One of my dearest friends is called Mayniak. That is the sobriquet earned through years of roughshod, irrational, outrageous behavior; it’s also a play on his last name. Derived from activities in his college years, he’s calmed quite a bit into adulthood (home-owner, successful businessman, great family person). That said, I still refer to him as Mayniak, or perhaps more relevantly The Mayniak, since he is truly sui generis.
The Mayniak is the type of person that would bust a porcelain toilet in a Del Taco, cause a flood, sweet talk the manager and leave with a bag of tacos & del scorcho sauce; The Mayniak is the proverbial guy who would punch you in the gut then laugh with you over a beer; The Mayniak is the person that moves across the country to open a half dozen pawn shops and take the riches to Vegas, spend a weekend in the Wynn Presidential Suite with his closest friends and women, get a $10k marker and leave with his dignity and wallet intact.
The Mayniak, however, is NOT the type of person that will set foot in Dodger Stadium EVER AGAIN.
Though he is a Giants fan (family is SF native), he and I attended a handful of Dodger games in the 90’s, and his avid baseball fansmanship enabled him to root both for and against the Dodgers, dependent on that days pitching matchup and betting line. That said, for the past handful of years, he’s been telling me that he was “deathly afraid” of Chavez Ravine, the crowd and the vitriol spilled at opposing fans.
As a die-hard Dodger fan, I poo-pooed The Mayniak, referring to him as The Fraidy-yak just to get under his skin (a very difficult task, mind you). This was until last week’s “Annual Parking Lot Beatdown.”
Initially, I sort of brushed off the controversy. “Typical Giants fan,” I thought, “probably had too much to drink and was instigating the irascible hometown crowd.” Not to say I condoned the behavior, but let’s just say I chalked it up to a bit of ‘American Hooliganism.’
“It happens,” you know, just like it happened last year.
One time might just “happen,” two times might be a coincidence, but three years running is a Clear and Present Danger. And while at this point it only seems to affect opposing fans (Go Dodgers!), T.J. Simers makes a concise, lucid statement about the avowed leeriness of attending games, even for hometown supporters.
Personally, I’m wearing my Dodger hat and root-root-rooting for the home team whenever I step in the Stadium, so I’m not threatened. It’s still a bastion of peace, boyish joy and harmony for me – but the cliche of “would you be comfortable taking your daughter/mom/grandma to a game” is now, for the first time, causing me pause.
My wife & I attended 10+ games per season from 2003 – 2009, but 2010 was the first year that the overall stadium milieu – this “edge” in the Stadium – caused us to attend only a handful of games. This year, when my Dad offered to share some of his season tickets to us (he’s old school and hardcore), we only asked for three games. . .and even those I will probably have to really work on convincing her to attend with me.
This is not a fear-mongering perspective – that has been addressed ad nauseum in the past week, since the beating – but the standpoint of pure embarrassment as not only a Dodger fan, but a Los Angeles native/resident. The sad extraction of this story is not solely the outcome for the 42-year old paramedic who’s life will “never be the same” after he was jumped, but the fact that this incident is magnifying & exacerbating the ongoing racial undertones that have enveloped Los Angeles from the Watts Riots to the Rodney King riots/Daryl Gates through current times.
Is race factor in the Stadium beatings/safety/perception? Maybe it is, maybe it’s not. That said, it’s an inescapable element of life as an Angeleno. People are fearful of addressing this issue, and it’s extremely sensitive, especially in a city where Hispanics are now the majority and the elected Mayor is Mexican-American. Dylan Hernandez recently wrote a sensational piece for the L.A. Times about the Hispanic superstar, and the paradox arose between the traditionally ‘white’ fans who were now supporting a person from the very race that was unceremoniously discarded from their homes to build the Stadium. Read the piece – now read the comments. It’s clear that whatever this is, it’s a VERY complex issues, and the beatings are neither symptomatic nor indicative of any resulting actions from this issue.
The ultimate nadir of realization comes upon searching for a solution – there is not a solution. More security? More restrictions on alcohol? Higher ticket prices? Extending neighborhood watch to the Stadium? All of those issues have been addressed by the organization yet here we are, waiting and wondering when the next tragedy will occur. The bottom line is that Dodger Stadium really is NOT a safe place anymore, and though race isn’t the only factor, it’s a representative & collective issue that defines L.A. in the eyes of the world. There is no causation and no correlation but to keep the topic under wraps in these collective discussions is certainly not going to solve any problems. Because the vitriol will just continue. . .
Maybe The Mayniak is right – if you are going to take in a Dodger game, do it from the comfort – and safety – of your own home. I mean, at least you get to listen to Vin Scully, right? What could beat that – besides a couple of Dodger fans, that is.