After a good many years of fierce political correctness in our cultural discourse, we’ve now come to a point when civility operates in the margins of schizophrenia, swinging between polarities of hyper-sensitivity and cloddish ignorance. We’re either overreacting to a perceived slight, or having to fend off idiotic bile from online trolls.
The problem is determining just where to draw the line with this stuff. Sometimes you ignore it like a toddler’s tempter tantrum. Other times you shine a little light on stupidity so it isn’t allowed to fester in the dark. We all know when to send around the petitions, boycotts, and calls-to-action. And, for us writers, some situations pique enough agitation to want to spend a few words to point out the problem, wherever it falls on the political correctness scale. This is one of those times.
There’s a particular t-shirt meme that’s flying around the Internet at the moment; one that’s stirring some ire, particularly in Los Angeles, home of the Dodgers; home of the baseball team whose fans – two of them – beat a San Francisco Giants fan nearly to death on March 31, 2011, leaving 42-year-old Bryan Stow, a paramedic and father of two, permanently disabled with severe brain damage and seizures, requiring medical care that could cost more than $50 million. [Source]
The offensive t-shirt meme?
Is that offensive? Likely not to most people; not regarding most teams. After all, the idea of “fearing the fans” is an old sports taunt, meant to stir spirit, raise cheers; get the crowd going. For Los Angeles, for the Dodgers, the phrase has a very different meaning.
Because the assault and near murder of Bryan Stow was in service to the fandom of his assailants. They were fighting for team. Yeah.
Fan hooliganism isn’t new; it’s rampant in many sports, and certainly the rivalry between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants is legendary. In testimony at a hearing to determine if there was enough evidence to charge the two Dodger fans, Louie Sanchez, 30, and Marvin Norwood, 31, to stand trial, witnesses verified that the two men were aggressive with other Giants fans in the stadium before they even accosted Stow. From CBS Local:
The two men are charged with one felony count each of mayhem, assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and battery with serious bodily injury, along with the allegation that the two inflicted great bodily injury on Stow.
Sanchez also is charged with a misdemeanor count of battery involving a run-in with a female Giants fan and a misdemeanor battery count for allegedly swinging his fist at a young man in another group of Giants fans in the parking lot after the game.
Clearly these two were itchin’ for a fight. Another prosecution witness testified about what led up to the assault:
[A friend] said the same man had shoved Stow about five minutes earlier after he and another man confronted Stow about a remark he had made after being heckled by Dodgers fans, in which Stow said with a raised voice that he hoped they “code” — a term for cardiac arrest.
Another prosecution witness, Monique Alexandria Gonzalez, testified that she heard a Giants fan, whom she subsequently learned was Stow, telling two men in Dodgers jerseys to leave his group alone and that the Dodgers fans appeared to be “like in a sparring motion ready to fight” before Stow was struck in the face. [Source]
From there the assault began in earnest and it was brutal. Stow was with a group of friends when they were attacked in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium, though Stow was clearly the target, presumably because of his earlier comments to the Dodgers fans. Despite the intervention of friends, some of whom were punched and kicked themselves, Stow was viciously assaulted:
Stow’s friend said he saw the assailant — whom he described as a Hispanic man between 20 and 30 years old — repeatedly kick Stow in the head with “full wind-up” kicks after knocking him to the ground with a “haymaker punch” to the left side of his head. [… ]
[A]nother man — whom he described as a taller white man — “kicked Bryan in the torso, in the ribs.” Stow’s friend testified that the taller man ran toward him in an apparent effort to slow him down as he rushed to Stow’s aid and that “there were punches thrown,” but “none of them struck me.” [Source]
But by that time Stow was “deeply unconscious” with a battered skull and other injuries. One friend threw his body over Stow to protect him from further blows. By the time paramedics arrived, Stow was in grave condition:
Stow suffered a skull fracture that resulted in the loss of a portion of his skull as well as damage to his brain, according to a stipulation signed by attorneys from both sides and read Wednesday in court.
Stow currently is “unable to walk, has loss of motor skills in his arms and hands, is unable to carry on a normal conversation, unable to control his bodily functions and unable to care for himself due to diffuse, severe, traumatic brain injury,” according to the document. “Bryan Stow will require skilled long-term care and daily assistance for the remainder of his life.” [Source]
The two assailants, Sanchez and Norwood, were ordered to stand trial. The civil case against the Dodgers for security lapses, amongst other things, starts this month. Stow won’t ever be the man he was. Just fans at a baseball game…
So perhaps it’s understandable why some would take offense at a Dodgers fan t-shirt that says “Never Mind The Players – LA – Fear The Fans.” Of course, the online store that’s selling these shirts has versions of the same phrase for other teams; teams that haven’t have fans nearly beat the fan of an opposing team to death. So maybe the seller is just not thinking. Maybe he just thinks it’s a cool phrase. Maybe he isn’t aware of the Bryan Stow story. But he should be. It was big news all over the country, the world. And because comments are now accruing, particularly around Facebook where the image is being shared by people who find the shirt deeply offensive under the particular circumstances. But, because it is 2013 and we live in a culture on the “margins of schizophrenia,” there were also some comments along the lines of:
“haha you alll are emotional little bitchess. its just a badass t shirt jesus crist. Dodgers!!!!” (sic)
“I’d wear this to giants stadium.” (sic)
And so on. I guess he’s going for that crowd. Yeah. Fans. Gotta love ‘em. But, hey, the shirt’s $20.00. Maybe he could sell enough of them to help pay for some of Bryan Stow’s $50 million medical expenses. Seems only fair.