Tuesday, July 2, 2013

10 Years and Still No Baseball Games

Happy anniversary... to me!

10 years ago, on July 1, 2003, I went through one of the more jarring personal experiences with our new society imaginable. Arrested at a Baltimore Orioles baseball game because of a ridiculously overzealous usher and a warped and spiteful police officer, I was escorted in handcuffs via paddy wagon to a true hellhole known as Baltimore Central Lockup, where I got to experience... well, I'll let the story speak for itself:

Eventually morning came and still nothing, no word on when I would get out or anything. And after sleeping and eating and even more waiting and waiting, the cellblock started to get more agitated and lively. And that's when the threats came. It didn't exactly come as a shock that skinny white guys like me are going to get threatened in jail, but it did shock me that as much as 20 minutes could go by without a guard so much as walking past my cell. And so what do you do when, after having overheard hours of casual conversation about stabbings and beating people over the head with baseball bats, etc., etc., you're told by a group of men, all of whom are bigger and stronger than you, that they are going to rape you in one hour? Maybe they were just trying to frighten me, who knows, but you know what, who cares? It's still gonna scare the living hell out of you and it was just such a bizarre, surreal experience to be standing there powerless, knowing that I could easily - easily - have my life literally destroyed at any time. It just didn't seem real to me, which looking back I have to say was a good thing. In between Our Fathers and Hail Marys all I could really think was "What's the score man? What's the score?" as these guys kept telling me crudely and pointedly that they were going to assault me in one hour.

Sentenced to community service, I made a promise to myself as I labored within eyesight of Camden Yards, home of the Orioles:

So on a very pleasant Tuesday in September, 2003 I reported to a community services center in the Pigtowne section of Baltimore to complete my rehabilitation. Three other community service peons joined me, and we were assigned the task of mowing, raking and cleaning up three small vacant lots near the center. It was really all too perfect. The location turned out to be just a couple of blocks from Camden Yards, and I could see the light stantions from Oriole Park as I did the work.
And so as I was bagging grass cuttings in a urine-stenched lot while staring at the twinkling spires of one of Bud Selig's golden palaces of greed, I could only think how this was such a fitting farewell to Major League Baseball and the incompetent fools who have driven yet another fan away forever. What's the score, Bud? What's the score?

And here we are 10 years later and what has changed? The foreboding direction I could clearly see stadium security hurtling towards in 2003 has gotten worse and worse over the years. Observe this example of a fan arrest at an Arizona Cardinals football game. Not much to see as to the actual arrest but note the dire warning on the scoreboard encouraging fans to report each other to authorities:

(0:08 mark)

So glad to see that the Soviet-era neighbor-watching-neighbor model is still thriving at major sporting events. I personally noticed it for the first time at that Orioles game back in '03. Up to that point, I had never seen messages like that on a scoreboard at a game.

But wait... there's more! Seattle Seahawks fans can look forward to an experience more in line with the TSA than the traditional sports usher as they enter the stadium for the NFL team's games this season. Check out this story from last month:

On Friday, CenturyLink Field emailed season-ticket holders information about the new rules, which were announced by the Seahawks and 31 other NFL teams Thursday to make security searches quicker and easier.
Fans are encouraged to leave all bags at home. If that doesn’t work for them, fans can bring one clear plastic bag (the Ziploc freezer variety, for example) or a clear tote sized 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, in addition to a purse small enough to fit in your hand — a so-called clutch.
Any other kind of large bag is forbidden, including larger purses, coolers, fanny packs, cinch bags, diaper bags, laptop bags and large camera bags. Season-ticket holders will receive an appropriately sized clear vinyl bag for free.
Seat cushions are also banned because they could conceal an explosive device, the NFL said. Signs and banners must be standard letter-sized or smaller, at 8.5 by 11 inches.

And baseball hasn't changed a single bit. How about the out-of-town fan arrested in Washington, D.C. at a Nationals game for trying to get rid of tickets for face value or less for a game he would not be in town for?

The officer wanted to know what I was asking. Not wanting to be labeled a scalper, I said, “Love to get face value.” These words started a Kafka-esque journey into the D.C. criminal justice system.
Told to stand against a wall, I was informed that I was under arrest for “solicitation.” I explained that I was from out of town and that I was not trying to “scalp,” and I apologized for not knowing that what I was doing was a crime. As the officer ran a check on my Minnesota driver’s license, I wondered how bad the ticket would be.
The officer came back and told the trainee to call for transport.
“You going to do this?” the trainee asked, somewhat incredulously.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.
“Does it look like I’m kidding?” the officer replied. Things went downhill from there.

The original article that I wrote back in 2004 garnered a good amount of reader responses, even though there was no comments section to post on. These readers all emailed their comments. From across the country fans and citizens decried the eroding of freedoms we all used to take for granted only a few years earlier. I saved one letter from a commenter who wrote:

I do not go to "events" anymore, ever. No sports, no concerts, no picnics, no Disneyland, no nothing. It's not worth it. I'm boycotting all of society because it sucks. The scumbags have taken over, and only by completely rejecting them and their bull will decent normal people ever have a chance just to live free ever again.
I urge you boycott society, also, and tell everyone why. If you don't, then you are part of the problem, considering the Truth you discovered by direct personal experience.

Well, it's been 10 years without Major League Baseball and I can't say it's been much of a sacrifice. In fact, I've barely noticed it. I have attended a few hockey, basketball and football games that I got free tickets from somebody for and without exception the experience was awful. All this security crap combined with the bombardment of nonstop advertising and artificial bells and whistles makes for a truly terrible live experience. I have written on this elsewhere.

It saddens to me to say that I must agree with that letter writer who doesn't go to "events" anymore. It's not only a political statement on my part, though there is some of that in the decision. Mostly it's that I feel like a sap for feeding at this corrupt corporate trough. Quite simply, almost everything that passes for an "event" in our modern decaying society today is just not worth doing.

I can honestly say that I don't feel I am missing out on anything. Except the possibility of being gang raped in an inner city prison, of course.

Corporate sports are setting us up for the corporate police state. Turn away and don't look back. Believe me, sports fans, it's a lot easier than you think.

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