Privilege And Lack Of Civility

As an old white guy who is happily retired, I fit into several categories that are considered “privileged” these days by some of today’s social justice warriors.  I prefer to think that a bit of hard work, a few functioning synapses and some beneficial actions/choices on my part had at least something to do with my arrival at a very good place in my life, but that is not the debate I want to have today.  Rather, I simply want to point out that there is a “privilege” out there that is color-blind and gender-neutral.  It is the “privilege” of being rich and famous – – and by the way, neither adjective applies to me.

Richard Sherman is indeed rich and famous.  As noted last week, Richard Sherman was arrested in Seattle and charged with 5 offenses that included inter alia DUI, destruction of property, attempted forced entry into a home, threatening to kill his in-laws and himself.  After an evening in the hoosegow as was required by the law in the State of Washington, Sherman appeared before a judge where:

  • All felony charges were reduced to misdemeanor charges (a significant benefit) and …
  • He was released without bail – – not that he could not have posted bail  (a minor benefit) and…
  • He was called a “pillar of the community” by the judge.

I am a male, and I am Caucasian; but if I were in front of a judge about 24 hours after being arrested on those same 5 charges, I doubt I would have gotten those same benefits and I know I would not have been called a “pillar of the community”.  Any privilege I may or may not have does not extend to that circumstance.

This is not intended in any way to cast aspersions on Richard Sherman or to conclude that he is guilty of any or all those charges; this simply is an example of “privilege on account of fame” that is sometimes decried by celebrities who do not acknowledge their own “privileged status”.

Moving on…  I am sure you have read or heard about the fan at Yankee Stadium who threw a ball out of the stands at Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo and hit him with the throw.  That caused a minor uproar during the game as it should have, and that fan has now been banned for life from every MLB stadium.  That is a harsh penalty indeed, but that is the sort of behavior that cannot be allowed to stand without sanction such that it fosters an even more egregious event down the road.  The fundamental problem is that fan misbehavior is becoming more common and becoming more aggressive/dangerous.  Throwing a baseball at someone is hardly the same as taunting a player for the other team or even calling him some sort of demeaning name; a baseball in flight is far more akin to a weapon than to an accosting.

Launching objects at players – or coaches or referees for that matter – cannot continue to escalate.  Forget an exhaustive search on the Internet, the following comes from memory as examples of the problem(s) here:

  • A couple of years ago, a child sitting in a courtside seat actually reached out and tried to grab Russell Westbrook in a OKC Thunder game.  Westbrook merely told the child’s parent – in no uncertain terms – that was unacceptable.
  • There was an NHL game where a fan tried to reach into and engage an NHL penalty box where an opposing player was “serving time”.  Another example of unacceptable behavior …
  • Fan-on-fan violence gets out of hand too.  The Dodgers/Giants rivalry is longstanding and intense – – but it should not cost any fan his life as it has in the past.

When I was a kid and went to a sporting event, the line for “outrageous fan behavior” went something like this:

  • You could tell an opposing player that he stunk – – but you must not make any comment about his mother.
  • You could tell an opposing player that he was lucky to have achieved what he just did – – but your most threatening gesture would be to point to him or if you were really upset you might flip him the bird.

When did it become acceptable to pour beer on an opposing player?  Who decided that racial epithets and/or indelicate comments about a player’s wife, sister or mother were de rigueur?  More importantly, how do we stop that kind of nonsense and get back to a time where fan passion stopped short of outright aggression?

Perhaps, a major contributor to the current problem is the amount of beer served at sporting events today.  Back when I was a kid, they sold no beer at the ballpark or in the arenas; sure, some people smuggled in a flask and spiked the soda that they purchased, but at least 90% of the crowd could have passed a random breathalyzer test from the start to the finish of the ongoing game.  That is not nearly the case today – – and it has not been nearly the case for quite a while.  It has been about 25 years since the infamous event at the Vet in Philly where someone who was clearly inebriated fired a flare rocket across the field during an Eagles/Giants game and – fortuitously – missed everyone in the stands on the other side of the field.  [Aside:  That incident obviously preceded the days of “stop and frisk” for any and all fans entering a stadium.]

I am acutely aware that coincidence is different from causality; my scientific education made sure of that.  However, it is interesting to note that it did not take much time between the firing of the flare rocket in the Vet and the establishment of the “Eagles’ drunk court” in the bowels of that stadium.  Judge Seamus McCaffrey presided over those proceedings and plenty of folks were called to task and remediated for their public intoxication to the point where no more flare rockets were fired during Eagles’ games at the Vet.  [Aside:  Judge McCaffrey’s career went from adjudicating drunks at the Vet to his being seated on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  Even though I am not a lawyer, that has to be recognized as a giant step up for his career.]

I remember from those days of “Eagles’ drunk court” that some folks were outraged that highly inebriated folks were being tried while being “less than fully aware of their rights”.  I also recall Judge McCaffrey saying in an interview that they took pains to keep the folks accused of being “over-served” in isolation until they were sufficiently able to participate in the judicial events.  There was more than a court and a holding cell in the Vet; there was a place for the public defenders’ office reps to hang in there waiting for clients.

Maybe the answer is for more game venues – – MLB, NFL, NHL, NBA – – to have proceedings akin to “Eagles’ drunk court” and for there to be a few more Judge McCaffreys to take back the game venues from “fans acting like assholes” to a point of “civility”?  For one, I would not object…

Finally, since much of today’s rant deals with justice – – obliquely – – let me close with this observation from comedian, Lenny Bruce:

“In the Halls of Justice, the only justice is in the halls.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



One thought on “Privilege And Lack Of Civility”

  1. Launching objects at players: Chiefs’ Ed Podolak once told Raiders’ Ken Stabler that Kansas City players always wore their helmets while on the Coliseum sideline.

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