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Do luxury boxes cause ballpark violence?

May 31, 2011, 8:46 AM EDT

luxury suite

No, I didn’t formulate that question. Political blogger Mickey Kaus did in his “assignment desk” feature over at the Daily Caller. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, Kaus uses the feature to play editor, coming up with a question that interests him, outlines the parameters and then “assigns” it to a reporter he thinks would be good at handling it. The questions rarely actually get researched. It’s just his way of playing the “hey, I’m just saying” game. Sometimes the questions are interesting. Sometimes they are not.

In this instance, the formulation is probably more interesting than the actual question, because Kaus is interested in exploring ballpark violence in terms of one of his very old topics: social equality and the idea that, to sustain both equality and capitalism, policies should be pursued that make it so that money should have as little influence as possible. The idea: let us do things to avoid a society in which people can simply buy their way out of interacting with everyone else via VIP sections, priority lines and seating, hospitals for only the rich, etc.

Why? Because the coming together of people from all walks of life — be it for good things like Fourth of July parades or bad things like all of us having to wait in the same line at the airport — fosters democracy and social health and all of that.  He wrote a book about it once that I actually kind of liked, even if I think Kaus gets a lot of stuff wrong a lot of the time.

Anyway, Kaus would probably include luxury boxes in ballparks in that world view, and here he wonders if they aren’t in part to blame for violence and rowdiness in the cheap seats:

Here in L.A. we’ve been traumatized by the vicious beating given a San Francisco Giants fan who attended a game at Dodger Stadium.  Many are shocked that this could happen at a ballgame, but I remember being told several times, when I was sitting in fairly expensive seats at the stadium, that I shouldn’t go to the bleachers because that’s where thugs hung out. Which raises a question: Has the class segregation of sports stadiums helped promote hooliganism? The argument would be a fairly straightforward miniaturized version of the argument that concentrating the poor in inner cities helped breed an underclass. Specifically, if all the classes were mixed together–no skyboxes, no separate, more expensive decks–middle class values would prevail, or else the cops would be called and management would hear about it in no uncertain terms. The more they are unmixed–with the cheap seats geographically cut off from the mainstream–the more we a) allow general mainstream norms to be flouted in the cut off areas and b) ensure that the affluent are insulated and won’t care about (a). … Problems with theory: Even bleacher seats aren’t that cheap.

The bigger problem with that theory — aside from the fact that he was sitting in high-end seats when the question occurred to him — is that, as I said last week, I’m willing to bet that there were more problems with hooliganism in the 70s and 80s than there is now, and there was way less class segregation then due to fewer club level,elite level, etc., options in ballparks.

People pay more attention to incidents at ballparks now and they get reported in the media more often. And of course, the Bryan Stow case was such an outlier in terms of its severity that of course it’s being discussed more. Especially in Los Angeles, where Kaus lives.

So, interesting idea, Mickey. I have a pretty strong anti-elitism streak in me (fostered by both reason and, I’ll admit, occasional jealousy!) so I think it’s a good idea to ask whether or not luxury boxes are a good thing in an absolute sense (not that they’re going anywhere).  But I have a hard time linking their existence to increased bad behavior in ballparks, simply because I don’t believe that there is more bad behavior in ballparks than there used to be.

(link via BTF)

  1. heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2011 at 9:01 AM

    A real elitist sits first row on the field, anyone in ownership ofthe box is a faux-litist….

  2. woodenulykteneau - May 31, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    Interesting to note that that article was written *before* the proliferation of new stadia in baseball — Dec. 1991 — and yet it still holds water.

  3. cur68 - May 31, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    I like the idea of ‘better seats’. Gives me something to work towards. I love a good goal. Oh, & FTR, I agree with heyblueyoustink up there; best seats are at field level.

    • heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2011 at 9:40 AM

      The box seats are simply a meeting forum/tool for business for the most part as far as I can see, which is fine, we live in a capitalist society and those things happen….

      But as a fan cur, oh no, the real baseball elitist is close enough to watch Shane Victoriono’s eyes creepily check out any and every girl in the sections close to the dugout as he trots off the field

      • cur68 - May 31, 2011 at 9:45 AM

        Well he’d a loved the Jays game last night. Young lady in a low cut t-shirt in a direct line behind the umpire. About half the game was over before I noticed the Jays were CREAMING the Indians. Maybe Carmona was distracted by something?

