By Gregg Doyel
CBSSports.com National Columnist
That spillage of blood the other night in San Francisco, where two NFL fans were shot in the parking lot and a third was beaten in a Candlestick Park bathroom? Don’t obscure the truth by blaming that on the passion of football or the hatred of gangs. That wasn’t 49ers vs. Raiders. It wasn’t Nortenos vs. Surenos.
It was Budweiser vs. the bloodstream.
And Budweiser, or whatever those animals were guzzling, wins every time.
Which is why I’m not particularly impressed with all the anguish coming out of the 49ers, the Raiders or the NFL after those two shootings and that one beating at Candlestick. They can talk all they want, but I don’t hear solutions. I hear tut-tutting. I hear tsk-tsking.
What I don’t hear is anyone — not a team, not the league — announcing that alcohol will no longer be sold in the stadium or tolerated in the parking lot.
Yeah, I know. I just lost you there. Listen, I understand. I do. You’re not the problem. You weren’t holding a pistol in the parking lot, and you weren’t kicking a guy in the men’s room. You weren’t one of the monsters who pounded Giants baseball fan Bryan Stow into a coma on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. When fans brawled at Yankee Stadium during Game 5 of the 2010 American League Championship Series, you weren’t throwing haymakers.
You’re not the problem. You’re not. I get it.
Alcohol is the problem, and if 70,000 people can handle their alcohol but three cannot — and as a result, two fans get shot and another gets beaten into critical condition — then that’s three too many.
You don’t have to agree with this argument, and I don’t expect that you will. I’m not wanting your conversion. But I do want you to listen. To hear the other side. To consider, for a moment, that the risk of fan violence — fans in hospitals, fans in comas, fans dying — isn’t worth the pleasure you get from that 12-ounce beer.
Unless you think it is, and then I don’t know what to tell you. You’re not a monster, no. But that argument is monstrous. You’ll risk fans being beaten half to death, and you’ll risk fans being shot or stabbed, because that’s how badly you want to drink that beer on the 30-yard line?
There’s a whole civil liberties argument here, the galling idea that by banning alcohol from stadiums, everyone would have to pay for the sins of a few. And I hear that argument. It’s compelling. Less compelling is the notion that teams have tried to police their fans — or at least cut down on drunk drivers — by cutting off beer sales after three quarters in football, seven innings in baseball, two periods in hockey. That’s a start, but the violence isn’t finished. It seems to get worse.
Some of you will read this argument as politics. There goes the liberal media, wanting Big Government to take away our rights. And that is one way of looking at it.
Here’s another: I’m tired of people leaving the stadium for a hospital.
I’m sad for the family of MLB fan Bryan Stow, still fighting for his life at San Francisco General after being attacked March 31. I’m sad for the family of the NFL fan who was beaten on a bathroom floor Saturday night, his final sensations probably the smell of urine and the feel of a foot to his face.
I’m heartbroken for this devastated father, whose son was one of the shooting victims Saturday at Candlestick.
And I’m tired of sports teams making a buck off you, risking your health for their financial happiness. NFL teams will never fix this problem because they don’t want to fix this problem. Not badly enough to actually dig into the root here, the root being alcohol.
Does a fan have to be drunk to become a monster? Of course not. Testosterone, pride and pack mentality can make monsters of lots of people. We’re walking time bombs, lots of us.
Alcohol is the most obvious fuse, and professional sports franchises offer you that fuse because you’re willing to pay heavily for it. Do the math: An NFL team buys a case of beer for $12, then sells those 24 bottles for $10 each.
That’s $240 for a $12 investment. Multiply that by thousands of cases.
That’s why the violence will continue. Because teams and leagues can tut-tut all they want about their outrage — and for good measure they can throw in a stern tsk-tsk — but they’re not serious about saving lives. They’re not serious about protecting, frankly, you. Because next time, it could be you. It could be your father, your son. That video of the devastated dad from Candlestick? At this time last month, you think that guy ever dreamed he would be biting his lip, trying not to cry, as millions of us watched?
Of course he didn’t think that. This stuff, it doesn’t happen to us. It happens to them.
Problem is, them is us. Them is you. One of you out there, you’re next. It’s your turn.
Hope you enjoy that beer.
Could be the last one of your life.