Sports Arena

It Isn’t About the Uniform

Blaming the victim of a heinous crime.

By 4.14.11

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The 2011 Major League Baseball season began on a dark note when news broke of a San Francisco Giants fan being beaten within an inch of his life in the parking lot of Dodger Stadium following the Opening Day game on March 31. Nearly two weeks after the incident Bryan Stow, a 42-year old paramedic and divorced father of two, remains in critical condition in a medically induced coma. Stow appears to have sustained permanent brain damage. His assailants remain at large.

Now a fair-minded, reasonable person would have sympathy towards Stow and his family. A fair-minded, reasonable person would want the perpetrators apprehended and brought to justice. Unfortunately, not all human beings are fair-minded and reasonable. This is where John Steigerwald comes into the picture. Steigerwald, a former sports anchor in Pittsburgh, weighed in on the incident in his weekly column in the Observer-Reporter, a newspaper based in southwestern Pennsylvania. In a column headlined "Know when you've outgrown the uniform," Steigerwald inexplicably blamed Stow for his own misfortune:

Maybe someone can ask Stow, if he ever comes out of his coma, why he thought it was a good idea to wear Giants' gear to a Dodgers' home opener when there was a history of out-of-control drunkenness and arrests at that event going back several years.

Remember when it was the kids who were wearing the team jerseys to games? It was a common sight to see an adult male coming through the turnstile dressed as a regular human being with a kid dressed in a "real" jersey holding his hand.

Cute.

Are the 42-year-olds who find it necessary to wear their replica jerseys to a road game, those kids who are now fathers who haven't grown up?

Are there really 40-something men who think that wearing the jersey makes them part of the team? It was cute when a 10-year-old kid got that feeling by showing up at Three Rivers Stadium in a Pirates jersey, but when did little boys stop growing out of that?

Here's tip for you if you actually think that wearing your team's jersey makes you a part of the team:

It doesn't.

I do not think it would be understatement to declare that I have read thousands of articles over the past ten years. During the course of the past decade I would be hard pressed to come up with an article more obscene, full of malice or more poorly thought out than the one put out by Mr. Steigerwald. He has descended the depths of disingenuousness.

Steigerwald demands to know why a grown man like Stow would wear Giants gear to a Dodgers game. Well, because Stow is a Giants fan and wanted to show support for his favorite team. If Stow buys a ticket to Dodgers Stadium he should wear Giants gear if he so pleases and should be able to enjoy the game without having to fear for his safety. As I write this, the Giants are hosting the Dodgers at AT&T Park. You can be sure there are Dodger fans of all ages wearing Dodger blue. They too should enjoy the proceedings peaceably.

Take it from me. I am a Boston Red Sox fan who has attended more than 70 games at Fenway Park since 2000. I have seen plenty of fans wearing New York Yankees gear inside Fenway's cozy confines whether the Sox are playing the Bronx Bombers or not. Never in a million years would I accost a Yankees fan simply for being a Yankees fan. In fact, I'm more than happy to talk with Yankees fans. I have also attended games at Yankee Stadium while wearing my Red Sox cap without incident and am planning to do so this coming weekend.

Is there drunkenness? Sure. Are there fights? You bet. But most fans, whether they root for the Sox or the Yankees, know how to behave themselves. You can be sure that if a Yankee fan were assaulted by a bunch of Sox fans in the Fenway bleachers, ballpark security would escort them out of the stadium and into the waiting arms of the Boston Police Department. If a Yankee fan were beaten in the Fenway Park parking lot by Red Sox fans and that Yankee fan ended up in a coma, I would want the Boston Police to arrest those responsible and I think nearly all Red Sox fans would too. It is worth noting that there were Dodgers fans who came to Stow's aid when he was attacked. These fans also report that Stow did not want to fight his assailants.

Frankly, I am puzzled as to why Steigerwald thinks Stow's age is relevant. The thugs who attacked Stow were out for blood. What makes Steigerwald think those thugs wouldn't have attacked a child or a young adolescent who sported a Giants cap? And what if the thugs had targeted a middle-aged woman wearing a Giants jacket? Would Steigerwald have also chided a female fan for not dressing like "a regular human being"?

This tragic incident isn't about a baseball uniform. The tragedy is about people who cannot behave themselves in public. If a person can be driven to beat another person into unconsciousness because they don't like the baseball jersey of a complete stranger who is walking in the other direction then the responsibility lay solely with the person who raised their hand in violence, not with the person who wore a shirt. A person who behaves in such a manner should not be free to walk the streets. While Steigerwald might wish to interrogate Stow, it is possible that Stow might never wake up. If Stow should succumb to his injuries and his assailants are arrested in connection with his murder, then they should be subject to the death penalty. It seems to me that Steigerwald should have saved his outrage for the people responsible for attacking Stow.

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About the Author
Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.