I don’t like fighting. It makes me sick to my stomach. I’m sure that’s not an odd assertion especially coming from a girl, (a girl who is currently wearing a dress with a flowers and a LOT of ruffles), but seeing a fight or knowing one has happened makes me very uneasy. It’s less the physical threat, then a reaction to the idea that there is no control or order. For as much as I have traveled this country seemingly without a care in the world, when I’m somewhere completely ruled by chaos, my panic button is pushed.
So I’m not really sure why I watched the scenes from the San Francisco/Oakland preseason game, but I did. And I immediately wanted a hug. I’m all for trash talking and “hating” on another team, but wtf is wrong with people?!
If you haven’t heard by now, two people were shot, and over six large brawls happened during the game in the stands, in the bathrooms and in the parking lot. It’s not the first incident of its kind, and sadly it probably won’t be the last.
I’ve been to that stadium twice. When I lived in Redwood City, I was given tickets to the Niners/Eagles game and went with my Redskins fan roommate. (We both wore jerseys of teams that weren’t on the field). It was a game early in the season and neither one of us really knew the city nor the stadium that well. We arrived late and probably left early so we probably missed a lot of the off the field fan activities. The second time I went to Candlestick/Monster/whatever it was called then Park, I was meeting two of my fellow AmeriCorps volunteers at the game. One was a former GB resident and was decked out in Packers gear, the other was a lifelong 49ers fan. I drove up by myself, walked through the massive, very unorganized parking lot by myself, and found my seats by myself. I was 24, and pretty tiny. People in the parking lot waived cheese graters at me, and a man threw a hot dog at a Packers fan in a bikini because she wouldn’t do him the favor of removing her top.
Two seasons ago, now living in Cincinnati, I won tickets to the Packers/Browns game in Cleveland. No one wanted to make the 8 hour round trip drive with me, so I rose early Sunday morning and headed out by myself. I walked through downtown Cleveland to the stadium, by myself. I found my seats by myself and sat by myself. The only trash talking that I can remember is that the Browns fans barked a lot. I was worried at first about the dog pound, but really all they wanted to do was bark.
I consider myself lucky. That in most of my travels and watching my team on the road, I have found and befriended other Packers fans. That I have also met some relatively nice fans of other teams. That despite my previously small stature, I walked through crowds without getting things thrown at me.
I’ve also had some bad experiences. Last season I went to a Bengals/Steelers night game. Saw a fight close to us, overheard the Steelers fan behind us proclaim that Carson Palmer should start raping people, and watched more than a handful of couples scream and possibly slap each other. My sophomore year of college, I went to the USC/fUCLA game. For a city that can’t seem to support a professional football team, Los Angeles is really invested in this college rivalry. I lived on campus, so I walked to and from the games. We waited inside the stadium for a while after the wonderful SC victory in our attempts to avoid the chaos and fights that reigned supreme outside. We sat and watched the LAPD attempt to defend the field from wayward fans and watched them break up a couple of fights. Last year at this game, a man was stabbed. My freshmen year at USC my friends and I got in a screaming match with some drunk Notre Dame fans who wandered, after crushing SC on the field, into the student section.
But still, none of these experiences compare with what happened at the Raiders/Niners preseason game. Never have I been physically unable to watch a game when at the stadium, never has my physical safety been threatened. The fact that a man was shot multiple times in the stomach and had to drag himself to security for help at a SPORTING event is pure insanity. I’m all for trash talking and I’m uber obsessed, but at what point does your passion for a team turn into the desire to harm, potentially permanently damage or kill another person? Logic does not exist here, and I’m pretty sure some alcohol does.
So what are we to do? The 49ers and the Raiders have now cancelled their annual preseason game. At Paul Brown Stadium there is the “jerk line” where fans can call and report other fans for fights or for using foul language. Are any of those really the answer? Probably not. I’m not sure what the answer is. But I can tell you I probably wouldn’t drive up to Cleveland or into San Francisco for a game alone again. Not just from a safety perspective but also because those type of events are not places I like to be. And that is sad. Not as sad as a person getting shot, but fans not being welcome and safe at a sporting event is sad.