Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dodgers To Crack Down on Alcohol

The Dodgers issued a press release late yesterday stating that they will enforce their no-alcohol policy on stadium premises. From their press release:

LOS ANGELES - The Los Angeles Dodgers, intensifying their efforts to preserve and protect Dodger Stadium’s family atmosphere, today reaffirmed their commitment to the enforcement of policies regarding the use of alcohol, particularly in the parking lots before the game.

Fans are not permitted to bring alcohol onto the premises, and the club will increase its signage and patrols in the parking lots to ensure continued enforcement of this policy. Violators are subject to ejection. The club’s concessions partner, Levy Restaurants, will reinforce their commitment toward responsible alcohol service. Alcohol sales stop in the 7th inning.

“These policies underscore our commitment to preserving the environment that families seek,” said Dennis Mannion, the Dodgers’ President and Chief Operating Officer. “More than 99 percent of the fans act responsibly; we will be unrelenting in our pursuit of 100 percent.”

When the Dodgers begin their next homestand, April 30 through May 10, fans will find increased signage outside the parking entrances and in the parking lots, in English and Spanish. Security officers will increase patrols of the parking lots.

“We want fans to know in advance that we are taking these measures,” Mannion said. “The idea is not to eject fans, but to welcome them. If fans know in advance that they cannot bring alcohol with them, then we hope they can enjoy the experience with the rest of the responsible fans.”

Upon reading this, my first thought (because I'm incredibly sarcastic at core) was "Hooray! Nothing stops pre-game tailgating and drunken revelry in the parking lots like issuing a press release!" After all, it doesn't seem like this action, sending a piece of paper over the wire, exactly hones in on the target demographic of guys opening up the backs and trunks of their cars in the outer edges of peripheral parking lots, proceeding to slug down cases of beer two hours before the first pitch is thrown. I don't think these guys are getting this memo.

But all kidding aside, I have to applaud the Dodgers on this first step toward making the Stadium a safe environment for all Dodgers fans and families to enjoy. Having been at Opening Day this year, it was easy to get pretty concerned. As I wrote from having witnessed rampant tailgating in Lot 1 on Opening Day, my surprise over the amount of wholly unabashed alcohol consumption in the parking lots was only surpassed by the Dodgers security staff doing absolutely nothing to stop it. In fact, at one point, I overheard a clearly outnumbered, lonely Dodgers security guy, sitting atop a chair on an elevated tower, have this conversation with a fan slugging down cans of Budweiser:

Dodgers Security: Excuse me, sir, but you really shouldn't be drinking here.

Partying Guy: Oh really? And why is that?

DS: Well, actually sir, it's not allowed in the parking lot. And if a cop comes by and sees you, he's going to give you a ticket and cite you.

PG: Uh huh. Okay, dude, thanks for the warning! I'll take my chances.

DS: Uh, okay.

And literally, I kid you not, that was all that was done. The Dodger Security guy in the tower went back to his reclined position. The Partying Guy kept drinking with his friends. Security guys on electric scooters rolled by, and just ignored the tailgaters altogether. And I probably saw one out of every two cars tailgating, some of them with fold-up chairs boldly positioned in the parking lot aisles, with people exhibiting not a care in the world about being discreet.

And you know, this was a pretty depressing sight, watching willful disobedience without negative consequence, as I just knew it I was going to pay for it later with a more aggressive crowd inside the Stadium. Sure enough, the atmosphere was probably as charged and boisterous as I'd heard in many Dodgers Opening Days--and this time, I was fortunate enough to be on the field level, in the more expensive seats, rather than my usual Opening Day haunts on higher terraces. People were harassing an Angels fan more than a couple of Giants fans. Non-Dodger fans universally "sucked" and were told as much. And if I had had one of my kids there, I'd be a little afraid for their safety. If this is what it was like in the yellow seats, what was going on in the pavilions or the top deck (where the fans don't have well-lit bathrooms, a wide portfolio of concession options, and built-in seat cushions)?

We got this email from another SoSG reader, Alex, describing his own Opening Day 2009 experience:

Two dozen times were the police/security seen walking down my aisle. There were four ejections. A lovely, fat thirty-something drunk was seen groping women as they walked by him on their way to the concessions. A transparent cup filled with Bacardi was passed around. F-bombs rang out like there was no tomorrow.

