Tuesday, August 23, 2011

NFL Football: Shootings and Viscous Beatings Now Part of "Fan Culture"?


(above, police try to get security situation established after shooting in the parking lot outside Candlestick Park, San Francisco after a Niner-Raider game on August 20th 2011.)

Last Saturday night, the San Francisco Forty-Niners and the Oakland Raiders played a meaningless exhibition football game. It was the so-called annual "Battle of the Bay". Normally this minor event, minor in all ways given the records of the teams these last seven or eight years, has all the newsworthiness of a 30-second wrap-up segment on local news or ESPN or NFL-TV.

Fan fights at football and baseball games at San Francisco's Candlestick Park and other venues are nothing new. I've been to Candlestick many times and saw how excessive taunters, drunken rowdies and plain stupid people would get into brief brawls before they were escorted to the holding pens to wait for the law to deal with them or just kicked out of the stadium.

I've witnessed fights--more like scuffles--among inebriates in the parking lots before and after the games. They were usually a mild distraction for people getting to and from the stadium and usually were not serious.

What happened Saturday is an exception, a ramping up of violence that now includes gunplay and fights that appear to be more related to some type of hooliganism on a broad scale.

Both teams have played some of the most really mediocre football in their respective NFC/AFC divisions over the past few seasons. The Raiders have been a shadow of their once legendary selves, as have the Forty Niners the onetime "Team of the 80's"' Just watching the Forty Niners new coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff trying to reboot 2005's Number One draft pick Alex Smith into the starting quarterback role--yet again--- after six seasons of sub-par play is painful enough.

But to see this low-rent rivalry turn so ugly is much, much worse and totally inappropriate.

Violence is never a great thing. But at a sporting event with kids and ordinary fans being put into danger over a lousy exhibition game is way over the top and needs to stop now.

Some thugs, strident fans, gang members, meth-addled gun hoods, whatever, decided it would be a good thing to come to a game and create havoc. Seventy people of both sexes were ejected from the game for fighting. (The normal is about twenty.) Shots were fired. Blood was spilled. At least one person is on the hospital with multiple gun-shot wounds. No arrests have been made in the multiple shootings mostly after the game, which raises serious questions about stadium security, which was supposed to be on heightened alert.

I was glad to see this morning that the 49ers have banned tailgating parties after the start of the games and will pull season tickets for any fans who instigate violence.

One can't expect a perfect world inside a sports exhibition. A friend of mine once got hit in the face for accidently spilling a part of his beer on a guy's shoes. I guess there is some connection between male pride and a sports event which brings out the pathetic losers who saw one too many Steven Seagal movies growing up.

But, given the prices that the NFL charges for their games and the parking fees and the concession prices, decent people with wives and children can and should expect reasonable security. If not, let their be no more "Battle of the Bay" exhibition or regular season games at candlestick until the cops and the 49er organization at least get their act together.


  1. This is a surprise to me Doug. We, as you may know, had a huge problem with crowd violence at football (soccer) matches through the 70's & 80's. It was a national disgrace with no section of the sport spared from this blight. American Grid Iron was often held up as a shining beacon which our soccer louts should emulate!

  2. Yes, Jim, the "American Grid" game has been, thankfully, free of most of this mayhem for as long as I've been a fan. There are deeper issues here than just football but I wanted to focus this blog entry on this issue because it is a case where better controls over miscreant fan behavior can be done without any big brother tactics (i.e., spend more time patrolling parking lots and offing better pay and training to security people.)

    There are one or two teams in the NFL with bad-fan reputations, but generally crowd security is tame and I hope--and expect, given the NFL's ninebillion dollar revenue stream, that all teams will maintain safety first policies for their non-thug ticket buyers.