The Los Angeles Dodgers need to check themselves at the door. Last year the banned tailgating in a knee jerk reaction to a fan getting stabbed in the parking lot AFTER the home opening game in which the Dodgers beat the Giants 11-1. Go ahead and reread that last statement. The fan was stabbed in the parking lot AFTER the game was completed. This crime did not occur while fans were tailgating PRIOR to the game. This crime occurred AFTER the game let out. Stick with me because this is important.
LA Times: Man stabbed after Dodger Stadium home opener
MLB.com: Person stabbed in Dodger Stadium lot; Injuries suffered after home opener not life-threatening
LA Times: Man arrested in Dodger Stadium stabbing
The time line that soon followed this unfortunate incident was the Dodgers announcing no alcohol beverages would be allowed at Dodger Stadium. (Mind you, this policy stated that FANS would not be allowed to bring alcohol to the stadium. Of course they were still going to serve copious amounts of alcohol INSIDE the stadium, but fans were not to bring their own to the parking lot.)
The stabbing incident occurred on April 13, 2009. The alcohol ban went into effect April 30th, the team’s next home stand. Clearly this alcohol ban was in direct reaction to the stabbing. Why else would they institute a new policy after the season had started?
The main issue here is that the stabbing did not happen during traditional tailgating hours. Although there are many that “post-game tailgate” in order to enjoy the day even more or to let the traffic bottleneck getting out of the stadium decrease, the majority of baseball tailgating happens before the first pitch. So to blame tailgating as the culprit for the stabbing is just shortsighted and naive.
The news reports did not say if the stabbing victim or the assailant were under the influence of alcohol. It is assumed they had been drinking but because the stabber was not apprehended in a relatively short amount of time after the crime was committed, there is no way of knowing if he had been drinking. But it is safe to assume that alcohol probably played a factor. So are the Dodgers saying that if in fact alcohol was indeed a catalyst to this crime that the alcohol was consumed in the parking lot pre- and post-game? None of the alcohol was consumed INSIDE Dodger Stadium served by Dodger Stadium staffers? So instead of doing a thorough investigation of the entire incident, the LA Dodgers made tailgating the criminal and banned it altogether. Thanks for throwing the baby out with the bathwater, Dodgers.
The problem here was not tailgating being the culprit for a fan getting stabbed. The culprit was two fans got into an argument and one stabbed the other. After the arrest was made, it was determined that the alleged assailant was a reputed gang member. This was not a law abiding tailgater who just wanted to enjoy the day before first pitch. This was a hardcore gang member who was there looking for trouble. Although the news reports did not disclose what type of a knife was used in the crime, it would be a leap to assume that it was a kitchen knife brought to the game to be used for cutting up tailgating food. For all we know and the Dodgers know, it could have been a switchblade or other type of knife the gang member was carrying or concealing in his car.
But because someone got hurt and the news media reported on it, the Dodgers needed to do something and do something fast. They needed to show to the community that they were doing something about this and to prevent this from happening again. The result? No more alcohol and no more tailgating! Again, an isolated, unrelated incident has caused the baby to be thrown out with the bathwater. R.I.P. tailgating at Dodger Stadium.
Apparently the steps taken last year was not enough. The Dodgers announced that no tailgating of any kind would be allowed to take place in 2010 prior to the start of the season. Dodger fans were informed that police would be actively roaming the lot and issuing tickets to those in violation. On opening day 2010, 130 tickets were issued to tailgaters who failed to get the message or were openly defiant to these rules. One group of Dodger fans called the police patrols “Nazis”, and were hiding in their car akin to Anne Frank. Here is the video documenting their experience at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day 2010. Near the end of the video a woman’s voice off camera asks, “It’s okay to eat, right?”
Are you serious? People are forced to cower in their cars, afraid to eat cold sandwiches because the LAPD is out in force issuing tickets for tailgating. Is this what we have become? Do these people seem like they need a citation? Do they appear to be trouble makers? Are these the types of fans the Dodgers want to discourage from attending a baseball game? No, no and no.
If the Dodgers want to do something about making the games more “fan friendly”, why not utilize the LAPD’s gang task force to patrol the parking lots? This would kill two birds with one stone. 1) If gang members do choose to go to Dodger games, they run the risk of being arrested. Gang Unit police officers can spot known gang members and would be able to make arrests. 2) Gang members who are the ones looking for trouble would choose not to attend games for fear of being recognized by police officers. The Dodger Stadium parking lot could then be returned to the tailgaters who can have a good time and do it responsibly.
I would suggest that Dodger fans stay away from Dodger Stadium until tailgating returns. Allowing an isolated incident that was unrelated to tailgating ruin the game day experience for those responsible tailgaters is unacceptable. I am encouraging every tailgater that believes this is wrong to implicate tailgating for all bad behavior to stand up and not attend games. Let’s target the Sunday, April 18, 2010 game vs. the San Francisco Giants as the game to boycott. If the television cameras scan the crowd and see tons of empty seats on a Sunday game, the management will have to start asking questions as to why. If they reason is because tailgating has been taken away, they may in fact reconsider this ridiculous ban.
I will be seeking to contact the LA Dodgers organization and hopefully I will be able to speak with someone who can answer some questions about this policy. Stay tuned and come back to read the results.