The guy in front of me spent an entire inning telling me that he enjoyed 'f-ing bitches'. He then [questioned my sexual orientation] because I didn't yell out those same feelings. The poor, single Giants fan in my section had food and other stuff thrown on him. One female security officer came down to check out some other nonsense, and someone yelled out "get out of here lesbian!"

Were there kids in my section? Yep. Did I sit in the bleachers? Nope, field level.


Yesterday was an incredible day for baseball, but with all the craziness in the stands, who actually realized that O-Dog was going for the cycle as it was happening live?

So let's be fair. That first game was 2009 Opening Day. The gates opened extra early to accommodate fans, and most fans took advantage of it--and what else are you going to do three hours before game time? The Stadium was a packed house. We played the arch rival Giants; who even by the most generous account did indeed suck (being trounced 11-1). It had all the ingredients that would contribute to a highly-radioactive, potentially toxic environment.

And in contrast, my second Dodger game later on that week didn't have quite the same belligerent, acrimonious atmosphere everywhere in the stands, although people were still pretty fired up for the home team. I didn't see any fights or food getting thrown at the few Rockies fans seated around me. So it is indeed possible to be loud fans supporting the Dodgers--even adding the occasional boo for the opposing team--and still be respectful of our fellow men, women, and children in the stands who wear a different hat.

I've been going to Dodger games for years, and I agree, fans seem to be a little more violent and aggressive than they used to be at Dodger Stadium. I don't know if that reflects society's slow regression toward debasement and a general lack of civility; or the pressures of a collapsed economic environment; or the by-product of a car-centric city in which people are cocooned off from other citizens during their commutes; or the frayed edges of smokers jonesing for a nicotine fix but (thankfully) banned from smoking in the Stadium's confines; or, the lack of effective security and policy enforcement at Dodger Stadium. We all, as fans, need to do our best to be role models to our kids, and we clearly can do our parts. But it's fair to say that more can be done--must be done--to protect those of us who want to come to watch and enjoy a game and cheer on their team. Even if it's the Giants.

Steps like issuing this press release, reiterating the Stadium's alcohol policy, or the new (or perhaps just more publicized) Stadium program allowing fans to discreetly and anonymously text Dodgers Security to point out uncivil fans or inappropriate behavior, are good first steps. But posting a couple of more signs in the parking lots isn't going to stop the tailgating--enforcement needs to come with it. And that means more guards, in more places, doing more than just a slap on the wrist from a passing segway.

I'm hopeful the Dodgers will back up their stadium policies and enforce them in kind. The alternative, things getting much worse and more obnoxious and unfriendly, can only end badly--for the Dodgers, and their fans.


Erin said...

I just wonder when parking will be upped to $20 so that McCourt can pay for all the extra security in the parking lots.

PenosCabell said...

I didn't even know they had security patroling the parking lots.

I used to love ging to Dodger Stadium, but it's gotten bad over the years. I think that people feel that if they are paying a lot of money to park their car, and for their tickets, and for their food and concessions, they can do whatever and act however they want once they get into the stadium. It's tough bringing my children to the games because of all the cursing. And between all the fighting in the stands and beachballs bouncing around, it's impossible to pay attention to whats going on on the field.

I like to have a $12 beer as much as the next guy. I can control myself after I drink that $12 beer. It's all those jerks who can't handle theit alcohol who ruin for the rest of us Ddger fans.

PenosCabell said...

Good point Erin.

Alex Cora said...

I'm glad that the Dodgers are at least trying - at least they recognize that they have a problem. The photo day game was more of the same with drunk fans in the field level. So sad. Maybe they should have a couple of DRY nights - wonder how that would go over.

Steve Sax said...

PC, it's not the $12 beer that's a problem. It's the cases of Bud that are being chugged in the parking lot.

Brandon said...

Sax- When my friends and I go to Dodger games we always sit in our car, drink a few beers, and listen to the Dodger pre-game show.

Though not the "chugging" type it is not uncommon for my friends and I to have 2 or 3 cans before entering the game. And I can say that none of us have ever been a disturbance to the game, or other fans.

