Patt Morrison for August 22, 2011

Are sports fans growing more violent? Shootings, beatings at Raiders-49ers game add to concerns

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Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Michael Bush #29 of the Oakland Raiders jumps over Seth Smith #26 of the San Francisco 49ers while running with the ball at Candlestick Park on August 20, 2011 in San Francisco, California.

Violence and sports have always been, and will probably always be, inexorably linked. In baseball there are bean balls, collisions at the plate between runners and catcher, and of course bench clearing brawls. Hockey and football are two sports built around extreme violence, and in the case of hockey fist fights on the ice are an encouraged part of the game. Basketball games are no strangers to fights and hard fouls are routine. So it’s a little naïve to be shocked when violence on the court or field spills into the stands—sports fans are passionate about their teams and are often fueled by alcohol on game day at these various stadiums.

The increasing frequency of fan-on-fan violence continued yesterday when at a Raiders-49ers preseason football game in San Francisco there were two shootings and several beatings in and around Candlestick Park, resulting in several injuries and arrests.

Los Angeles continues to reel from the attack on Bryan Stow, the San Francisco Giants fan who was beaten into a coma in the parking lot of Dodgers Stadium after the opening day game. There is no sport that is immune to violence in the stands, as fans of opposing teams clash in arenas, stadium bathrooms, parking lots and bars.

Is this toxic mix of passions, alcohol and violence just a part of live sporting events that should be expected, if discouraged; or are more extreme measures needed like curtailing the sales of alcohol at venues?


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