Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fans Join The Gladiators

I'm considering writing a mini-memoir entitled 100 Reasons Why I Left San Francisco. I just added another one to the list. A few months after a Giants baseball fan was beaten half to death at Los Angeles Dodger Stadium, Oakland Raiders and San Francisco 49ers fans turned fandom into a bloodsport. By the time the fans were leaving Candlestick Park, two people had been shot and another beaten senseless in a stadium bathroom.

My first thought was "it's only a game." My second thought was "and it's a meaningless exhibition game at that." My first trip to Candlestick Park was back in 1962 when the Giants played the Houston Colt 45s (later, the Astros). The most violent thing I saw that day was a tipsy fan berating a hot dog vendor for getting his order wrong. I attended many baseball and football games over the years at The Stick (and its various other names), and though I noticed an increase in hostility and a decrease in civility, it never seemed like a dangerous thing to do. The rivalry between the Raiders and the 49ers was always intense, particularly when they were (and now again are) cross-Bay opponents.

The communities which support the two teams are very different. As Ed Driscoll at pajamasmedia.com describes it: "Niners fans were known for enjoying sushi, brie and white wine, while Raiders fans have long had a blue collar, Budweiser sort of ethic." But that assessment ignores the smaller group of San Francisco fans who come from gang territory, and gang activity may or may not have played a part in the crazed behavior that took place this past Sunday. At the risk of taking a cheap shot, O. J. Simpson was born and raised on lower Potrero Hill in San Francisco--gang territory even then.

As an avid 49ers fan, I occasionally made the trek to Oakland for games. But I always took public transportation, since I didn't want to be caught in the parking lot at night at the Oakland Coliseum (or its predecessor, a glorified high school-college stadium just off the Cypress freeway overpass). The Raiders were always known as a rough-and-tumble team, and their fans weren't a lot different. Candlestick's parking lots are divided into home and visitor sections, and when the Raiders played there, it was wise not to park a car with San Francisco license frames in the Oakland section. But even then, the worst you could expect was minor vandalism.

Over the past few decades, team rivalries among sports fans have gone from friendly jibing and occasional shoving matches to outright violent hostility. The games seem almost incidental to the tribal behavior taking place in the stands and the parking lots. The gladiators are no longer just on the field--they're everywhere inside and outside the stadium. The cruding-down of society and its tolerance of aberrant behavior in public seems to have become the order of the day at sports events. Trash talk has now moved into physical attacks. Fan enthusiasm has gone from wild displays of fandom (cheesehead hats, rainbow wigs, Darth Vader helmets) to violent criminal behavior. This latest incident is just another example of the breakdown of law and order and common civility.

The old baseball song goes: "Root, root, root for the home team, if they don't win it's a shame." Today, it's "Root, root, root for the home team, and win or lose it's time to rough somebody up." The old occasional fistfight has degenerated into beat-downs, serious bodily injury, and shootings. And I haven't even mentioned the practice of celebrating a victory by going downtown, smashing windows, vandalizing cars, and burning buildings down. I now live about as far from an urban sports center as is possible while still living in California. And that's a good thing.

Oh, and the 49ers won the game 17 to 3. I'm not sure how many of the fans duking it out in the stands noticed.

21 comments:

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, First, Raiders fans are criminals, pure and simple.

Secondly, the reaction to this has been utterly stupid. They've canceled the annual series and they've apparently banned tailgating once the game begins.... all because of a couple gangbangers in Oakland. It's just stupid to punish everyone because of a couple "people."

Jocelyn said...

Andrew, I agree, why punish everyone for a couple of idiots?

Though, I have to say, I, for the most part, don't care for Raider fans. Even in SoCal, I stay away from them. My experience with 9er fans is that they are little bit more cool, calm and collected.

AndrewPrice said...

Jocelyn, I agree. I think there are times that group punishment works -- like when the group is charged with some action and just won't take it (like Congress failing to fix the budget). But crowds of fans are not groups. There is nothing they can do to stop a couple gangbangers from beating someone up in a bathroom or shooting them in the parking lot.

On Raiders fans, their spokeswoman actually came out and said "don't stereotype Raiders fans". . . yeah right. They've earned the stereotype! The Raiders have become the favored team of gangs and thugs everywhere and they revel in that. And if the team itself is going to push the image that it and its fans live just outside the law, then they can't simultaneously whine that we're stereotyping them.

And in truth, most of the Raiders fans I've met are indeed jerks.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Since I would now have to travel 350 miles to the games, I guess I won't get too exercised over the game cancellations. But I did love them while I lived there, and it really is unfair to the 99 44/100 percent of the fans who are just there to have fun and watch a game. I didn't do it much, but my Berkeley and Albany friends are all avid tailgaters. My son was a Rams fan (boo!), so he now has no dog in this fight.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joeclyn: The violence is endemic in and around the Oakland Coliseum, but on the Candlestick grounds, things were usually pretty peaceful. I too think this is an overreaction. If the SFPD wasn't hamstrung by leftist politicians, the ACLU and the NAACP, they could handle this problem easily (unlike the Oakland Police who are simply overwhelmed). But the stadium authorities would rather punish innocent fans rather than risk enforcing the law and being called racists and profilers. What you won't hear in the MSM is that the participants in the genuine violence (not the shoving matches) are members of black, Mexican and Samoan (no kidding) gangs.

