It didn’t take too long on Tuesday morning for the shame to start to set in. Did it have to do with L.A. sports? Absolutely. The Lakers? Sort of. But not because of Kobe, Pau or Bynum. It had to do with the Dodgers, too. And they’ve got the best record in all of baseball. No, the real reason I was ashamed was because I’m part of a much larger group that, has, quite frankly, become an embarrassment to admit my membership in: I’m an L.A. sports fan.
And on Tuesday that meant reading about 3 men from that illustrious group who ganged up and kicked another in front of his pregnant wife (PREGANANT WIFE!) in the Dodger Stadium parking lot the night before, landing him in the hospital. The week before it meant hearing that Steve Blake had to block 500 (FIVE HUNDRED!) people on Twitter who were not only threatening his life for missing a shot, but the lives of his wife and children.
It meant watching the news in horror on opening day of Dodger season last year as the reports came in that a Giants fan had been beaten within an inch of his life in the stands. Or watching as the streets of Downtown L.A. burn every year the Lakers win a championship. Notice I said win, not lose.
We’re not the only city that has thugs for fans. We’re not the only city that riots, although the ones that do can at least make the leap in logic to be happy when they win and angry when they lose. There’s a frightening glee that L.A. sports fans take in team-related violence that is very unique to our city, and no matter how many plain-clothes officers they put in the stands or people they block on Twitter, it’s showing no signs of stopping.
And those of us who go to the games have seen a lot more than what ends up on the news that night or the sports page the next day. A friend once told me of seeing a group of Dodger fans pour a beer on an opposing fan’s head in front of that fan’s little girl. His crime? Wearing the baseball hat of the opposing team. I had to leave a Dodgers/ Angels game early once after the combination of 1) a pack of teenagers screaming, “Angels Suck!” in the face of an elderly couple (ELDERLY COUPLE!) wearing Angels gear and 2) the family behind us teaching their 3 year old daughter (3 YEAR OLD!) how to repeat the same phrase became too much for the girl I had brought. The kicker? It was her first Dodgers game. I doubt she ever went back again.
So what’s the excuse? That the stadiums are in a bad neighborhood? That may have worked back in the days of the Raiders and the Coliseum, where my 8 year-old self and a friend were once whisked out by his dad before a riot broke out against the Chiefs, but that doesn’t hold any $4 bottled water today. Sure, Boyle Heights is just down the street from Chavez Ravine, but so is Silverlake and Los Feliz. The Bronx isn’t exactly Park Avenue, but you never hear about anyone getting beaten to death in the stands, even when the Red Sox are in town. And Staples Center is not only so expensive to get into that you have to sell a kidney to get seats, but also happens to be surrounded by L.A. Live, which is basically the Las Vegas to Universal Citywalk’s Reno. Whiz Kalifa is playing across the street, not N.W.A.
So maybe it’s the rivalries? Steve Blake’s miss was against Oklahoma City, who didn’t even exist 6 years ago. Yes, Bryan Stowe was a Giants fan, but I doubt anyone responsible for almost murdering him knows that the storied rivalry started in New York before both teams moved, or better yet, who Mike Marshall or Will Clark even are.
The answer is much simpler: there is no excuse. So here’s a plea from someone who cares dearly about the Dodgers and Lakers (and the Kings, if it’s playoff time), but also acknowledges that sports matters about as much as what’s inside your girlfriend’s US Weekly: Stop acting like fans and start acting like human beings. You know, that thing you’re supposed to be when the game’s not on.