Retire that jersey, at least when you’re on the road

Over the weekend a columnist wrote an op-ed piece about an incident that happened last week. A 42 year old Giants fan was attacked by two Dodger fans outside their stadium, and the man is now in a medically induced coma. In his piece, John Steigerwald shifts his focus to why the man was wearing a jersey in the first place.

It went viral yesterday and the reaction has been almost universally negative. You have to read the piece to understand why.

I’m at a weird place with this one. On one hand, reading his piece made my flesh crawl a little. If his point was adult men shouldn’t be wearing jerseys, he could have made it in a much more sensitive manner. Instead, he comes off like the person who claims that because a woman was wearing a short skirt she deserved to be raped. He’s condescending, defensive and mocking. It wasn’t the way to make a point, especially when the victim is sitting in a coma.

However, there’s this tweet that I saw when the piece went viral.

Column mentioned on @620wtmj: Author claims if Stow wouldn’t have worn Giant’s jersey, wouldn’t have gotten beat up.

Isn’t that, however sad, true?

He shouldn’t have been attacked. It was completely senseless and the blame rests on the two men who beat him to within an inch of his life. But if he isn’t wearing a Giants jersey to Dodger Stadium, this doesn’t happen. There can’t be any debating this point.

Deadspin ran this letter from a concerned Dodger fan fearing retribution (excerpt):

I should be excited about attending my first MLB game of the 2011 season and watching my favorite team, not worried/scared about what might happen to someone I love donning a Dodgers jersey and hat to see his team play at AT&T Park in San Francisco. I can totally see some hometown Giants fan stumbling out of the park onto the Willie Mays Plaza sidewalk seeing a bullseye on that jersey in place of the number 7 and right above it, “Beat this LA fan!” instead of the Dodgers first baseman James Loney’s last name.

Look, is there any reason why you absolutely have to wear a jersey in a rival’s ballpark? Why can’t you simply go to the game and enjoy watching it without donning a hated team’s apparel?

Now, I don’t own any jerseys. Truthfully, I think they’re silly once you become an adult. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for wearing one to their home team’s game, but they’re simply not for me.

However, I know perfectly well how hostile crowds can get in certain cities. My family had to be escorted out of a football game in Philly by police once word got around that they were Packer fans. My grandpa was harassed by drunk New England Patriots fans years ago because he had the gall to wear a Packers hat while he silently watched a game in Foxboro, Mass.

There are some stadiums where it just isn’t a good idea to wear opposing gear. Cleveland, Philly, Oakland and LA are on the list. Their fans are lunatics and when you add alcohol the threat of violence is absolutely real. A jersey is the most telling indicator that someone is a foreign person in a foreign land. Do they deserve to be harassed? Physically assaulted? Of course not. But there are a lot people drinking and not all of them have a sunny disposition when they’re drunk. Why risk pissing someone off? Why risk walking by some drunk asshole with a short fuse who sees the name on the back and thinks, “This guy thinks THEY can come here wearing THAT?”

What happened is sad. It wasn’t deserved and in an ideal world people could wear whatever they like and enjoy going to a game without the threat of assault and harassment hanging over their head.

But that world doesn’t exist.