We were all so anxious during the lockout because we all value football so much. Football can give us a reprieve, for a few hours a week, from legitimate problems like violence, debt ceilings and all the other real problems of the world.
Saturday night, those real problems and football merged in a tragic way when two men were shot and another was seriously beaten at Candlestick Park after the 49ers/Raiders game. That's not the entire list of violent acts, either. If you don't believe me, spend a couple of minutes on YouTube searching for "49ers Raiders Fight." There's no shortage of brand new material.
There's this from SFGate.com, too:
At Candlestick, the violence on Saturday appeared to be widespread, occurring around the stadium and parking lot during and after the game, several fans said Sunday in online postings.
"We saw at least seven major fights and heard of others that we didn't see," said a fan using the handle "raidermomo_1964" on SFGate.com. Another fan, "littlecat8," wrote that "it was difficult to enjoy the game" because of the many fights.
The league hasn't said anything about the violence. Does it need to? Are we looking at just a couple of isolated incidents, or is this a problem the league needs to step in and deal with?
One San Francisco columnist, Scott Oster, puts the onus to act on the league. He wants more money for security at games, transparency from the league and the teams on exactly what happened Saturday night, and, among other things, the possible suspension of rivalry games.
That last one, I think, is taking things a little too far, but that the NFL could step in and make it its issue is a fair notion. Ultimately, I think it comes down to individual teams. It's their city, their stadium, their gameday experience -- it's on them to make it a safe, welcoming atmosphere. Some teams do a better job of that than others. The ones that need help, the NFL should step in and help. "This is how Safe City X does it. Here's what you need to do, and if you need money to help out with that, here it is."
Money is the one thing that shouldn't be an issue. NFL teams make money. The NFL as a whole makes money. It's there. If you don't want to use it to pay a star running back, fine, but you have to spend enough of it to make your gameday atmosphere feel more like a fun, safe event, and less like attending a cockfight in an abandoned warehouse.
I'd love to hear about your experiences in the comments -- what stadiums you go to, what the atmosphere is like there, both good and bad. Have you ever felt like you were in physical danger? What teams do a good job, and what teams don't?