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Fan violence: When will they ever learn?

The story was shocking and tragic. A Dodger and Giant fan get into a verbal confrontation. One pulls out a weapon, and the absurd scrap results in death. That’s what happened in July of 1938 when Giants fans, celebrating a win over the Dodgers at Ebbets Field, taunted Dodger fan Robert Joyce at a Brooklyn bar. Joyce left the bar to get a gun, and returned to fatally shoot Giants fan Frank Krug. No one ever learned. A Dodger and Giant fan got into a confrontation in 2003 outside Dodger Stadium. The Dodger fan went to his vehicle, grabbed a gun, and fired a shot that killed the Giants fan. Santa Cruz paramedic Bryan Stow was at Dodger Stadium on opening day in 2011 to watch his Giants play the Dodgers. Giants fans said later there was a bad vibe that night at the ballpark, and it culminated in Stow being severely injured in a parking lot assault after the game, according to police. That night, 89 people were arrested at Dodger Stadium for alcohol-related offenses. Just recently, on Sept. 25, a man with a Giants hat and a man with a Dodger jersey were enough to spark some verbal jabbing just blocks from AT&T Park, where the clubs had played that night. The stories conflict, but the Dodger fan ended up dead after being stabbed.

Incidents of fans spurred to do stupid things because they are caught up in the rivalry are plentiful. In 1971, a Dodgers-Giants game at Dodger Stadium was interrupted when fans threw cushions, a smoke bomb and a wine bottle on the field. When the Dodgers and Giants players almost came to blows at a game in 1987 at Candlestick Park, Giants fans were motivated enough to start throwing beer into the Dodger dugout. Dodgers players had to be restrained from climbing over the railing to get to the unruly spectators. A year later, the Giants and Dodgers played a doubleheader at Candlestick Park, where the final score read: 100 fans ejected, 18 arrested.

It’s unlikely that any of the perpetrators in the above events got up that morning wondering what kind of calamity they could cause today. Yet, there they were by night’s end, involved in altercations with strangers. In three of the four assault-type cases cited, weapons were used. Whatever happened to the old-fashioned fist-fight, a common occurrence, by the way, at Candlestick Park between fans of both teams? The other obvious ingredient is alcohol. Still, even if you’ve been drinking and carrying a weapon, there’s still needs to be something that instigates the violence. If you played word association with Giants-Dodgers, you’d likely get something like “intensity” and “confrontation.” That, as we know, has been part of the rivalry forever. My only guess is that these clashes are processed by those involved as sanitized violence, where you are fighting an enemy who, like a gang member, is wearing some colors that are invading your turf. These violent episodes remind me of road-rage incidents, where people who might not be thugs for a living suddenly turn into foaming-at-the mouth maniacs.

Solutions? The crowds have been dramatically calmer at comfortable AT&T Park, and security was especially charged up for the Dodgers series with security personnel using the wand for front and back checks of every spectator. I understand that security has been beefed up at Dodger Stadium since the Stow attack. I don’t know what else the clubs could do. This latest tragic death happened near the ballpark, but it could have happened anywhere in San Francisco. It really comes down to individuals being smart about the circumstances. I went to the tense Giants-Padres final game in 2010 with two friends who wore San Diego jerseys, one having the name of Giant enemy Mat Latos on the back. Giants fans would come up to us in taunting mode, but we all;would disarm them with our joking and laughter, and they would quickly become our friends. This rivalry can put people on the edge. But how many more violent episodes will it take to get the message across. When will they ever learn?

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