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McCourt Hires Bratton; Suggestions for the Chief

April 6th, 2011 · 5 Comments · Baseball, Dodgers, soccer

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.

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5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Alan Grossman // Apr 7, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Your draconian suggestions remind me of the old “Rollerball” movie of the 1970s. It is better to beef up security and to stop selling any alcohol than what you are suggesting, If society has truly devolved to such a state that we need to implement your measures to go to an MLB game, I, for one, don’t need to go. I love baseball, but not under the conditions you are proposing. Off duty law enforcement officers should be hired to patrol both inside the stadium and the parking lot from at least one hour before gametime and one hour after gametime. Any person, male or female, looking to cause trouble, or using excessive profanity, should be immediately kicked out of the stadium and watched until they leave the parking lot. If the same people keep returning just to be evicted time and again, they should be charged with criminal mischief and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. To pay for the extra measures at the stadium, and the lack of beer sales, add one dollar to the price of every ticket, and round up that parking fee to $20.00. And that $20.00 fee cannot be raised again for at least 10 years.

  • 2 Barbara // Apr 7, 2011 at 11:58 am

    I think you are going too far. 2 beers per game and done by the 5th inning to build in an hour to sober up? They already stop at the 7th inning and many times the game goes on forever after that. I think people selling beer should punch wristbands and check for levels of drunkenness like you do at a bar. Too drunk, no beer. Also if you segregate fans no one on the opposing side will come to the game to sit in substandard seating areas. I also support metal detectors to find beer cans and other contraband that people are sneaking in in their underwear and baggy pants.

  • 3 Roberto Villamar // Apr 7, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    I agree that a fan being severely beaten at a baseball game is cruel, terrible and wrong. I also agree that security in the parking lot needs to be beefed up. I don’t feel that baseball is at the point though were there need to be segregated stands. The games are completely different. Soccer is a non-stop sport where anxiety and tension continue to mount until a goal is scored. Baseball is a game of stops and starts that lends itself to moments of inactivity for the fans. In that regard, the mentality of baseball does not require the separation of two warring factions that are ready to destroy each other. Baseball has always been a game of relaxed spectatorship where fanaticism peaks during certain key at-bats and not much more. Of course heckling opponents and their has always been a part of the game, with sad results (remember Ty Cobb and the mentally handicapped fan) but that poor sportsmanship needs to stop immediately. We as fans should denounce obscene heckling for being beneath the integrity of the game. Of course, everyone must know that it is only a game. Attacking opposing fans will not lead the home team to victory.

    I feel that this is indeed an issue of security and law enforcement. I agree that a sort of prescreening process would reduce the amount of “hooligans” entering Dodger games as the record keeping of those troublemakers becomes more robust but I think that there is an obvious assessment of the situation that many have been overlooked. What if the guys who attacked Mr. Stow did so because that’s what they went to Dodger Stadium to do? What if they paid for parking, cruised the lot for a target, attacked and then jumped into the getaway car? In that case, then all of the in-stadium security would not have changed the tragic outcome.

    I think that the true Dodger fans should be empowered to help how they can. I think Dodgers should be hyper vigilant in the stadium and respond when any fan reports an incident. Security needs to be high in the stadium and outside the stadium. I hope they do put in lookout towers and really push for punishing the belligerent and violent people who ruin the National Pastime for everyone.

  • 4 Jill // Apr 7, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I think the problem is alcohol and alcohol. We were season ticket fans for 30 years. We just gave up our seats. The situation at the Stadium isn’t limited to Giants games and your focus on that is misplaced. The problem is drunk people. The atmosphere is miserable. When I had my son 5 years ago I couldn’t wait for him to grow up on Dodger Dogs at the Stadium like I did. Now I won’t take him there. The drunks saying “F***” for 9 innings has ruined it. The Dodgers need to check everyone entering the place to see if they are drunk to start with. Many are drinking in the park before the game, more in the lot and more inside. They need to turn people away if they arrive intoxicated. They need to have everyone go thru a metal detector, as they do at Staples. They need to limit the beers at the game, as you suggested. And they need to do a better job in the lots afterwards. I have seen plenty of fights there between Dodger fans. Cholos will fight anyone, anywhere. The Giants rivalry is only a tiny fraction of the problem. Bill Bratton–give me a call!

  • 5 Harry // Apr 26, 2011 at 9:31 am

    I read Jill’s comment with immense sadness. Growing up in Glendale, Dodger Stadium was my second home. Nothing like what she describes goes on at Fenway, even when the Yankees visit. I’m disturbed by the term “Cholos.” I may be a white boy, but I worked for two years at Bethlehem Steel, in Vernon, and don’t recall the term, or anyone dressed in that fashion. But that was the early 1970s. I survived two years at Ma Beth because certain Hispanic and Black men, such as Chato, and Bobby D, took pity on me, showed me the ropes, and kept me from getting killed in my first pig-ignorant month on the job. Any notions of racial superiority I might have been brought up with were incinerated at Bethlehem. Those guys took care of me, like a little brother. No one who didn’t work there would believe the stories of anyone who did. (If you want to know more, please read “Music of the Mill,” by my gifted former co-worker Luis Rodriguez.) The Gangs of L.A. took off in a big way after all the big employers shut their doors, one after another, in the early eighties. Bruce Springstein jetted in to do a “benefit concert” for USWA local 1845, my old shop, after Ma Beth went cold. Men who only knew how to operate a transverse crane, or fill out a pouring schedule, were suddenly jobless. Their marriages fell apart, their kids were left high and dry. And now we have what appears to be gang activity at Dodger Stadium. As Malcolm X purportedly put it, the chickens have come home to roost.

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