I drove up to Candlestick Park at around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday and parked my car in Lot L. That’s the lot that most of the media park their cars. The environment around the parking lot at the time seemed very relaxed. I saw a few kids tossing the football and a family firing up the grill.
Little did I know that later that day it would be a crime scene.
One of the things that I had always worried about rivalry games such as the Battle of the Bay between the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders is the pure passion of the people in the stands. How far will their passion take them? Could they go over the top and start getting physical?
I’ve been to a handful of sporting events which featured rival teams. I’ve seen some fights every now and then, but most times it’s just one person talking smack and the other fan responding.
But at Saturday’s game, it went to a whole level I had never seen before.
There were several fights that broke out during the game. I heard that a fight broke out in the men’s room. And during the third quarter, the entire stadium started making a loud noise while the 49ers were in a huddle. In the corner of my eye, I caught this fight break out. It took the cops at least 15 seconds to get to the area to break up the fight.
What’s sad about this incident is that I expected fights to break out. This rivalry is an intense one in the Bay Area but somehow, I was foolish to think that a meaningless preseason game wouldn’t bring the worst out of these people.
And after the game, two separate incidents occured where people were shot. One victim is likely to survive the shooting, another is in very critical condition. It boggles the mind to think that people actually bring weapons to a sporting event. But somehow, these fans feel that in order to protect their team, they need to get violent.
With San Francisco Giants fan Brian Stow’s attack still fresh in our minds, I start to worry about safety at any sporting event. It’s not necessary to have so many police officers at any game, but it’s come to the point where I start to fear for my own safety.
Why do fans have to get violent? To overuse a cliché, “it’s just a game”.
I don’t know what the solution should be. But something needs to do be done to protect ourselves from incidents like this from ever happening again.
After the game, when I had gotten word about the shootings, I went back to the parking lot where my car was parked. It was an odd feeling. There were two cops on motorcycles driving through the walkways of the stadium. As I exited, two more officers were walking down the hill as a cop car pulled up to talk to them.
One of the officers confirmed to me that two people were shot. I looked over on Jamestown Avenue right outside the stadium and noticed police cars with their lights on and a road filled with flares. The parking lot was swarming with police vehicles combing through the parking lot, searching for evidence.
The lot was mostly empty and I knew that the police had everything under control. I just couldn’t shake that feeling that five hours earlier, the place was filled with cheerful people. Now it was a place of violence.
I hope that the days of violent fan interactions are over. But it seems like it won’t go away any time soon.