      • heyblueyoustink - May 31, 2011 at 9:56 AM

        Hmm, i’m not sure, but using the words “young lady” , “low cut t-shirt” , and “creaming” all in one sentence might be some kind of violation……

        And it’s a hard life being a ball player, so many distractions, and a good life being a fan, so many distractions

      • cur68 - May 31, 2011 at 10:06 AM

        Since I’m going full Freudian this AM let me add this – Rajai Davis; RBI whore.

  4. teplightyear - May 31, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    It seems like Kaus has taken a good idea and stretched it to a bad application. I love that he stands for the notion that we shouldn’t allow ourselves to faction off for economic reasons because it weakens us as a whole; however, I don’t think it applies to the Stow beating.

    At a baseball stadium, unlike most other situations in life, a person can be “insulated” for the 9 innings that a game goes on, but they still have to interact with the general population of the baseball-watching crowd both before and after the game. Mr. Stow was beaten in this situation. If he had been in a luxury box that day, he could just as easily have had the same result happen.

    The reality of the situation isn’t that the Dodgers had adequate security for the rich and inadequate security for the poor; it’s that they had inadequate security generally, and every fan that went to those games became equally at risk from the couple of bad apples at the game.

    The reality is, if there’s no one there to stop them, bad people will do bad things. If your organization makes millions of dollars from large groups of people attending events at your place of business, you have a duty to have a system in place to weed out the bad apples.

  5. CJ - May 31, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    There are days when–first amendment and free speech which I value so much aside–I sincerely wish there was some sort of license that was issued permitting people to freely communicate their thoughts. Because in such a world we could then revoke that privilige from idiots such as these.

    Not only are this man’s thoughts architecturaly impossible and idiotic in general, but his having the nerve to insinuate that all fans who shell out their hard earned money to sit in the general seating are hooligans is offensive in my mind. It only seems to highlight to me the fact that, though he may well be trying to remove the elitist mindset from society, statements like that will only reinforce that sentiment and don’t do anything to help.

    Kaus, please go away.

  6. Jonny 5 - May 31, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    Kaus. So he “feels” that if you aren’t middle to upper class financially speaking, you need these “upper class” people to show you how to act more human? And it is the fault of the upper class for wanting to be around less juvenile upper class citizens like themselves for the violence of the lower class? Kaus just seems like an idiot in my book. And btw, everyone knows the best seats are in the first 10 rows of the stadium, regardless of ANYTHING.

  7. twofistedslopper - May 31, 2011 at 10:14 AM

    I have more in common with the guy balancing a mini-helmet of cheesy nachos on his belly next to me than the people in luxury boxes not paying attention to the game.

  8. Old Gator - May 31, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    When the revolution comes, people who own luxury boxes at ballparks will be the first ones to be taken out and shot.

    • cur68 - May 31, 2011 at 10:56 AM

      How’s that manifesto coming? Any revolution worth a hill of beans MUST have a good manifesto.

      • Old Gator - May 31, 2011 at 11:49 AM

        It’s fine. We just loaded five ziploc bags full of fresh lychees. Check. Now where’s that truck with the fresh bananas?

  9. jimbo1949 - May 31, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    Another Neo-Con trickle down theory: If you peons were allowed to be in our presence, our aura would surround you and bless you and make you behave.
    And if you didn’t, our security forces would beat you into submission.

  10. jlinatl - May 31, 2011 at 11:47 AM

    If you can’t buy better seats, better neghborhood, etc., what would the point be of trying to succeed financially?

    • Charles Gates - May 31, 2011 at 12:09 PM

      To redistribute your wealth to those that choose not to, or cannot, succeed financially. Totally in line with human nature (and therefore economic reasoning), right?

  11. kopy - May 31, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    Did no one else think of this High Life commercial?

    • bigdicktater - May 31, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      Thanks for posting that one!

  12. tigerprez - May 31, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    Perhaps there’s an easy solution to all of this. Make all tickets cost the exact same price, and every inning, everyone has to move to a different level and section, so that everyone has to sit in both the good and the bad seats throughout the course of the game. Every time a rich person buys a hot dog or a beer, a poor person has to get one, too. Certainly, that’s the only fair option, and that should be our goal for a fair and just society.

    Redistribution of wealth is a beautiful thing, no?

  13. stackers1 - May 31, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    I remember sitting in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium in the mid 80’s. The alchohol poured & the weed made a cloud in the sky. New Yorks finest didn’t care what you did until a fight broke out & then they would clear it up the old fashion way – by bustin’ heads. And then came a man named Guiliani & the fun was all over.

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