Sunday, May 22, 2011

Let's Stop the Violence

Players were injured in 1974 when Cleveland fans were sold
beer at 10 cents a cup (yes, that was really cheap, even then).
It's been reported that Los Angeles police arrested a suspect in the severe beating of a Giants' fan on opening day outside Dodger Stadium. Let's hope they have the right man, as well as anyone else involved in the ugly incident.

But there's more work to be done. Unfortunately, violent behavior by fans happens all too often. It's not just limited to baseball, but the sport needs to do more to address the problem. Most of the problems that get publicized happen when fans intrude on the field.

The beating on opening day put the spotlight on the fans. I have followed my team to many stadiums. Most of the comments sent my way by opposing fans were good-natured. A couple times they were, at the least, disrespectful. Usually those fans were drinking copious amounts of beer.

I never felt personally threatened. But I was at a playoff game between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals when things started to get out of hand. It started with a fan in a Cards' hat and jersey taking his seat. Comments and epithets were hurled his way. He took it in stride.

But as the game wore on, the insults grew nastier. Finally, a couple fans started throwing things at the Redbirds' rooter. Fortunately, stadium personnel eventually intervened quieting things down. (I can't recall if anyone was forced to leave.)

I understand that tensions run high, especially at games between heated rivals or those with championships on the line. But that shouldn't be an excuse for violence. Or even insults that cross the line into boorish behavior. Sports should be the place where people can get together and find out whose team is best while having a good time.

Unfortunately, alcohol fuels much of the rage. Baseball has, over the years, introduced measures like limits on how many beers one fan can buy at a time and cutting off sales after the seventh inning. Those makes sense.

I know alcohol will never be banned at the ballpark. It would be a shame if it that happened. But MLB needs to go beyond those ignored public address announcements before games warning fans to behave in various ways. Its' time for a clever campaign that will engage fans while decreasing violence. MLB has been adept at public service announcements helping various causes like prostate cancer screening. The same techniques need to be used for this.

Oh, and they might start by eliminating the ad a fellow blogger spotted this weekend. Dave is absolutely right: It's not funny to show a fan (no matter how famous) punching a rival.

But baseball has shown signs of myopia before. After all, the sport has no policy on players and coaches arrested for DUI, yet lost a bright young pitcher to a drunken driver in the recent past.

It's time baseball gets its act together to clean up these serious issues.

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