Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another win for violence

"A typical scene played out on Figueroa Street... As police in riot gear approached, the crowd hurled unopened cans of energy drinks at them. Several men stomped on a SUV parked on the street, breaking its windows.

"Police chased the roving groups for about two hours, pushing them further afield until they dispersed and relative calm returned.

"Before it was over, police had fired tear gas and stinging pellets to disperse a scrum of several hundred people who surrounded a city bus filled with passengers and attempted to yank the driver out through a window. A cabbie fled when his taxi was set upon by another mob that kicked in the windshield and set it ablaze. A local YWCA, several restaurants and other storefronts had windows smashed. At least eight people, one of them beaten unconscious, were taken to area hospitals."

No, this article in the Los Angeles Times last week wasn’t about another racial riot in L.A. It wasn’t about another uprising in the Middle East or Africa or another volatile spot. It wasn’t about Iraq or Afghanistan.

No, the article was about what happened in L.A after the Los Angeles Lakers basketball team beat the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the N.B.A Finals for this year’s championship. Thousands of people streamed out of the Staples Center, where the game was played, and mayhem erupted.

A riot after the hometown team wins. I don’t get it.

Maybe I could understand - barely - if there was rioting in Boston. And the rioting this year wasn’t as in previous years. Yes, "the rioting this year" - this has tended to happen every time the Lakers win the championship (at least when the final game is in L.A), and there was much pleading before this game, including from the Lakers, not to riot.

Still, there was rioting, and, as the Times article focused on, merchants in the areas were the real losers, being left with plenty of cleaning and fixing up to do. At least one had prayed that the Lakers wouldn’t win.

I thought people riot when they are angry, when they have a grievance, when they lose. I really don’t get this.

One psychologist quoted in the article says that it is due to emotions and chemicals, especially testosterone, with fans being heavily invested in a team and aroused, with increased aggression, when it wins. I’ve also heard it argued that drinking is the culprit. Remember, many of the revelers had been in bars.

I’m not sure. But I keep thinking of the studies that show that gay bars are more able to use glass (bottles, cups), because it is less likely for violence to occur in these venues, as opposed to straight bars.

What I do know is that this rioting is completely ridiculous and uncalled for and that L.A Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa should have called off the victory parade, which was on Monday. But then there would have been real rioting.

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