By now, you probably have heard about Bryan Stow, a San Francisco Giants fan who was nearly beaten to death outside a Dodgers game just because he was a fan of the opposing team. Stow is currently listed in critical condition with a skull fracture and possible brain damage. His assailants have yet to be identified.
Now, this is an awful story, one that leaves you shaking your head. It’s one thing to be passionate about your team. It’s quite another when that passion manifests itself in pointless violence.
I’ve long made jokes about how much fun it is to be a sports fan and drink beer while watching the games and lustily hate on your favorite team’s rival. Sports is a fantastic outlet for irrational hostility because it’s safe. It’s not the real world. The divide between fans of one team and another is really a superficial one. I have friends who are Yankees fans. I have friends who are Red Sox fans. I may goof on their teams, but that really doesn’t have anything to do with how I view them as human beings. And that’s the way it should be.
Philadelphia fans have long been notorious for being tough, hostile, and downright vicious at times. And I think it’s an admirable trait, frankly. But things go awry when that toughness ends up consuming your actual identity. If you think a person is fundamentally worth hurting simply because they have a Giants cap on, then you probably have issues.
Regardless of what happens to Stow, I think it would benefit Major League Baseball to note the tragedy for the remainder of the season. Maybe by asking teams to wear a patch. Or maybe by recounting his story in game programs, along with a plea for decent fan conduct. Remind people at the stadium that this is all meant to be a good time, and that tragedies can happen if you take it much more seriously than that.