What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This past weekend, we had yet another episode of violence at a sporting event. This time, three people were seriously injured in separate incidents at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park during a 49ers-Raiders game. So far, two have been upgraded to fair condition, one was a 24-year-old man who was shot several times in the stomach, and the other was a 26-year-old man who was beaten unconscious in an upper-level stadium restroom during the fourth quarter. An additional shooting victim was treated after receiving superficial facial wounds after the game.
This begs the question: What will be the response to this violence? Increase stadium security? Make sure the people who committed these crimes are arrested and have examples made of them? Revoking the season tickets of those involved?
That last one is supposedly going to happen, along with the idea of banning tailgating in the stadium parking lot after games start. Those both are good ideas, but they only go halfway in their approach as they only solve part of the problem. So what do the teams and the NFL see as a solution? Pat yourself on the back if you said we should cave in to this kind of crap and just don’t play the game.
Both the San Francisco and Oakland police departments have recommended that the annual San Francisco 49ers-Oakland Raiders exhibition game be eliminated following weekend violence during this year’s football game at Candlestick Park, officials with the 49ers told CBS San Francisco on Monday.
The 49ers said they were reviewing the police recommendations and scheduled a news conference for later in the day with team president Jed York.
The San Jose Mercury News and Oakland Tribune newspapers reported Monday that the NFL had decided to stop scheduling the rivalry game, but both 49ers officials and Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask told CBS San Francisco that no decision had yet been made on the Battle of the Bay’s future.
Welcome to another typical American over-reaction; it is weak, it is misguided, and it doesn’t solve the problem.
First of all, even though Raiders CEO Amy Trask says no decision has yet been made, you can tell cancelling the game is clearly the primary option on the table based on what she’s not saying. Go through the rest of the story; you won’t see any allusions to specific plans for solving the problem.
SFPD Chief Greg Suhr told KCBS Radio that “we added substantial numbers (of officers) for Saturday’s game” and added, “obviously we were right (to do so.)”
You would expect a police chief to talk about beefed-up security, especially since that is exactly what was done at this event. Yet, after increasing security, we still have three people shot and another beaten to a pulp.
There’s two problems here. First, we really don’t know what the original size of the security presence was, so we really can’t tell if the precautions taken for Saturday’s game were appropriate. Second of all, unless you declare martial law, security can’t stop every drunken bum who wants to throw a punch in a men’s room.
But let me ask three questions: How does somebody get into an NFL stadium or parking lot with a gun? How do they pull it out, use it, and get away in front of 50,000 witnesses? How does this happen more than once at the same event?
There’s one answer for all three questions: because even the “increased security” was monstrously inadequate. Look at any video out there on this issue; look at how long punches are being thrown without even the slightest hint of a security presence. Instead of addressing that issue, the hope is that if we simply throw our collective hands up in the air and say “nothing else could have been done, so let’s just not play the game anymore,” no one will ask the questions I just did.
But, there’s some flaws in that theory. It is one thing to call off a pre-season game, but what about the regular season? Granted, the Raiders and 49ers don’t play each other every season, but they do play each other. What then? Suppose the it wasn’t the meeting of these two teams that was the problem; let’s say both fan bases contain a gun-wielding component prone to violence? Are they willing to cancel all of the home games for these two teams, or re-locate them to “low-crime” cities like Fargo, North Dakota and Cheyenne, Wyoming?
The bottom line is that sports venues are becoming dangerous places. This quoted story naturally makes mention of the Dodger Stadium incident this past spring. But that is just an anecdotal example of what is by all accounts a growing problem.
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, both teams and the NFL were all quick to condemn Saturday’s violence and pledged to work with law enforcement for a solution.
“Fans come to our stadiums to enjoy an afternoon of football, not to be subjected to intimidation or violence,” the mayors said in a joint statement. “The incidents are completely unacceptable.”
Lee, who was at the game, indicated Monday that he also personally observed numerous brawls among fans in the stands and was horrified at some of the conduct.
“We definitely have to curtail the violence,” he told KCBS Radio. “What we have to do is make everyone who comes into the stadium more responsible.”
Former Raiders head coach and NFL broadcaster John Madden told KCBS Radio during an interview Monday that the violence at Candlestick was symptomatic of the declining fan experience at NFL stadiums across the country.
“This isn’t something that just showed up Saturday night in San Francisco,” Madden said. “Over the years, I don’t think that the clubs, the NFL have really taken care of the fans… That’s what they have to watch out for, that the parking lots in our stadiums don’t become hangouts for hooligans, and that our stadiums don’t.”
The NFL, and sports leagues in general, would be well served to pay close attention to Madden’s comments, particularly that bit about the “declining fan experience.” It matters little if the quality of the product is first-rate, it matters little if the tickets are comfortably priced. If people can’t feel safe at the ballpark, they won’t show up. Then nobody will need to make a decision as to whether or not to play the games.