Ratto: America, we have a 'They' problem

August 21, 2011, 5:50 pm
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Aug. 21, 2011


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You know what we have here in the wake of the Candlestick shooting, brawls, simple assaults and other entertainments Saturday night?

Another bad case of They.

As in, They did it. As in, Theyre the ones. As in, You know about them. As in, You know how They are. As in, Theyre the reason I dont do that any more.

One person was shot and fighting for life after the 49ers-Raiders game. Another was shot and hospitalized but is not believed to be in danger. People were beaten and beat others throughout the stadium and outside it. One fight lasted several minutes because cops were engaged breaking up another one in another part of the stadium.

RELATED: Two men shot outside Candlestick Park

And the immediate responses went right to They.

It doesnt matter who the They are. Everyone makes up their own They. They is the handiest pronoun of all because it means anything the user wants it to mean. Its the racistsexisttribalist battle cry. They.

And it dovetails with the other clich for the moment didnt anyone learn from the Bryan Stow Incident?

And the answer to that is, Of course not. Learning doesnt work when people think bad things are done only by Them.

We like to talk about cautionary tales all the time, and I think the main reason we do is because we like the sound of the phrase cautionary tale. It makes us sound smart. It makes us seem less like They. Whoever they is. People who use cautionary tale are good at lecturing Them.

But nobody takes caution from these tales, because affiliations and alcohol trump everything else. The football experience is a shared one for fans, and the tailgates prove that. Theres a lot of time to get fed, and drunk and, when things go badly for the people who sold your T-shirt, mean.

And we who have no hangovers or bulletholes or remorse can click our tongues and go tut-tut-tut and play the They card. Its a volatile world out there, these are two fan bases which have their shares of people looking for trouble, as well as people who just want to avoid it, and people who dont look for it but dont decline it when it arrives.

Thats not a They problem. Thats an Us problem. An All Of Us problem.

But as we can see in most other endeavors these days, we dont like to do All Of Us problems. Its too easy to go Them, and make it Their problem.

Which is where we are this morning. 49er fans blaming Raider fans, Raider fans blaming 49er fans, everyone blaming the stadium (as though concrete makes you drink and curse and ball your fists), and the Theys flying around like shrapnel.

This would have happened at the Coliseum, too. Or in Santa Clara too, by the way. Or in a new plant in Oakland. Its not location but proximity, and at least once every year the two teams and their supporters commingle. Thousands and thousands of Theys. The two teams will not stop playing each other. Its too convenient and expense-friendly for them. And they have their Theys too.

So dont be surprised that this episode of fan violence ends up like the others, with nothing being resolved, fingers being pointed, blame averted, and us all killing time jawing endlessly about why They must be held accountable -- until the next horrifying incident. And the reason will be the same every time.

Pronoun trouble.