I remember once thinking the ultimate in absurdity was the story from Europe about people getting mauled in a soccer riot after a 0-0 tie.
But how about getting shot, possibly for wearing the wrong shirt, at an exhibition football game? Here in the new world, we have no room to question others’ sanity at sports events. Not anymore.
So this is what they mean by a replay.
Blood spilled at an American sports stadium. Again.
The police are talking to witnesses, speculating on motives and looking for suspects. A fan had to fight for his life. Again.
CSI meets ESPN. Again.
Last time, a Dodgers-Giants baseball game in Los Angeles, this time a Raiders-49ers football game in San Francisco. Last time, fists to the head, this time bullets to the stomach.
Last time, shock and disgust. This time, only disgust. We are past being shocked by stories like this, and what a lousy place that is to be.
The final statistics from the Raiders-49ers game included two shootings in the parking lot, and one severe beating in a restroom.
Speculation is, the teams’ heated neighborhood rivalry might be a factor. If so, imagine the casualty list if this had been a real game.
Where the trend is going seems painfully obvious. Sooner or later, someone dies. Maybe more than one someone. And then what?
On one hand, this isn’t that surprising. We are a culture at war, on many fronts, with weapons as handy as rhetoric. A member of Congress was shot down in a parking lot, targeted just like the man wearing an anti-49ers T-shirt outside Candlestick Park.
On the other hand, we value the escapist appeal of spectator sport. But that concept is taking a beating.
We flee to the grandstands, the sports pages, the talk shows, the web sites, to get away from the bad stuff. We turn to college football for harmless diversion — and read about the University of Miami or the bar fight at LSU.
We hear of Georgetown’s goodwill basketball tour to China, and its ugly on-court brawl.
Meanwhile, at professional sports events in California, you wonder if the smart thing to do is a zig-zag pattern through the parking lot after the game. Not that this is a California-only issue. That state seems to be just ahead of the curve on fan violence, like it was with right-hand turns on red.
Football officialdom and politicians have condemned the bloodshed. The mayors of Oakland and San Francisco, normally connected only by a bridge, issued a joint communiqué. NFL folks say they “deplore” the incident.
Too bad the decision makers can’t go in disguise to a game, sit in the stands as a commoner, and watch the actions and listen to the vocabulary of some of the patrons. There are nights they would be appalled.
Or has everyone forgotten last year in Philadelphia, when the guy at a Phillies game intentionally vomited on a young girl?
We have to be careful. Sometimes a problem is not worse, the 24/7 scrutiny of media and cell phone cameras and the rest only make it seem worse. But a baseball fan was nearly beaten to death and a football fan nearly shot to death, and those are not the creation of modern technology.
This year, hospital reports suggest, is worse.
The ticket-buying public was always under the impression its biggest risk at a game was a foul ball, not foul play. Any number of defunct shopping centers are examples of what happens if safety becomes a customer issue. All it took was a few thugs.
Nor is there an easy answer. Alcohol often fuels the idiocy, but would it not be overkill to ban beer because of a handful of louts? Most would say yes. Problem is, the handful seems to be growing. We’ll get back to that question of alcohol sales if there are more victims.
Or maybe we should say when.
Contributing: Mike Lopresti writes for Gannett