I was fortunate enough to attend Game 1 of the World Series. It was, I can safely say, one of the best sporting experiences of my life. I had a blast. Kauffman Stadium is beautiful and clean; every seat in the house is good; and, most importantly, the fans were kind and considerate.
This last part is what really enabled me to enjoy myself. Okay, yeah, Hunter Pence hitting homers is always fun - as is Madison Bumgarner pitching a gem. There's nothing quite like watching a hitter swing noticeably late on a well-timed fastball. It's much more pronounced in person than on television.
But, one of the major highlights was the kindness with which the home fans treated me. I decided to wear my Giants colors to the game. It seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Way more appropriate than this fool. (For real, though, I'm jealous of that guy - he goes to so many games!). The decision was pretty obvious - I never strongly considered going in neutral colors - but I did think about recent fan violence while making my decision.
As we discussed recently, fan violence has been an issue for the 49ers. There was a nasty fight in Arizona that involved a host of people, including what appeared to by 49er fans. This was shortly followed by a fight over a bathroom stall in Levi's Stadium. These instances of violence, and the horrifying incident at Dodgers Stadium in which Bryan Stow was attacked, taint what should otherwise be a carefree day at the ballpark. As a fan of the away team, one is always cognizant of the dangers. This isn't right.
Fortunately for me, the evening started out well, alleviating any concerns I might have had. Walking through the parking lot, I was welcomed to Kansas City multiple times, and a few people wished me luck and told me to enjoy the game. I was more than happy to respond likewise.
Nonetheless, once inside the stadium, I tried looking for a security phone number to call just in case things got heated. I didn't anticipate needing one, especially since everybody just seemed so excited for the game to start, but I thought it would be helpful to have just in case. I didn't find a number. I might not have been able to find one, but I looked pretty hard. I suspect there isn't a permanent sign posted. This is a shame.
As it turns out, the section I sat in was more than good-natured about Giants fans sitting with them. We watched some batting practice, during which Ryan Vogelsong, who was shagging balls in the outfield, threw one up to me in the stands. I handed to ball to a Royals fan who was probably 11 or 12. That may have helped endear me and fellow Giants fans to the section.
After the game started, I took my cue from a nearby Giants fan who was rooting against the Royals more than for the Giants and decided only to root for my team. Don't get me wrong - I was loud. And people were definitely shaking their heads while I was celebrating with friends. But, that seems more than appropriate. By the end of the game, I was talking with all the fans around me, taking pictures for them and talking Baseball. I mean, Alex Smith even came up (most fans in my section like him enough that they think we should have kept him instead of Kaepernick). Even after the game, a brutal loss for the Royals, fans were pleasant. On the way out of the stadium, a few people joked about how we had to be happy for the rest of everybody there.
I write about this for a couple of reason. First, I wanted to publicly thank the fans at Kauffman Stadium for making the experience as fun as possible. Kansas City has some really excellent fans, and it shows. The place was loud (well, at least until the Pence homer - that shut them up pretty quickly), the fans respectful, and the environment perfect for a ball game. Second, I wanted to add my voice to those that are already calling for a culture change among the 49er fans. I know that Niner fans aren't the only violent ones out there. And, I'm sure that the violent fans are a small minority. But, the recent violence has been troubling, and it's only going to get better if people are more and more vocal about it.
Another thing that can help is paying attention to the little things. I think that's what helped create a great environment for me on Tuesday night. I took pictures for groups; I gave a ball away; I exchanged quips about Alex Smith. These little things create a small community of baseball fans who just happen to like opposing teams. In doing so, it allows everybody to enjoy the game without resentment, even when one team is beating another.