A fight breaks out at a sporting event and the immediate reaction of fans is instinctive and visceral. It’s human nature — cheers and jeers, shock and awe, taking sides and placing blame.
And it’s all fun and games … until you give it a second thought.
Upon reflection – and considering we’re in the throes of our nation’s season of discontent — the melee between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees that interrupted a beautiful Thursday afternoon (8-24-17) at Comerica Park left many fans with a bad taste in their mouth. Worse even than from the usual suspects — nachos, cotton candy, cheap mustard or expensive cheap beer.
The notorious basebrawl was covered by MLB, ESPN, even network news, from every recorded angle. Except, as it was, from the fans’ point of view. Seated in row four directly behind homeplate (thanks to comp. tickets from family members!), my wife Sharon and I watched the spectacle unfold 20 feet in front of us. Like witnessing a Greek tragedy or Redwings game in our living room.
As with most Yankees away games, plenty of fans were there to support their Bronx Bombers. So I felt comfortable sporting my Yankees gear and cheering for the visiting team. Until it got ugly and discretion overruled loyalty.
Alternately watching in amazement and succumbing to my instincts of photographer to capture the remarkable action, I was as surprised by what I heard and saw in the stands between rounds (the benches cleared three times) and then after the final bell.
It was a microcosm of our country’s presently fractured culture. You could hear as many fans screaming “Kill the sons of bitches!” as shrieking “Oh my god, oh my god!”
Beside us, a boy maybe 12 years old, shouted to his dad, “This is awesome!” To which the dad responded, “They should throw everybody out of the game,” to which the kid rightly observed, “But then they wouldn’t have anyone to play.”
The older couple in the first row, who we estimated to be the original season ticket holders, clasped hands as the wife looked at her husband in disbelief.
Directly behind us, a tearful middle-aged guy was being consoled by his daughter as he lamented the horrible example this is setting for all the children.
After all was said and done on the field, it felt as though a pall temporarily overcame the 32,000 fans within the stadium. Except for one still-cursing blowhard a few rows back, there seemed to be a collective, silent moment of reflection.
With the fragility and divisiveness of the country’s psyche these days, there’s no shortage of good-and-evil juxtapositions. Notably that day, before all hell broke loose in the bottom of the sixth inning, as the Yankees took the field for the first time, the 6’-7”, 282 lb. rookie sensation Aaron Judge knelt on the right field grass for his own ritual moment of reflection.