After Jose Cruz made a fine diving catch to keep the game tied, the Dodger fan relented. My friend turned to me and said, "This will be worth it only if we get to see Bonds' 500th steal."
Talk about prophetic words.
I've been a Giants fan since I could understand baseball as a kid in the late eighties. Back then, I basically knew when to cheer, but I wasn't quite sure of why. The first time I got it was when I was sitting with my mother and father in the upper deck of Candlestick, just inside the foul pole, watching Dave Dravecky pitch. My mother and father had told me what he had been through, though I didn't need to imagine much. Not long before that, my mother had been through a long battle of cancer of her own. When Dravecky took the mound, we cheered. When he threw the first pitch, we cheered. When he got the win, we really cheered. We weren't just cheering for him. We were cheering for us.
Over the years, as a Giants fan, we've had many things to celebrate. Division titles, League pennants, and numerous individual achievements. And a few victories over the Dodgers that were only special because they were, well, over the Dodgers.
Monday night was another one. It was particularly sweet because of all the things we've seen Bonds do over the years, and for me because I was lucky enough to see home run #500. We all could see it coming, which just made it all the more incredible. From the walk, to Gagne not checking Bonds on the first pitch, to Bonds taking off on the second pitch. Before Bonds slid over the bag on second, about 40,000 seats were suddenly empty. The only ones that weren't held Dodger fans. Yelling, screaming, general stadium shaking was going on. This particular feat may not have been one that any of us, or any major leaguer in history, could relate to. But it was still our victory, with our native son.
I'm a season ticket holder, and I knew a few of the people around us. There were a lot of strangers, too, both people who had bought their seats from the normal seat holders, and those who'd snuck down. But that didn't stop me from turning around, and giving anyone…everyone a high five. One by one, seat by seat. Others were doing the same, and it was generally good fun.
Until one guy who hadn't emptied his seat stood up in front of me, got right in my face, and mockingly slapped his hands together right in front of me.
This, needless to say, surprised me. The guy just stood, inches from me, and stared at me from behind some dark sunglasses. I didn't move. I'm not one to start anything, but I don't back down. He took off his glasses, took off his hat, and stared at me some more. I stared back, and several of the people around us were now watching us.
And then he clocked me.
I'm assuming it was his best right. It caught right on the temple. And, quite frankly, I've been hit harder by girls in grade school.
Still, I couldn't believe he'd done that. I only fight to protect myself, and this guy had proven himself no threat. Still, I sit in a section with a lot of kids, and I didn't want them to see this. I grabbed the guy by his jacket and dragged him up the aisle, out of the section, hopefully to an usher who would call security. When we reached the top of the aisle, though, there was no usher to call security. The guy threw some more punches as I did my best to keep him pinned and from going back into the section. With a couple of other, larger Giants fans, he was soon intimidated enough to leave. We turned around in time to see Santiago drive Bonds in with the winning run.
Still, this incident stayed with me. In almost two decades of being a fan, I'd never been in a fight. And I used to be a season ticket holder to the Raiders. (And, quite frankly, that's a horribly inaccurate stereotype). I went over my actions several times, but the more I thought about what I'd done, the less I could see anything wrong that I'd done. I'd cheered, I'd screamed, I clapped, and I'd given high fives to friends and strangers. So I could only come up with one conclusion.
The guy was drunk.
That, however, is no excuse.
Sports fans have received numerous black eyes this past year. Baseball fans charging onto the field, football fans (supposedly) causing riots, and basketball fans promoting child abuse by encouraging undeveloped high school players to abuse themselves by entering the draft. But those are just the new incidents. Giant and Dodger fans are more than familiar enough with the violent acts fans commit to each other.
This has got to stop. I've seen grown men physically grab little girls, strangers, to get them to stop cheering when the other team scores. I've seen children watch adults yell insults, often containing expletives and racial slurs. And I've shook my head.
Look, we all come to games to cheer, to root for our team. Whether it's our stadium or when our team visit the home of another. But this is sport: we're not always going to have a reason to cheer. Sometimes, and quite often, the other team and their fans will be one the celebrating. Sometimes the fans will cheer, clap, hoot and holler. Sometimes they might get into your face and tell you things.
But the bottom line is, if you can't handle other people celebrating when you have no reason to, don't go to games. And, if you can't celebrate without throwing it in other people's faces and insulting them, don't go to games either. That's what internet message boards are for.
And yes, when you are the celebrating fan, you have to remember to be respectful. They don't have that request at the beginning of the game for no reason. However, clapping, cheering, yelling things that don't involve personal insults and expletives, and doing whatever celebrative gestures you can with your friends are not bad things, or wrong things to do.
Still, unfortunately, these fights will go on, it seems. Rick Meers, Giants Vice President of Guest Services, said there were 20 known altercations. (Make that 21) Countless others probably went unpunished or noticed. And I don't want this to sound like an anti-Dodger fan rant, because I'm quite sure a good number of those fights were started by Giants fans as well.
And people say that Pac Bell Park fans are too civil.
Some might ask about the security, such as myself not being able to find an usher to get some help. For the game, there were 230 ushers, 65 security guards, and 30 SFPD officers. That's about 1 for every 125 fans. However, the ability of many of those people to watch out for such instances goes down in the late innings, when MLB regulations requires ushers to go to the base of the aisles to prevent fans from running onto the field to protect the players. Too bad that's also when things are more tense and people are more drunk, and fights are therefore much more likely to happen.
It's not the team's fault, but there's only so much the teams can do to protect us. The truth is, you could quite easily sneak a gun or knife into any ballpark in America, and thank god if anyone has, they haven't used them. But, even if you install metal detectors at every gate, the most common weapon will still be allowed into stadiums, and that being a person's body. And the alcohol that makes people want to use their fists as weapons will not be banned from parks, certainly not in our lifetime. (Though if it was, that would certainly reduce the number of bodies at games. But that's not a good thing.) As depressing as it sounds, people who want to ruin others' days will continue to show up, and there's nothing we can do to stop them. And some games are going to bring the loonies in greater numbers.
So, please, take this as a call of peace. For the children who watch all of us stupid people do stupid things. We know they're all inventive enough themselves, they don't need us giving them new ideas to make trouble. If you go to a game, and the other team has reason to celebrate and you don't, just let them. It's not a bad thing, and remember, that's what all of us are there for.
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