  A few of these most recent, inconceivable heinous acts are

~April 2009 – a drunken 21 yr old Matthew Clemmens intentionally vomited on Michael Vangelo and his 11 year old daughter during a Phillies game because security removed Clemmens drunken friend from the park at Vangelo’s request.  (I find this act atrocious even by today’s standards!)
~October 2009 Red Sox fan Monte Freire (43) was stabbed by Yankees fan John Mayor (45) at a restaurant after feuding about their team rivalry – proving that violent tendencies are not restricted to just younger fans.
~2008 – 3 Chicago Cubs fans beat a Chicago White Sox fan at a child’s birthday party in suburban Chicago.  Robert Steele had his eye socket crushed by a steel toe boot and is now blind in one eye.  The fight started due to taunting from the Cubs fans that all White Sox fans have missing teeth.  The 3 attackers received 3 year sentences.
One interesting thing of note – there are instances of violence at ballparks coming out in the news every year.  Every season it seems like there are a few more reports of violent acts with a few more piling on each year.  However, there is no system, database or company tracking the seeming rise in sports violence at this time.  There is no compilation of data to prove that violence is on the rise.  Researching and compiling data to write this piece was increasingly difficult as there was no main research point to start with and branch out from.  Articles on park violence were flecked through the pages of Google and many were rewrites of articles already found.  Through out my research, very little mention was given as to why this data is not tracked and used to help quell these instances.  Issues like: team specific data – more violent fans with certain match-ups, night games vs. day games, alcohol sales, month in which the game is played, the weather etc.  The only viable reason that I can think of as to why these stats are not tracked is that violence during or after a ball game is a no win situation for all.  One violent incident at a park is one too many from a publicity prospective.  Another reason could be that many acts go unreported to police and/or security.  Only when the violence escalates to the point of hospitalization or death do these issues get reported on a national stage.  How many other fist fights, pushing matches, beatings or harassment issues go on from game to game through the year and are not reported for fear of retaliation, lies, or friend/family personal cover-ups.   Tracking such instances would be difficult at best but could help stadium security, local police and team owners determine high altercation days; therefore, beefing up security or applying restrictions of some kind.

~2003 – After a Padres game at Qualcomm Stadium 22 year old Jeremy Lindsay from Mission Valley CA as beaten into a coma in the parking lot.  Mr. Lindsay died 7 weeks later from his injuries.  No reason for the attack was ever given and assailants never arrested.
Perhaps the most interesting instances of fan on fan violence are when fans of the same team, people who share the same love and passion and dedication to the same team, feud with each other.  With this type of fan on fan violence, excuses such as rivalry and hatred are thrown out the window and become invalid in determining the reasoning for such behavior.  Good lord only knows what exactly they do fight over, be it a long standing personal feud or heated in park situation.  It is one thing to hate your rival, but it is quite another to hate your fellow fan to the point of beating them to death

~2009 – Two groups of Phillies fans fought in the parking lot after a game at Citizens Bank Park and a 22 year old man was beaten to death – over a spilled beer.
~2009 – Opening day at Comerica Park in Detroit Michigan viral videos surface of groups of Tigers fans fighting outside the park in the roped off street.  No reason given for the fights and no reported incidents or injury.
Personally, I find this sort of violence most despicable as there really aren’t many reasons as to why it happens (alcohol and past history aside).  To be fans of a team is to bond together under one brotherhood and root your team on for one common goal.  To feud amongst each other only causes dissension in the ranks and like a pyramid with an unstable base – it will crumble. With fellow fans like these – who needs enemies and rivals! 
Regardless of the type of violence that takes place during or after a baseball game, there really is no good reason for it to continue.  Baseball is a peaceful sport that has been played on green grasses in the warmth of summer for decades.  Nowhere in that dream equation is there room for gunshots and stab wounds. Ballparks are sacred grounds, a cathedral of sorts.  Guns and knives are as welcome at a ball park as they are in a place of worship.  No one fights at church; no one should fight at or outside of a ball park.  The players that we fans look up to, admire and watch daily are held to a higher standard as far as etiquette and in park behavior.  If they are involved in a  fight on the field, they are issued ejections, fines, fees and penalties.  If they throw punches, they are suspended.  In the rare instances where they fight and cause bodily harm, the are held to the same legalities that we fans are in a court of law.  Fans should hold themselves to that same standard. 
There is no right or wrong answer on how to stop these violent altercations from happening.  Much has been bantered about in the past – from limiting liquor sales, to employing more private security, to paying city and state police to patrol stadiums.  The though of even having segregated seating for home fans and away fans has been suggested to keep the opportunities for violence to a minimum.  A system of tracking the types of violence could be most helpful in identifying these possible altercations and stopping them before they begin. 
No one wins when someone is injured, maimed or dies in a confrontation after a game – not the combatants, not the team, not the city or the fellow fans.  These sorts of brawls, be it fan-on-fan or fan-on-rival fan violence, have never and will never help their team win a game or the pennant.  In fact, these incidents only make their team, city and fellow fans look terrible at best.
~ Stay Classy Baseball Fans!

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