|Print this story||Permalink|
When a group of alleged gun-toting hooligans stormed the field at Grover Cleveland High School May 1 during a varsity baseball game, Western Civilization did not collapse in upon itself, but simply rolled along.
Sure, there was the expected shock and dismay that such an occurrence can take place in our quasi-civilized society, but in a world where terrorists fly planes into buildings, I dont see how anyone can truly be surprised.
I have been covering high school sports for more than a decade and while I am appalled at what took place at Cleveland, I was not at all knocked for a loop upon hearing of it. My only surprise is that such an incident has not happened before or is not more commonplace.
Many times I have felt that a particular gym or field was a powder keg set to blow, that emotions would overtake either the players, coaches or fans and a full-out riot would ensue. But those instances always seemed to stem from the game itself. This most recent incident was different.
The incident, as described by witnesses and police, involved a group of teens allegedly venturing into the outfield between the fifth and sixth innings to confront Cleveland baseball standout Ricky Perez.
According to law enforcement officials, the incident stemmed from an earlier dispute between Perez and 15-year-old Pedro Rodriguez, who allegedly returned to the field twice just before and during the game to continue the fight.
Sources said that when Rodriguez and an accompanying crowd took the field, at least one gun was produced and shots were fired, striking no one. The two teams, Cleveland and Stuyvesant, ran for cover and their lives leaving one Grover Cleveland player with a severe gash on his leg from scaling a fence to escape.
According to Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, eight were arrested, including Rodriguez, who was charged as an adult. In all, six of the eight were charged as adults, while two were sent to Queens Family Court.
And although one of those charged is believed to be affiliated with the Latin Kings gang, law enforcement officials said they did not believe the incident to be gang-related.
Other than no one being shot or otherwise seriously injured, its hard to find any good in a story like this. But such an incident has been a long time coming.
Most security at public high school sporting events is a joke, designed more to keep students and non-participants off the field rather than to provide safety for fans and athletes. I find it disheartening that such security is needed at all, but this incident clearly spells out that high school athletics is not a safe haven.
I have seen plenty of fights over the years, some so turbulent and chaotic that I can recall them clearly almost a decade later. But I never saw a gun, never heard a shot or anything like what happened at the Cleveland ballfield.
Perhaps the most famous or infamous such event took place during the basketball city championships several years ago at Madison Square Garden when what should have been the crowning achievement for some gifted athletes degenerated into a full-blown brawl.
I have no doubt there have been guns, knives and loads of other weapons at high school games I have attended. I cant recall having to walk through a metal detector to watch such a game and I dont recall ever being frisked.
Of course, school security cant be entirely to blame for such incidents. I cant imagine security guards are equipped or properly trained to handle a gang of teenagers wielding guns. They normally keep kids without passes out of the hall and make sure the side door is locked and that things inside the school stay in order.
Most of the fans who go to high school games are parents or friends of the players people more interested in the game than in causing trouble.
The alleged troublemakers at the Cleveland-Stuyvesant game could not have cared less that they were breaking up a ballgame. If the accusations are true, they meant to get some payback, plain and simple.
Had Perez been riding the bus or walking home from school and been tracked down by these guys, God only knows what may have taken place. Thankfully he and everyone else managed to get away.
Id love to be able to sit here and write that such incidents are few and far between, that violence is not encroaching onto the high school sports landscape. But that simply isnt true. More and more in recent years violence in one form or another seems to be on the rise.
I wish there was an answer, a simple way to prevent such things from happening in the future, to end violence, not just on the fringe of the sporting world, but in high schools all over the city. Wishful thinking, of course, but it is a nice thought.
The Grover Cleveland baseball team has moved on, voting 13-1 to play out the season and winning its first home game since the incident. Its a nice footnote to a story that we in the media may have to write more and more in the years to come.
Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.
©2003 Community Newspaper Group
|Print this story||Permalink|
By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:
You agree that you, and not TimesLedger.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to TimesLedger.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.