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Heckling Turns Into Assault.

Orioles-ROH We grew up as fans of the Baltimore Orioles. We were “Junior Orioles,” which meant for $9 a season, we got to sit in the bleachers at old Memorial Stadium with thousands of other Junior Orioles and see one each and every team that played the O’s. Dad had to buy a ticket to go with us, but in those bleachers is where we learned to keep score in a book, root for the home team, etiquette in the bathrooms, and the taste of a hotdog and peanuts while watching a game.

Because many of the games ended before our bedtime, we would get up in the morning and see whether the Orioles had won or lost. We learned the words to “Bomb ’em Birds” for the 1965 World Series against the Dodgers. As we matured we went to games on our own, sang the national anthem with thousands of others, and during the 7th inning stretch, whooped and hollered to John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.”

And along the way, like any good son of Baltimore, we learned to hate the New York Yankees. (Hatred of Boston came later, but first up it was the Yankees.) What self respecting ball player ever wore a uniform with silly looking pinstripes for goodness sake? And Yankee Stadium? What a dump. The O’s and the Yanks were in the same league (American) and later when the leagues were separated into divisions, the O’s and Yanks were in the same division.

The hatred still burned.

However, as much as we hated the Yankees, we would never think of taking it to the level as two butt-wipes did on June 1, 2013 at Camden Yards.

Twenty-five year old Matt Fortese is a life long Yankees fan (obviously he has issues) and was attending the O’s game at Camden Yards with a young lady. The couple was on their second date. Fortese was wearing a Yankees cap which made him the object of taunts and derision from two jerks behind him. By the sixth inning, we are going to assume that the two hecklers had consumed enough “liquid courage” to where they threw a beer at Fortese, hitting him in the head. Fortese was not happy (who would be?) and confronted the two idiots.

One of the idiots threw a punch knocking Fortese backwards where he stumbled and fell over the railing of the wall, and down onto the concrete below.

Fortese was taken to the hospital where sadly, his condition seems to be deteriorating.

A 25 year old guy who wanted to spend some time on a date is fighting for his life because he wore a Yankee hat and was assaulted by some asses. The two men – 21 and 22 years old – were arrested.

We wonder what was going on with the people in the same section. Why didn’t anyone stick up for Fortese and his date? Why did the people allow the heckling – which seems to have gotten worse as the game went on – to continue? At least one person at the game said an usher was told about the heckling and the usher simply told the two men to stop. That admonition didn’t last a half an inning.

Why didn’t people step up to the plate and stop this before it got to the point where a beer was launched, punches were thrown and a man’s life hangs in the balance?

Sports are a community event. Our love of the game and our teams draw us to the ball park and courts. We can share the game while rooting for our sports team. We can share the stadium while despising other teams.

But allowing that hatred to get to the point where blows are struck? Or even to the point where you stop being a fan and become a bleating ass?

Since when is that acceptable?

Sports are a diversion from life. They should be a shared experience – even if the person sitting next to you is rooting for another team. Our love of our teams should never result in something like this happening. The idiots should have known better. The other spectators in the section should have known better. The ushers should have known better.

But because no one was willing to act on what they knew, a man may die.

We love the O’s but somehow there is a part of us that weeps for that love if we are associated with the people who assaulted Matt Fortese.

We hope and pray for his recovery and justice for the two men who assaulted him.



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