RIP Jonathan Denver, plus thoughts on stereotyping fanbases

The latest in the ongoing saga between fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants had me frustrated. Why does this keep happening? Why do the people of Los Angeles and San Francisco continue to give themselves a bad name?

Then I teared up a bit when I learned that Jonathan Denver, the Dodgers fan who was stabbed, was the son of a team security guard. And that Denver’s father was still in too much shock to form complete sentences the morning after.

Then I began to feel some serious neck pain from all the head-shaking I have been doing as new details emerge. Details like Denver was in town to celebrate his dad’s birthday. Or that there had been a fundraiser at AT&T Park that night in honor of Bryan Stow, the Giant fan who was beaten to a vegetative pulp outside Dodger Stadium on Opening Day in 2011.

The story hit particularly close to home because I have been a long-time Dodger fan, I lived in San Francisco for a year and a half (working with predominantly Giant fans) and am now back living in Los Angeles not too far from Dodger Stadium. When I arrived in San Francisco in May 2011, it was really unfortunate timing as the Stow incident had occurred just a month earlier. Needless to say, I refrained from talking about my favorite baseball team for a good year or so.

I write these words with that experience in mind and after having a few recent conversations with Giants friends for added perspective.

First of all, the Jonathan Denver stabbing is a tragedy. So was what happened to Bryan Stow in 2011. So was the shooting of Marc Antenorcruz outside Dodger Stadium in 2003. They and their families should have never had to experience such misfortune and heartache at the hands of sports. As important as sports are to our culture for the entertainment they provide us, the friendships they forge and revenue they pump into our economy, at the end of the day they are just games, and fans shouldn’t under any circumstances lose their lives because of them.

I am not going to belabor this last point, as it has been already hammered home by the San Francisco Police Department, Giants general manager Brian Sabean, Giants manager Bruce Bochy and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. There are other issues that need to discussed.

For one, this should not provide Dodger fans with ammunition to brand Giant fans as thugs, much like Giant fans have thought of Dodger fans since the Stow incident. It’s already started – read this reaction from the LAist and prepare to throw up in your mouth a little.

The labeling and profiling only stands to keep the situation between the two fanbases tense and cause more problems in the future. Even if it was a Giant fan, Michael Montgomery, who stabbed Denver, we can probably say with some certainty that Denver had a part to play in it. Situations just don’t escalate without there being many unpleasantries being exchanged by both parties. That combined with Denver’s somewhat checkered past, including a recent DUI and an arrest for being drunk in public at a county fair, and one could easily surmise that the alcohol that was flowing through both Denver and Montgomery (who had been “at a rave” according to his father) made them do and say things they shouldn’t have.

The whole incident brings up the issue of categorizing fanbases as a whole. Were Denver and Montgomery the typical Dodger and Giant fans? Are all Dodger fans the sons of a team security guard and plumber’s apprentices like Denver? Do all Giant fans go to EDM shows and carry knives and bats in their cars like Montgomery? Of course not. Most of them are upstanding American citizens like the vast majority of this country. About the only thing that all Dodger fans have in common is that they’ll moan every time they have to watch a telecast where Vin Scully isn’t behind the mike. About the only thing that all Giant fans have in common is that they swear orange is an acceptable color to wear in public.

But unfortunately, the stereotypes will continue to exist and develop with each subsequent incident. At one point does the MLB consider banning the Dodgers and Giants from playing each other, similar to what the NFL did by forbidding the Raiders and 49ers from playing in the preseason after the most recent incident at Candlestick Park? Surely the MLB couldn’t break up such a historic rivalry, could they? This would be a last resort, but at some point, something has to be done to end this nonsense. A division shake-up might not be such a bad thing. Trade the Dodgers or Giants for either the Angels or A’s from the AL West and we’d be set.

Another option would be to stop selling alcohol at the fifth inning (or at all) during Dodgers-Giants series, similar to how the Chargers stop selling alcohol at halftime every time the Raiders are in town. I get that this incident was six blocks away from AT&T Park and had nothing to do with alcohol at the stadium, but it would still send a powerful message to fans that things have to change.

What else will get our attention?

But even if nothing happens on the macro level, changes can be made on the micro level. Giant fans, how about I never use Jonathan Denver as a way to insult you and your fellow Giant supporters? In turn, could you do the same for me with Bryan Stow? It wasn’t the collective Giant fanbase that killed Denver. It was Michael Montgomery, who you’ve never met or have any association with outside of being a Giant fan. In the same light, it wasn’t the collective Dodger fanbase who senselessly beat Bryan Stow. It was two idiots from San Bernardino, who I have never met or have any association with outside of being Dodger fan, and I hope they get what they deserve when they stand trial in the near future.

RIP Jonathan Denver.


Jonathan Denver on the left with his father and brother. via KTVU

Jonathan Denver on the left with his father and brother. Via KTVU