Opinion

Fans in a Cambridge gin-joint

byClark Booth
3/14/2008

Theres a story out of Cambridge that you almost certainly havent yet got to read or hear about that sheds fascinating light on a number of the intriguing issues of our sporting times. It is all about a nasty brawl that began in a barroom and it is loaded with ramifications.

Ramifications having to do with the concept of being a fan. And the boundaries for expressing your allegiance to your team. And the values that the games preach. And the role of the media in walking that thin line that separates pandering to the communitys irrational love affair with the home-team and doing its job of reporting the news.

Actually, its a good news story and sooner or later the mainstream local media -- both print and broadcast -- may yet wake up to that fact. But as of this writing there has been nothing done on it save for a short, precise, and undisputed account in the Cambridge newspaper which, of course, is one of those suburban dailies that doesnt count, if you are a mainstream media big-shot who reports to work in upscale Needham or on Morrissey Boulevard. But it is no less a helluva story. I was in the dodge 40 some years, working both sides of the fence, and I know one when I see one.

Moreover, it concerns the relationship of the Red Sox and the Yankees about which we can never get enough, according to said mainstream media, although it does not concern the teams themselves or the players. Its the super wired, uber-fans that are at the core of this thing; the addled, misguided, somewhat delusional, get-a-lifers who compose the lunatic fringe of such silly, childish notions as Red Sox Nation. The problem is that the lunatic fringe grows in quantum leaps these days, threatening to become the conventional wisdom.

These are the facts as mainly reported by a certain Erin Smith, staff reporter for the Cambridge Chronicle, in its Monday, March 3edition.

In the early morning hours of Sunday, March 2, a 23-year-old Cambridge man was severely beaten and sent to a hospital after being pounced upon by four men professing to be Red Sox fans who objected to the victim wearing a Yankees baseball cap. The assault took place on a Mass Avenue sidewalk when the man and his girlfriend left a Central Square tavern after being harassed by what was described in the police report as a large group of apparent diehard Red Sox fans.

The couple had left the bar after some bickering, seeking to avoid further confrontation. But at least four of the Red Sox fans -- all described as young, white males -- and a couple of their female friends followed the couple to the street. Then the mob of Red Sox fans allegedly threw the victim to the ground and repeatedly kicked him, Smith reports.

Most of the details came from the victims girlfriend who was described as sobbing as she gave her account to police. Smith writes, The girlfriend and a couple of women who were with the suspects unsuccessfully tried to pull the Red Sox fans off the victim, according to police reports. Said police report further asserts, The Yankees fan was transported to the hospital at 1:41 a.m. for medical treatment for head injuries, including swelling over his entire face and several facial cuts. The victim later told police he could only remember getting into an argument about his baseball cap, leaving the bar, and lying on the ground while the men repeatedly kicked him in the head. The suspects were said to have fled down Mass Ave, in the direction of Harvard.

So, that is what is known of the matter. A check with Cambridge PD a week later yielded little more. A lieutenant on the desk did allow that the entire business was pretty dumb while the victim definitely sustained a badly broken nose. But the departments official media spokesman, Officer Frank Pasquarello, minimized the importance of the incident. He said there have been no arrests, and he believes the investigation -- if indeed there really ever was one -- is effectively over. He seemed to feel that what little had been made of the matter was more than was necessary and that did not seem to amuse him. He said there were no other extraneous factors, like issues of race, class or religion. It was just about baseball; only, baseball, he said.

He further pointed out that the bucket of blood emporium where the incident occurred is a tough gin-joint in a rough section of town that has quite a history for such horseplay. We get people beaten up down there all the time and nobody gets excited about it, he said. Its all about the alcohol; just some dopes in a bar.

That did seem to me a little casual. Given the ferocity of the attack and the absurdity of the provocation, it should have been sufficient to arch the eyebrows of even the most hardened cop, I think. But I do understand where Officer Pasquarello and the Cambridge PD are coming from and I dont entirely disagree with it. Policing the mean streets daily poses awesome predicaments and dilemmas. There are some real goons out there and they tend to be on the prowl late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. The antics of some punks in a rum-soaked dive can appear to be minor if youve got a dozen other calls coming in, some of them ringing with a life or death tenor. Everything is relative.

More to the point, this is not a law and order story. It is a baseball story. It is about the mindless passions of people who claim to love a mere game, but use it to work off hidden aggressions and appease demons they dont have the wits to even begin to understand.

And it is a media story because in all of the endless nonsense that is written in this town about the glory of baseball and the intensity of the Red Sox-Yankees thing this story had particular meaning. Its impossible to fathom how or why all of the regions media heavyweights, both print and broadcast, vehemently chose to ignore it. Everyone went into the tank. There is no excuse for it.

Above all, get this straight. Please! It is not about Red Sox fans being jerks and Yankee fans being victims. Because the equation could have been flip-flopped in a heartbeat.

But consider this: If a fellow from Boston wearing a Red Sox hat had been chased out of a Times Square beer hall, knocked to the ground, and kicked repeatedly in the head by a pack of drunks loudly protesting their love of the Yankees to the point where the victim from Boston had to be hauled off to a hospital in a meat wagon while his girlfriend, who had struggled to help him, stood sobbing on the sidewalk sputtering to police who had better things to do and the story about all of this made it into print in a reputable New York newspaper, thus making the pertinent facts available, do you really think that the Boston Globe, alleged newspaper of record, and all of the regions other mighty major media wannabes would have ignored it?

I dont think so.

Memo to Red Sox Nation. And Yankee Nation. Etc., ad nauseam!

Enough, already. It has gone too far.