Less than a week after shrugging off the Opening Day attack on a Giants fan that left a paramedic from Santa Cruz in a medically induced coma and with possible brain damage, Frank McCourt apparently had one of his handlers explain to him the dire safety issues inside and outside his stadium.
This is the man who told the Los Angeles Times two days after the attack that it was “very, very unfair to take what was otherwise a fantastic day — everything from the weather to the result of the game to just the overall experience — and to have a few individuals mar that. It’s a terrible thing.”
So, the same guy whose major concern last week seemed to be how wrong it was that the club was criticized for one guy nearly being killed while most everyone had a good time (in very nice weather, too) … that guy today has done a 180-degree turn and has hired Bill Bratton, the former police chief of Los Angeles, to come up with a “security blueprint” for ball games at Dodgers Stadium.
And, if you followed the link in the paragraph above, you saw that the Los Angeles Times noted that the Dodgers have not had a head of security for four months. At the very time when Dodger Stadium is sliding into chaos.
Can we stipulate that the grand old ballpark has become a dangerous place?
Check these quotes from Dennis Zein, a former L.A. cop and now a city councilman, given to AOL News:
“They need to beef up security,” Zine said. “It used to be family-safe, family-friendly, and it hurts the whole theme of baseball. It’s incumbent on [team owner] Frank McCourt to provide security that is very visible, very safe.”
The Dodgers apparently hire 200 off-duty cops for game days. Zein said that isn’t enough.
So, here comes Bratton, who established a reputation for getting things done during his tenure as police chief. After horribly handling the issue, after suggesting that fans should not believe their own lying eyes about what goes on in the stands … McCourt may have done something right.
Now he has to listen to and act upon the recommendation Bratton makes.
After several days of pondering this, I have some modest proposals of my own.
–It is unheard of in the U.S., but it is time to segregate fans by team preference. This is standard in global soccer. Designate a portion of the stadium where fans of the visiting team can sit, and you keep them from interacting with home fans. Different entrance, difference concessions, different parking area, with distinct channels into and out of the stadium.
I concede that the first time I saw this at a club game — an Italian Serie A match between host Fiorentino and visiting Bologna a decade ago — I was surprised and even offended. Because, you know, we didn’t need such heavy-handed treatment in the States. It seemed like visiting fans were being put in jail.
But that may be where we are at, now. Would the Giants fan be in a coma if the Dodgers had set aside, say, 3,000 seats for visiting fans on Opening Day? They don’t have to be prime seats. At all. (They never are, in world soccer.) So, at Dodger Stadium that means a batch of sections on the Reserve level, down near the foul pole. (The ones that are last to sell out, actually.)
You then erect a tall, wire-mesh barricade between those seats and the rest of the stadium. You put 25 security people on the perimeter, to keep fans from throwing stuff at each other, and you create a “demilitarized zone” of 25 yards or so (where no one is allowed to sit).
Remember, this section has its own concession stands, its own set of hawkers, and special entrances and exits.
Wouldn’t you think that most visiting fans would be happy to sit together? That they might even find it fun to shout abuse at home fans — knowing that no one can actually lay hands on each other?
Those who arrive with tickets outside that zone but who are wearing apparel from the visiting team, are immediately escorted into the special zone. With no refund — to act as a deterrent from trying to get into “home team” seats the next time.
It sounds drastic, but it works all over the world at soccer matches, which these days are not remotely as dangerous as they were a couple of decades ago.
–Create a data base of bad actors. Anyone who is ever ejected from the stadium for any reason (throwing objects, too much bad language, anything) gets his picture, fingerprints and Social Security number taken, and is banned for life. Anyone buying tickets through any service must divulge their SS#, and that information is compared to the bad-actor data base.
Also, some sort of recognition technology must exist that would screen X number of these bad actors as they attempt to enter the stadium, and would sound an alert. In England, some of the worst predators were so notorious that they were recognized on sight. It would not surprise me in the least if it were discovered that the same limited number of goons are responsible for a significant chunk of the problems.
–Consider running everyone through a mag-and-bag system, like at airports. It seems as if many of these attacks have no actual weapons involved, but I like the message it sends — you’re not carrying a weapon into the venue, and we’re watching you, too. Yeah, you, career recidivist.
–Security towers in the parking lot. That’s where security guys and their cameras are stationed so that they can scan the area below them at all times and react immediately to any signs of fighting/mugging by radioing down to security forces on the ground. If thugs know that, just as was the case in prison, they are being watched from above, that may act as a deterrent, as well.
–Drastically reduce beer sales. If you want to buy beer, you are given one of those plastic bracelets that stays on until you cut it off. No bracelet, no beer. And only two beers per bracelet, with holes punched for Beer No. 1 and Beer No. 2. (And I can be talked into one beer per customer.) Also, no beer sales after the fifth inning. Let’s build in an hour of sobering-up time before everyone hits the parking lot.
Limiting alcohol is key, and the Dodgers are not getting the message.
Zein, the councilman, noted that the Dodgers have a promotion coming up for half-price beer for six games beginning on April 21.
“The fact of the matter is you don’t have half-priced beer when you have this type of situation happening,” Zine told AOL News, referring to the near-fatal attack.
For sure, some or all of these measures will cost the Dodgers money. But they will simply pass it on to fans. And, actually, many fans might be fine with the concept of paying, say, an extra $2 per ticket to know that the club is taking action.