I'm sure you wouldn't be an annoyance if you had two beers inside your car before entering the stadium.

The problem is when you mix alcohol with the type of person that doesn't need alcohol to be a problem in the first place. It's not the beer alone, it's the people consuming the beer. Like the old saying goes, "guns don't kill people..."

It's sad that people drink to excess, and then disrupt the magic of Dodger Stadium, but I don't think having a beer or two before going into the stadium is a bad thing. It's just shameful that the actions of others spoil it for the properly behaved.

Steve Sax said...

Brandon, thanks for your post. I agree, the worst part is that the actions of the extreme few are spoiling the experience for the many. But again, if amped up enforcement is the only way to get rid of the extreme, then I'm in favor of the Dodgers' reaffirmed initiative.

As for the innocuousness of drinking a couple of beers in your car while listening to the pre-game show, this was not the concerning behavior I witnessed on Opening Day, nor would it likely be stopped (or even noticed) by the two cops on segways.

But just to be sure, the best way for me to make my assessment of the safety of your pre-game drinking ritual is to join it. What lot are you guys in, again?

Steve Sax said...

And Brandon, do you charge your friends $12/beer, just like Frank?

Raintes said...

Those type of people are the same ****ers that pick fights with Dodger fans. It's always disappointing to see Dodger fan vs Dodger fan fights. Like, wtf?

How about strict security in the lot and some sort of wristbands for the beer drinkers with a maximum of 2 vouchers for alcohol?

Brandon said...

We are usually in lot K, though we have been know to re-use old parking passes (the attendant never notices) and park in lot D.

It's always a foursome when we go, so one person buys the 12 pack, one person pays for parking, one person buys the first round of Dodger Dogs, and one person gets stuck driving and not drinking after entering the stadium.

Steve Sax said...

Wow. The guy who brings the 12-pack wins.

And when should I drop by?

Brandon said...

Unless it's the 12 pack of Chimay Blue!

Looking at the May 1-4 block for next game probably.

Johnny Blanchard said...

I am a tailgater, but I do not approve of the violent aggressive inside the stadium... although there is some kind of grey area inside of this argument. I believe Cubs fans are well known to be a few sheets to the wind. I don't really see why the alcohol is blamed when it is also sold inside the stadium.

Just an idea: if the beer price was actually affordable (and the Dodgers DID NOT lower prices on beer, they only created a small size) inside the stadium (ie., the Angels), more fans would come inside and drink inside the stadium, which would result in less binge drinking outside. It will NOT be eliminated, but it will mitigate it.

I hate to sound like a drunk, but quit blaming the booze. People tailgate everywhere around the country, and there are problems everywhere. I've often resented not being able to tailgate in the parking lot, and have had many pregame cat-and-mouse games with the security guards and one drinking in public ticket from LAPD, but people have always done it. The problem lies in the bad behavior part of it. I have to say, speaking of Cubs fans, when I have tailgated at Cubs games, their fans were just a blast.

Perhaps our fans are just a-holes. Big sigh.

Orel said...

Oh sure, personal responsibility. What's next, treating others with respect?

Johnny Blanchard said...

Dammit I love this team too much! Why do our fans have to screw it up for us (and the drinking too)?

What happened to double entendre? Can't you see a lady in the stands and make a sly ambiguous comment WITHOUT groping/assaulting? Can't the drunks just stumble to the drunk tank after fighting with each other WITHOUT vomiting on a three year old? Can't you take the fight outside?

Orel said...

Or not fight? Just a thought.

Steve Sax said...

technically, the drunks ARE already outside...

...but I hear you, dude.

QuadSevens said...

I think I might have to be like Sax and crash this May 1-4 party too. I just had my first Chimay this past weekend and thought it was great! So I can only imagine how good the Chimay Blue is. I saw the price for one 750mL bottle was $18 at the bar I was at, so I'd bet it's great.

Steve Sax said...

$18 beer?

Quad, don't give Frank any bright ideas.

QuadSevens said...

Frank's so cheap, he'd never go for it. And if he did, with his markup, nobody would buy it.

Brandon said...

For the record I think the Chimay Red is better that the Blue.

Steve Sax said...

Chimaybe you're right.