Here is a link to my Sunday column. The full text is below.
“Someone got murdered at a Giants game,” my son Grant said.
“Don’t tell me,” I said.
You have to understand I was in St. Louis in a hotel room, Grant and I there for the 49ers-Rams game. Grant, 25, had come across an article about the killing on the Internet. I could see he stopped reading. He was shaking his head. Neither of us wanted to know the details — not yet.
News like this is unbearable, unimaginable. It makes me think, “That could be my son dead after a ballgame. That was someone else’s son. God help us all.”
The story, when I finally brought myself to read it, made me want to shout obscenities at the world.
I never go to sporting events as a fan. I am not a fan. I am a journalist. I don’t sit with fans. I don’t really know fans. So, what I’m about to write may seem naive, even ignorant. I need to get this off my chest.
I am so sorry for Jonathan Denver from Fort Bragg and for his family. He was 24 and he got stabbed to death after a Giants game. I withhold judgment about Michael Montgomery from Lodi, who allegedly killed Denver. Montgomery has been released from police custody and may have acted in self-defense. I don’t know the details. They will come out.
From what I read, Denver, a Dodgers fan, was wearing Dodgers gear. If my son were going to a Giants game I would advise him not to wear Dodgers gear. If he were going to a Dodgers game I would advise him not to wear Giants gear. If he were going to a 49ers game I would advise him not to wear Raiders gear.
And on and on.
This applies to fans of professional teams everywhere in the United States. If you’re in Missouri, don’t wear Cardinals stuff at a Kansas City Royals game. Don’t put yourself at risk.
For heaven’s sake, just don’t do it.
I’m going to tell you something scary, or laughable. You make the call. Pro sports teams all over America dress cops in jerseys of the visiting team. And drunk, stupid fans all over America go for the bait, start fights and get arrested. This is known.
You should be able to wear any team jersey you want. Of course, you should. You should be proud of the uniform and you should expect to be treated courteously at the opponent’s ballpark — to be treated like a guest.
But people don’t have manners like they used to. The deterioration of manners in our society is off the charts. It’s even worse when it comes to sports. College sports may be an exception. I haven’t heard of an Old Blue stabbing a Stanford Cardinal fan.
If my son were going to a Giants game and wanted to wear a Dodgers cap — he went to UCLA — I would tell him, “Ditch the cap.”
I would tell my son, “Don’t talk to strangers except to say, ‘Please pass the mustard.’ Just keep your mouth shut if anyone — anyone — says Don Mattingly is overrated as a manager. Just shut up.”
I would tell him, “Don’t drink alcohol — oh, maybe one beer, that’s the limit.”
“Because you take your life in your hands when you attend a game. You need your wits about you. You need judgment to get out of bad situations. Bad situations happen. One happened to Bryan Stow in L.A. And now one happened to poor Jonathan Denver.”
I would tell him that.
I would tell my son, “Be especially vigilant after the game. You think you’re out of danger because you’re away from the park, but that’s when trouble starts. Now you’re involved in real life. Real life is just plain dangerous. People are drunk. People have a grudge. People do dumb things. Jonathan Denver got killed at Third and Harrison, blocks from AT&T Park.”
I would tell my son, “If someone yells something at you or insults your team or even insults you, don’t respond. Just keep walking. Or walk the other way. Or run like hell. I don’t care if some stranger calls you a coward. Avoid a confrontation at all costs. Be prepared to call the cops. I want you alive.”
I would tell my son, “Even if you love the Giants-A’s-Niners-Raiders-Dodgers-and on and on, they are not worth fighting for on the street after a game or in the stands during a game or in a bar or any place any time.”
I would tell my son, “Your team is not even worth a verbal defense because talking leads to arguing and arguing leads to who knows what.”
I would tell my son, “Sports are not what they’re supposed to be — an escape from life’s problems, a holiday from grim reality. Sports are life’s problems and fan-on-fan violence is life’s grim reality.”
I would tell my son, “You see the full range of human behavior at games. Human beings are capable of tremendous good, but they are also capable of carelessness and evil. We live in a tragic world. Never forget that.”
And after weighing down my son with all that, I would tell him, “Now, enjoy the game.”
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.