The Boston Red Sox did the unimaginable recently, coming back from 3 down to win the next 4 games and defeat the New York Yankees for the American League Championship. As a Massachusetts resident, I celebrated with a whole bunch of people at my favorite bar and, after lots of high-fives, chants of 'Yankees Suck!' and laughter over A-Rod's ridiculous lack of sportsmanship, I went home.
And then I turned on the TV to watch the recap of the game.
The reporters babbled on about the game, and a little picture-in-picture window showed overhead views of Kenmore Square, Brookline Avenue and Lansdowne Street. These streets, all near Fenway, were mobbed with fans celebrating the record-breaking win and our first entry to the World Series in 18 years. For a few happy moments, I was proud of our fans and all the college kids who were jamming the streets. The massive police presence seemed unnecessary, because everyone was having a good time, jumping around and simply celebrating the win.
Oh what a difference a few minutes can make.
The little picture was now the full screen; the celebration suddenly turned stupid. The streets were full of mental midgets lighting fires, setting off fireworks and throwing trashcans into signs. The small trees, the light poles and the traffic lights were suddenly swarming with young men trying, and succeeding, to destroy them. An SUV with New York plates was torched. People unlucky enough to be driving anywhere near the now-mindless hordes found their cars overrun with idiots jumping on the roof, the hood or the trunk. Parked cars were tipped over. Eyewitnesses report incidents of theft, looting and fighting. Swarms of kids tried to scale the Green Monster wall on Lansdowne Street.
This is celebration? No, this is rioting and idiocy.
Into the midst of this celebration-gone-stupid wade cops in riot gear and on horseback. Most kids are smart enough to back down, but according to reports from Police and eyewitnesses, some less than intelligent individuals started throwing bottles at officers (breaking one's nose) and swarming the horses. Meanwhile, the idiots are still climbing anything they can, and several are falling off and injuring themselves.
On Lansdowne Street, right next to Fenway, standing on the sidewalk near a Sausage vendor, Victoria Snelgrove stands with her friends. It's unlikely that she was participating in the rioting, but nearby her some moron is getting into it with a cop on horseback. It's at this point that some police fire their compressed-air guns, which fire marble-sized plastic pellets filled with a pepper-spray liquid. These guns are designed to be non-lethal, but are inaccurate as well. A pellet veers off course (I assume) and hits Ms. Snelgrove in the eye. It's a one-in-a-million shot, and it mortally wounds this poor girl. Had this pellet hit her anywhere else on her face, it probably would have bloodied her, but not have injured her too badly. Sadly for everyone involved, this was not the case.
Now the blame-game begins. Even as fingers are pointed, the Police Commissioner comes out with the following: 'While I firmly and emphatically accept responsibilities for any errors, I also condemn in the harshest words possible the actions of the punks Wednesday night who turned our city's victory into an opportunity for violence and mindless destruction.' The non-lethal weapons that did not live up to their name are shelved. A family mourns a senseless loss. Who’s at fault here?
Many people are blaming the police, saying that their response was out of sync with the amount of rioting that was happening. Many are also saying that the police did not receive enough training on the use of their pepper-pellet weapons. Some have blamed Ms. Snelgrove for putting herself in the midst of the action. Still others blame professional sports and a culture that encourages fans to heap so much importance upon their team’s winning or losing. But step back a moment and ask yourself: what was the root cause of this tragedy?
If those idiots had merely celebrated the victory, as so many other people were apparently able to do, Victoria Snelgrove would be alive today.
I watched the live feed of the riots and I can honestly say that the majority of people I saw acting up in the crowd were college age. Boston is a college town. Many colleges with thousands upon thousands of students are right in the area where the riots occurred. I place the blame squarely upon the shoulders of the students and student-aged individuals who were too immature to celebrate peacefully. Without the destruction, the looting, the fires, the trespassing (what else do you call climbing on the Green Monster and breaking into the player’s secure parking lot?) and the threat of bodily harm to themselves and others, the police would never have been forced to break up the “revelry”.
The police didn’t overreact, the crowd did. So I say the following to the college kids of Boston who tarnished our reputation, acted like immature idiots and who managed to ruin an incredible and historic victory by the Red Sox: Victoria Snelgrove’s death is on your souls. Her blood, so exploitatively displayed by the Boston Herald newspaper, is on your hands. Without your actions, the police would never have needed to react at all.
And I say the following to all the parents out there: teach your children better. They desperately need to be taught that there are consequences to their actions. They need to learn that they will be held responsible for their choices. Stop coddling them, passing off their misbehavior as quirks of their personality and prepare them for the world they must someday face.
And I lay the following challenge upon the majority of students who did not riot and who rile against being grouped with those who did: you majority bear the responsibility of watching your fellow students’ backs. Show yourselves worthy of being the future leaders of this country and take it upon yourselves to stop your fellow students when they begin to act out inappropriately, instead of mindlessly egging them on. Otherwise I shudder to think what will happen to this city of ours should the Sox win the World Series.
Finally, to fans everywhere I say the following: if you cannot learn to celebrate victory peacefully and weather loss with calm determination, then you are not true fans. Neither victory nor loss can ever justify destruction of property, looting, assault and rioting. If you think that your team’s victory/loss is an excuse for you to flip over someone’s car, destroy property and set something on fire I strongly urge you to stay home and flip over your own damn car, break your own damn windows and set your own damn house on fire. If you can’t act responsibly, then you don’t deserve to be allowed in public with the rest of us that have brains. And if you insist on going out in public and rioting, I hope the cops immediately beat you down, so that no more innocents will ever be sacrificed to your idiocy.
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