Jocelyn said...

Andrew, I saw what their spokeperson had said and I said the same thing you did, "They've earned that stereotype!"

And I agree with your comment about group punishment. Congress is an excellent example. But things like kids who longer are allowed to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to school because some other kid at the school may or may not have a nut allergy is ridiculous.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Part of the fun of the Raiders in the old days was their carefully-crafted image as outlaws. Unfortunately, as the years went on, they started to believe their own propaganda and it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Add that to the fact that Oakland is one of the most dangerous big cities in the U.S., and the fact that Oakland fans can't distinguish a game from a war and you have a guarantee of violence.

T-Rav said...

LawHawk, did you just BOO THE RAMS?!?!?!

Since I've never visited the West Coast, all I can say is that neither team's fans bother me as much as those of the Eagles--or really any sports team in Philly, come to that.

Jocelyn said...

LawHawk, that's another excellent point. That the SFPD didn't do anything because of the possible implications of either being called "racists". I very much wouldn't be surprised if that was a driving factor in the PD not acting accordingly. You would think that being part of any PD your responsibility to keep the public safe would be a priority. But we know that Unions really have priority.

LawHawkRFD said...

Joeclyn: And my grandkids can't have a Hostess cupcake at school because half the kids at school are morbidly obese. Group punishment almost never makes any sense. It's a facile excuse to avoid requiring individual responsibility.

Jocelyn said...

T-Rav, did you know that the Philly Stadium is the only stadium that has a jail?

In case anyone is wondering, I'm a Cheesehead.

LawHawkRFD said...

Jocelyn: I know a lot of SF cops. Most of them that I've dealt with are the old-timers. They can't say enough bad things about how they are not allowed to enforce the law. Most of them are just putting in their time until they can retire, knowing they are no longer making a real difference the way they used to.

Geographical sidelight: The SFPD veterans always hope there will be a car chase south from Candlestick, which is located just across the line from San Mateo County. They happily hand off escaping criminal chases to the San Mateo Sheriff and the local police departments because they know that in San Mateo County, the perps will actually be punished instead of being rewarded with a fat lawsuit against The City.

T-Rav said...

Jocelyn, I think I've heard that before. I definitely knew that the Eagles fans booed Santa Claus--and no, I don't care that he was drunk or whatever, I think they would have booed him anyway.

I really don't like Philadelphia in any sport. It's part of a long standing Phillies-Cardinals feud.

AndrewPrice said...

I can't stand the Eagles... or their lousy fans. They not only booed Santa, they threw batteries at him. And they cheered a players who looked paralyzed and they cheered when part of the stadium gave way and some people were almost killed. City of Brotherly love my butt.

I also will root for anyone playing against the Patriots. I can't stand the Patriots.

Jocelyn, I've been a life long Buccaneer's fan, so I always enjoyed the rivalry with the Packers -- in particular the Bay of Pigs games! LOL! -- and I love their traditions. What a great team!

By the way, when I was young I played Peewee football and our team was the Village Green Packers! :-)

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: I occasionally muse on what the Founders would think of the city where they put together the finest declaration of freedom in history and later the greatest foundational document the world has ever seen.

rlaWTX said...

Go 'Boys!

[although that is a knee-jerk football reaction - not an assessment of any recent team]

Eagles are evil... So are the 'Skins... but once again, that's divisional auto-reply again...

as for the patheticness of those who call themselves fans only to show themselves as miserable human-shaped #$%& - I'm coming to expect it

LawHawkRFD said...

rlaWTX: I wonder if it might not be a good idea to have a pregame to allow the thugs to go onto the field and bash each other. When they're done, sweep them all out and get on with the real game.

T-Rav said...

If anyone wants to see more potential thuggery this season, they might try the upcoming Titans-Texans match. Those two teams hate each other, and they got into fights more than once on the field this season. Good times, good times...

LawHawkRFD said...

T-Rav: I guess Texans don't like traitors. Tennessee Titans? Phooey. They used to be the Houston Oilers (or as my Texas friends called them, the Awlers), and even my relatively peaceful Texas friends have a deep-seated enmity toward the "turncoats" (as they call them). My Houston friends don't even consider Nashville to be a real city, just some place that country music seems to find amenable.

Cheryl said...

What's NOT to like about the Packers?!

I lived in WI twenty-eight years. It's a great team and a great, fun community of fans.

LawHawkRFD said...

Cheryl: One of my friends in Arizona is such a Green Bay devotee that she uses Packerfan in her screen IDs.

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