One of the joys of spectator sports is that the violence is generally contained to the field. I am always quietly amused when, before a major league baseball game, I hear an announcement suggesting that the team or the league assumes no liability for injuries incurred as a result of objects leaving the playing field. "Keep your heads up, kids! A bat may come winging your way, or a foul ball, but if you catch it, you can keep it!" That might not be the precise wording, but it's certainly the underlying meaning. If you're lucky enough to sit very close, you might even wind up with one of the stars of your local franchise in your lap. It happens in football and basketball too, with varying degrees of appreciation. Even back in the days of the Roman Coliseum, the carnage was limited primarily to those who found themselves on the floor of the arena.
Not here in the Bay Area. Two men were shot and wounded in the parking lot of Candlestick Park after a preseason National Football League game between the San Francisco Forty-Niners and the Oakland Raiders, and a third man was beaten unconscious inside the stadium, police said on Sunday. None of these young men were wearing protective gear, let alone bullet-proof vests. Admittedly, this is a heated rivalry, extending back to the days when pirate ships, or Raiders, were known to troll the coasts of the San Francisco Bay, looking for prospectors, or Forty-Niners, to rob them of their gold. The fear and hatred between these rival groups has been maintained over the years as a mostly peaceful exercise played out in yearly, meaningless contests called "pre-season football." Still, what would you expect from the kind of thugs that attend those kind of contests?
Maybe the same kind of friendly folks that would beat a San Francisco Giants fan into a coma outside a Los Angeles Dodgers game five months ago. The connecting thread? San Francisco? Professional sports? The inability to distinguish real life from a video game? Who knows? One thing's for sure: It will be a while before I feel the urge to get up off my couch and race out to one of my local sports venues to take in a game. Sometimes my eyes get sore after watching three hours of televised sports, but Visine can take care of that. I don't need a trip to the emergency room.