By Dennis J. Freeman
Going to a Los Angeles Dodgers game can be one of the most enjoyable sports experiences one could want to have if the atmosphere is right. Attending a game within the friendly confines of Caesar Chavez Ravine can be an incredible festive time for families when Dodger Blue becomes part of your DNA.
Unfortunately, the atmosphere to enjoy those benefits hasn’t been right for the last couple of years. Fights have broken out. Stabbings and shootings have been reported. Fans and players alike have been antagonized and verbally abused. A person has even died as a result of the reckless violence that has somehow wrapped itself around Dodger Stadium.
As a news reporter, you’re shielded away from all of the malice and ugliness that sometimes go on while you’re trying to hammer out a story on deadline. As a fan, you see and hear just about everything that goes on. Tailgate parties, now forbidden, would turn into pre-game rituals of taunting of opposite team fans.
As a fan, you can’t beat buying a couple of Dodger Dogs and basking in the calm of a major league baseball game. But in the last couple of years that have changed. I stopped taking my own family to games at Dodger Stadium because of the violent behavior of some fans. The last time I took my family to see the Dodgers was a couple of years ago.
I stopped because both my wife and my children became uncomfortable sitting in the stands as other fans would berate other paying customers, get into verbal altercations and demonstrate a cold callousness for the well-being for other individuals.
My wife would sometime chastise me about wearing other athletic gear-even football jerseys-not Dodgers gear out of fear that she didn’t want anything to happen to our family.
The last time I took my family to a Dodgers game, my wife and I witnessed this young man, probably no older than 25-years-old, who was wearing a Miami Hurricanes football jersey. As he and his girlfriend was walking out of the stadium, they were viciously mocked and taunted by irate fans because he did not have the audacity to wear a UCLA or USC football jersey.
The couple then had a bunch food and ice thrown their direction, just a few feet away from my own family. My wife and I were in disbelief. We couldn’t believe what we just saw. I immediately went to the nearest security guard to report what happened. I didn’t stick around to see what would happen to the unruly culprits basically grabbed my arms and said, “Let’s go!”
This is not something I’ve reported on or interviewed other people about as a news reporter. This is what I’ve experienced first-hand as a baseball fan looking to have an afternoon out with the family. So, it was good news to hear city officials, Los Angeles Police Department brass and Dodgers owner Frank McCourt lay down the gauntlet on bad behavior by fans.
Thugs beware. The Dodgers finally manned up and made the right call to beef up security in order to put a chokehold on a growing culture of criminality that have existed for years. McCourt and the Dodgers made it clear at a recently held press conference that they are effectively through with the toy cop experiment.
The big boys are coming. The real enforcement via the LAPD will be shutting down the forces of evil that parade in Dodgers gear and harass and abuse game patrons from now on. This is a move the Dodgers should have made years ago, not in a reactionary way after another fan attending a game at their stadium gets pulverized to the brink of losing his life.
When you allow stabbings, shootings and beating to take place at your home, who really wants to waddle in the middle of all that mess with their family? I surely don’t. After San Francisco Giants fan Bryan Stow was nearly beaten and kicked to death by a couple of cowardly punks on Opening Day of the regular baseball season, the uproar on the lack of public safety at a so-called family event finally grabbed the attention of McCourt and public officials.
In a rare joint statement, a statement condemning the ruthless acts of violence was issued by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, SFPD Interim Chief Jeff Godown, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, San Francisco Giants Managing Partner Bill Neukom and Los Angeles Dodgers Owner Frank McCourt in regard to the assault on Stow at Dodger Stadium.
“This attack is unconscionable behavior that will not be tolerated in either of our ballparks or in either of our cities. Once apprehended, the attackers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Public safety is the top priority for all of us and even one act of random violence is unacceptable.
“Baseball is a family sport that has unified our country after times of crisis and tragedy. This senseless act of violence has no place in our society and certainly not in our national pastime. They’ve heard enough. They’ve seen enough. Let just hope that their latest directive is enough to bring families like mine back to the ballpark.”
Apparently, they’ve seen enough. They’ve heard enough. Let’s just hope they’ve done enough to bring families like mine back to the ballpark.