KCBS News Anchor Stan Bunger (who along with KCBS Sports Anchor Steve Bitker are the on-air duo known as KCBS Sports Fans) offers his unique sports analysis.
SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — The San Francisco Giants’ “Opening Weekend” festivities are now a memory. Oh sure, it would have been nice to finish the three days of festivities with a sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals, but two out of three ain’t bad–and the vibe was pretty darned close to perfect all the way.
The Friday pennant ceremony, the Saturday ring-bestowing, the Sunday awarding of Buster Posey’s Rookie of the Year honors, the “Torture, Part 2” wins on Friday and Saturday–all good.
But was I the only one troubled by the full-throated “Beat LA” chant that broke out just after a moment of silence for grievously-injured Giants fan Bryan Stow, who was savagely beaten in the Dodger Stadium parking lot? The Giants have handled this matter with great sensitivity from the start, but do fans who revel in the tribal rivalry with the Dodgers get that it’s time to chill things down, not heat them up?
I’ve never met Bryan Stow, but everything you hear about the guy says he wouldn’t want his senseless mauling by thugs to become the rallying point for any more violence. And let’s not kid ourselves: this stuff starts with chants and name-calling before it spins out of control.
It’s entirely possible that the criminals who tried to kill Bryan Stow were street-gang members who have adopted “Dodger blue” as their gang colors. Trust me: the kind of person who would wear a Dodgers hat as a gang uniform doesn’t know Sandy Koufax from Shinola. This kind of guy isn’t a baseball fan; he’s a criminal opportunist. Chanting “Beat LA” to a guy like this is like tossing lit matches in a dry forest.
On the other hand, it’s possible that Bryan Stow was victimized by the sort of over-the-top fan behavior that longtime Giants ballpark operations executive Jorge Costa says is getting worse. Costa told USA Today, “People are taking ownership of events in a different way…it’s not the team won or lost, it’s he won or lost.” It’s a sickness, really. Author Nick Hornby wrote about it in Fever Pitch (not the artificially-sweetened movie–read the book): people who get that deeply into a sports team need help.
San Francisco fans, historically, have little moral high ground to claim. In the Candlestick years, the leftfield seats were a war zone, especially when the Dodgers were in town. Violence was never far away. Things have improved since the team moved to a better home address, but that “Beat LA” chant on Opening Day told me that for many, the message still hasn’t sunk in.
It’s only a game, people. Try to enjoy it. It sure as hell shouldn’t be a life-or-death matter.
Think about Bryan Stow, and smile at a Dodgers fan.
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