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T.J. SIMERS

Dodgers can't ignore safety issue

Dodgers treat opening-day attack as an isolated incident rather than addressing the problem.

April 02, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers fan Adam Metalf, 11, of Merritt Island, Fla., reaches out to Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier for an autograph.
Dodgers fan Adam Metalf, 11, of Merritt Island, Fla., reaches out to Dodgers… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)

The Dodgers want you to know that, except for the father of two who remains in a medically induced coma, it was an otherwise great opening day at Dodger Stadium.

It was "tragic," as Frank McCourt noted to The Times' Bill Shaikin on Saturday, that the Santa Cruz paramedic was beaten up.

But more than that, as he went on to say, "It's 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."

Dodgers, and stadium, come up empty in 10-0 loss to Giants

Just imagine if McCourt was judge and jury, the attackers brought before him and charged with "marring opening day." They'd be better off surrendering to local authorities and pleading guilty to assault.

We certainly don't want to take anything like a beating away from the success of opening day, or start asking the question: Is it really safe to attend Dodgers games?

A day earlier McCourt's spokesman, Josh Rawitch, had said much the same insensitive thing. "It is extremely unfortunate that this incident took place on what was otherwise a great day at Dodger Stadium for tens of thousands of fans."

Maybe it would have been different had the unfortunate incident happened on an otherwise routine day.

But just think about next year's opening-day Dodgers promo: Of the 56,000 fans who attended opening day last season, all but one had just a really great day.

McCourt told Shaikin he's satisfied the Dodgers have done everything they can to make the stadium safe. If so, then all the fans have to worry about is getting to their cars before the call for an ambulance is necessary.

How about more lights in the parking lot, or McCourt asking his buddy the mayor to assign more cops? Just some suggestions.

"You could have 2,000 policemen there, and it's just not going to change that random act of violence," McCourt told Shaikin, although I'm guessing the paramedic's family might argue one of those 2,000 additional policemen might've stood tall as a deterrent. Maybe worth a try.

When I asked Rawitch if the Dodgers had put more security in the parking lot Friday night, he said, "We're not allowed to talk about security issues."

Shouldn't the Dodgers be talking their heads off about security issues, and whatever it takes to reassure fans they will have a positive experience?

Do they really think the concern will just go away, so long as no one makes a big deal about someone being in a medically induced coma?

We haven't even gotten into the level of obscenities tossed around the stands these days, the problems that come with some drinking too much alcohol, or the horror of watching Marcus Thames try to catch a fly ball.

By the way, Plaschke called me before Saturday's game. He was sitting in the stands. He said they gave him the foam finger when he entered the stadium, and just so there is no misunderstanding, they gave everyone entering the stadium the foam finger.

They were fingers actually, everyone getting two raised fingers so I guess they could wave them and chant, "We're No. 2."

Whatever, Plaschke said some of the rougher-looking fans were ripping off one of the fingers so they could just hold up one finger. He sounded concerned.

I never heard from him again.

Now I don't know the answer, but I wonder how many Dodgers fans no longer feel the stadium is a safe place to bring their kids? Or a better question, a desirable place to bring their kids?

We may learn later it was a pair of Philadelphia transplants who attacked the Giants fans. Short of asking them to register with the authorities before coming to a game, there's no fixing that problem.

The Dodgers, of course, want you to believe the attack on the Santa Cruz paramedic was an isolated incident, which raises another question. Would you still have gone to opening day had someone told you ahead of time only one fan would end the day in a medically induced coma?

Most would probably say, "yes," knowing they would mind their own business and stay out of trouble.

But according to the police, the paramedic and two of his friends were minding their own business, the paramedic just not as fast as his friends in running away from two belligerent Dodgers fans.

Minding your own business at a Dodgers game no longer guarantees you won't end the night in a medically induced coma.

Some might argue they shouldn't have been wearing Giants paraphernalia in Dodger Stadium. Those who would argue such a thing would be admitting Dodger Stadium isn't a safe place after all.

Some might want to make the race case, the Dodgers fan changing over the years in ethnicity, but such stadium stereotyping is lazy if not ignorant.

It's the sports fan who has changed over the years, the anger in society today overwhelming for a multitude of socioeconomic reasons, many fans finding sports the release.

I'll let you read my email some time.

Now as solutions go, I'd stop selling alcohol, but no chance of that happening.

Don Mattingly, though, might have the answer. Take Saturday, the starting lineup given to everyone before the game: "Miles, De JesusGimenez, Paul and Carroll," and then someone wanting to know when they might announce who's playing for the home team?

If it's Mattingly's intent to take the pep out of crowds, or just clear out the place early on, he's on track.

By the time the Fox game of the week ended here, the Dodgers losing, 10-0, the three remaining Dodgers fans in the stands probably made it to their cars without incident.

Of course, it was still daylight.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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