You should be able to show up at a stadium wearing the colors of the visiting team and emerge from the experience injury-free, let alone coma-free, but that is not the case for Bryan Stow.  Stow, a 42 year-old paramedic from Santa Cruz remains in a medically induced coma and is likely to have brain damage following the savage beating he took in the Dodger Stadium parking lot at the hands of two Dodger fans on Opening Day. 

The two cowards who are responsible for this heinous act remain at large.

And all this because Bryan Stow, a San Francisco Giants fan, was proudly wearing the orange, white and black of the World Champions at Chavez Ravine?

Just as disturbing as the beating itself has been the startling rationale that I am hearing from too many callers to our local sports talk shows, who seem to believe that part of the mystique and magic of a home field advantage is to intimidate and harm fans of the opposing team.

This has been brewing for a while.

It used to be that the biggest danger you would face at Dodger Stadium would be over-indulgence on Dodger Dogs, but with beer flowing like water in the cheap seats, drunken fans have taken heckling and good-natured ribbing to a seriously unhealthy level. 

Whereas the troublesome beach balls and late-arriving/early-departing fans that we Los Angelenos have become known for have become somewhat of a dubious badge of honor, at least we can laugh that stuff off in light of the latest reputation that we are earning.

We are now the City of Thugs.

It’s gotten me to thinking a lot these last few days about my waning love for the Los Angeles Dodgers as a team.  With team ownership in a soap opera divorce trial and the team on the field a mixed bag of overpaid, underachieving misfits, the organization no longer resembles the Dodgers of my youth or even my young adult life.

When I think of the Dodgers I think of Steve Yeager, Mike Scioscia, Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Steve Sax, Bill Russell, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker, Reggie Smith, Manny Mota, Ken McMullen, Joe Ferguson, Don Sutton, Doug Rau, Tommy John, Jimmy Wynn, Willie Crawford, Jay Johnstone, Rick Monday, Bob Welch, Fernando Valenzuela, Charlie Hough, Lee Lacy, Vic Davalillo, But Hooton, Johnny Oates, Pedro Guerrero, Rich Rhoden, Walter Alston and Tommy Lasorda.

I rarely think of guys like Mike Piazza, Eric Gagne, Gary Sheffield or even Eric Karros, who all wore the blue, but never proudly.  Or with any dignity.

There is a security guard who engages me in conversation every now and then and each time we chat I have to remind him that yes, I was born and raised in Southern California and my teams are/were the Los Angeles teams – the Rams (not since they moved), the Dodgers, the Lakers and the Kings.   Not being a Dodgers fan, he always teases me with the same story about how every time he sees the footage of Kirk Gibson’s heroic game-winning home run from Game 1 of the 1988 World Series he always laughs at the sight of the car leaving the stadium suddenly hitting the brakes as Gibson’s homer lands in the pavilion.  “Typical L.A. fan,” he always says.  “Yep,” is the best retort I can muster.

Funny thing about me and Gibson:  I never liked him as a player, and only begrudgingly accepted him as a Dodger.  His home run offered euphoria for us fans, and I was likely the only Dodger fan who wished that it had been Mickey Hatcher who’d hit the homer.

These last few seasons were made more difficult for me because Joe Torre, the long-time Yankees manager, was the dugout boss for the Dodgers.  Torre seems like a nice enough guy, but when you combine his back-stabbing comments about his own players with his Bela Lugosi-like demeanor and inability to manage a pitching staff, you really have a recipe for a team that is impossible to like, from the manager on down to the bat boy.

Now with Torre finally gone, the Dodgers are going with Don Mattingly at the helm – yes, another freaking Yankee – and the McCourt divorce far from settled, the team, the organization and the Dodgers name just seems…tainted.  It seems scarred and perhaps damaged beyond repair.

I think I will always love the Dodgers as my team, but it almost feels like loving an old episode of Three’s Company, only I’m longing for Jack, Janet and Chrissy, but I’m stuck with Larry, Cindy and Mr. Furley. 

Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but I long for my authentic Dodgers and not this tired, imitation version of the team that is owned by a Red Sox fan, features a general manager who came from the Giants, and a manager who yearns for his Yankee pinstripes.

Where have you gone Tom Paciorek, John Hale, Von Joshua?

And now back to Dodger Stadium.

The games will go on, now with promises of increased security from McCourt, Mayor Villaraigosa, the LAPD and I think Justin Bieber.  Something tells me that things will calm down for a bit, but eventually the drinking will once again kick into high gear and the blue seats will become a war zone, and soon enough, through the stench of garlic fries and testosterone, yet another pointless fight will break out and Thug Nation will again reign supreme.

Perhaps not.

Maybe, just maybe Dodger Stadium will feel safe again. 

Emily was begging me to take her to a baseball game last year, and I finally relented. 

I took her to an Angels game.

For all of the dislike that I have for the Angels and pretty much everything Orange County, I still felt it a safer, more family friendly environment to take in a game, and I was absolutely correct.  While the team on the field was not one that I cared for, I felt comfortable both sitting in the seats and wandering the stadium with Emily and her grandpa Fred, and it felt sort of like being at a Friday night high school football game.

Compare that to the last time I went to a Dodgers game with Fred, and you have essentially the polar opposite experience.

At the Dodger game we were surrounded by drunks, there was rarely a moment when we didn’t feel threatened, and both the language and overall “feel” of our section was filthy and dark.  It was sickening.

So while the Mayor and McCourt do what they can to prevent further beatings at the stadium what they really need to be doing is walking around and observing and listening to the environment of Dodger Stadium during a game. 

The problems don’t start in the parking lot.  They might end there, with fights and one-sided ambushes, but the genesis of the problem resides in the seats during the nine innings of baseball, with alcohol, egos and anger flowing freely; it truly is a recipe for disaster.

Just ask the family of Bryan Stow.

Today I am not proud to call myself a Dodger fan, and while I’m not quite ready to renounce my loyalty to the team I am certain that I won’t be spending any of my money to support the organization until some things have been fixed.

They say in sports that winning is the panacea that cures all ills, and in some instances that is likely true.  But it is going to take a lot more than a few winning campaigns to restore the honor and dignity of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

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