It's just a game

I was driving my car in Los Angeles last Friday afternoon, idly listening to a local sports radio show. I am like everyone else on Opening Day of MLB baseball: There is all the hope in the world of my team going all of the way to the pennant … or beyond,

Things suddenly came to a screeching halt, however, when I heard the sports guys on the radio read a story about a San Francisco Giants fan getting brutally beaten on by some men wearing Los Angeles Dodgers garb. This happened the night before, just after the Dodgers' home opener against the Giants.

Apparently, there were some words exchanged in the parking lot and this man (now identified as Santa Clara County paramedic Bryan Stow) was hit on the back of the head. Mr. Stow apparently hit his head again when he fell to the ground, and the Dodgers-wearing brutes reportedly proceeded to kick him while he was unconscious. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.

On Saturday, as I was driving my young daughters to a Nickelodeon kids show, I was again idly listening to the radio, this time the local NPR station. The story of the condition of Bryan Stow came on. His condition has apparently worsened, and was now in a medically induced coma. Bryan Stow has two small children. This kind of stuff really hits home when you are also a dad.

This is not meant to be a commentary on Dodgers fans in general, or Giants fans in general. If this meaningless and brutal attack happened in Denver or Tampa Bay or Seattle, I would still feel as sickened.

I know that we are passionate about our teams. We grow up feeling ownership and pride about them. It's our "turf," when our teams play at home, and we go into "enemy territory" when we go see our teams play in another city. But … it is only a game. Just sports. Folly.

ESPN.com is one of the biggest websites in the world. Sports are a huge deal. I could immediately tell when I started writing here back in January, just by some of the comments to my articles, that passion toward sports has a different, uh … twist. But online, it is all pretty harmless and more than often, anonymous. I guess that's all OK.

A baseball stadium, though, is a place that we often take our children. This is a place where they may very likely get some of their first imprints of sportsmanship between us adults. I'm sure that some kids might have witnessed this event in the Dodgers' parking lot as the game was letting out. That is really damn sad to think about.

Thugs are not a new dilemma. We have all seen on TV, or read about "soccer hooligans" in Europe or elsewhere. But I have never even heard about a fight in a parking lot after a mixed martial arts match here in The States. And there's probably more testosterone combined with alcohol at an MMA event. How empty are the lives of these violent Dodgers fans that they mindlessly lose all sense of compassion for their fellow fan or man on Opening Day of the baseball season.

When I went to Super Bowl XL in Detroit and wore my Seahawks jersey, I was sitting right smack in the middle of a sea of Steelers fans. For all of the fierceness that you hear about Steelers fans, I actually never really met a nicer bunch of people. They were courteous to us Hawks fans, and understood clearly, that this was just a game.

I've gone to many different ballparks to see the Seattle Mariners when I am on tour. I always wear my M's hat and have never had a problem. Maybe it is because I am 6-foot-3 and have a lot of tattoos. Maybe it is because I have a tiny bit of celebrity.

Hopefully this Dodgers parking lot attack is just a very isolated incident. It's just not cool … it's senseless, shameful, dumb and dark. Sinister almost.

Rivalries are healthy and vital to all sports. When it results to thugism, however, the fun and sportsmanship is lost. That goes without saying, right?

To Bryan Stow's wife and family: Here is hoping and praying that everything goes OK. You have my best wishes.

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and is finishing his autobiography, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com.