Writing a baseball blog is supposed to be a fun hobby. I get to write about my favorite team, post funny memes and basically faff about on the internet in between responsibilities both professional and personal. But every so often something happens that I simply cannot ignore and I have to take a detour in the world of politics and my general disdain for most of humanity.
Today is one of those days.
Last week the forces of machismo, alcohol, rivalry, idiocy, and adrenaline combined in the stands of Camden Yards. When these things happen it is never a good thing, and it does happen often but it rarely ever ends in anything significant. Last week it did. At Wednesday’s Orioles – Nationals game Matthew Fortese from Hagerstown was with a young lady on their second date. Matthew made the, apparently, cardinal sin of wearing a Yankees hat at a baseball game and thus incurred the wrath of Gregory Fleischman and Michael Bell, a couple of 20-somethings from the greater Baltimore area.
The complete circumstances of what transpired throughout that night will likely never be entirely known. What we do know is this: The two men are accused of harassing Fortese and his girlfriend most of the night. This culminated with a full beer being lobbed at the couple. Fortese then stood up and confronted the two men. A punch was thrown, Fortese stumbled and fell backwards over the railing of their section. He landed on the concrete five feet below fracturing his skull in the process.
He is currently in the Intensive Care Unit of the University of Maryland Medical Center’s Shock Trauma center. Bell and Fleischman are out on bail.
We now have to have a discussion on fan behavior at games.
First and foremost let us dispatch with the fake shock over this. Allow me to channel my inner Claude Raines when I say I am shocked, SHOCKED, to hear someone got seriously hurt at a baseball game fight. And please, do not mistake my flippancy for callousness. I have nothing but the deepest sympathies for the Fortese family and friends and I genuinely wish him the speediest and full recovery. I also have nothing but pity for the pathetic pair of boys that are charged with the assault. The bottom line is they did not intend to seriously hurt this man. Sure, they seem to be the guys who started it and one of them threw a punch but I do not believe that in their wildest dreams they expected something like this would happen.
It is amazing how one terrible decision can completely ruin the lives of so many.
Back to what I was saying about the fake shock. Please fans. We have been going to games all of our lives and fracases in the stands are not an uncommon sight. Oh sure, Camden Yards is generally a more genteel place to watch the game but it’s not as if witnessing a fight in the stands is the equivalent of seeing a Sasquatch in the mist. These fights usually end before they ever really begin. The Baltimore Police Department and the staff of Camden do a fine job keeping order but it was only a matter of time before something stupid resulted in the horrific tragedy we saw on Wednesday.
The truly sad thing there isn’t really much that can be done about it. The problem is us, the fans, as humans. I am a high school teacher by trade and in dealing with teenagers I have seen and broken up a couple fights in my day.
There are really only two types of fights: 1) the fake macho nonsense. Two boys get really close to one another; chests are puffed; nostrils flared; arms extended in the now common “come at me bro’” style of the day. These fights are easy to break up because rarely is there any real intent to hurt someone or even throw a punch. It is about being a “man” and not being “disrespected.” The second type of fight is the predatory one, where it is never a fair fight and there is genuine intent to cause serious bodily harm.
In the first scenario things are usually broken up easily, but they can escalate. Someone actually throws a punch and even worse it actually connects. Now all sorts of switches are being thrown in these boys’ minds matters of pride, self-respect, anger, etc etc etc and you now have a legitimate fight.
What happened on Wednesday is a classic example of that first category. A dumb situation made dumber by the presence of alcohol and the inability for someone to simply be a bigger person.
Now I love beer, love it. I have never lobbed obscenities at an opposing team’s fans, but I’m not going to sit here and say that I have never made jokes at their expense or gotten into verbal back-and-forth’s with them. A vast majority of the time it is all in good fun and we laugh about it. After all it is a game people and while I would love to see the Orioles win if they don’t my life will continue to go on. It just isn’t that serious. But it appears that we live in a world where it IS that serious to far too many people.
We live in a world where “disrespect” is a capital offense and must be dealt with in the most aggressive manner. We live in a world where too many people believe being a man means being the biggest idiot with the shortest fuse. Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the more horrendous shows on television. Shows like Jersey Shore or Buckwild where the goal is to get young people liquored up and watch them assault each other. What about shows like Bad Girls Club, the show’s entire purpose is to record drunken cat fights between awful, horrible, stupid people. And then reward them for that behavior. We live in a society where going from zero to 60 emotionally is expected and damn near celebrated.
We live in a society where physical violence is seen as manly, but just getting the authorities and letting them handle it is seen as “snitching.”
Of course fights have happened at sporting events before all of these things, and they will happen even if all of the things I mentioned did not exist. But the point remains that I feel that we as a society today go out of our way to celebrate this type of behavior and then we act completely shocked when something like this happens. For example I have already read multiple people write the following statement: “This is why I wish I could carry my gun on me.” There are enough completely diluted people out there that actually think having a gun, a GUN, would have made this a better situation. And it is this type of belief that goes hand in hand with the mentality that led to this tragedy. It is the mentality that I am sure I know what I am doing, the mentality that I have to handle this and I simply cannot allow myself to be disrespected. The mentality that I have the right to act like a complete jackass because someone is wearing a hat I don’t like, the mentality that my actions will in no way have any real consequences. The mentality that it is perfectly acceptable to drink enough beer to kill a small horse and everyone else is just going to have to deal with that.
All of these forces combined Wednesday night and it led to a horrible, stupid tragedy. Lives are irrevocably changed. Is there anything we can all learn from this? Sure there is: moderate yourself, don’t be an idiot, and let the authorities handle the ones who can’t. The truly horrible thing is that this lesson will largely fall on deaf ears and most likely be forgotten until the next stupid tragedy happens.
 I of course have no way to know how drunk these two men were, but if they were indeed the ones who lobbed the beer at Mr. Fortese’s party then I think it is safe to say they were either very drunk or very stupid. A moderately intelligent person in control of his faculties does not throw away an $8 beer.