Imagine the crappiest job in the world:
You put on your Men’s Warehouse suit and drive to the office, dreading the inevitable outcome of the day. Settling into your cubicle, you arrange the day’s work on the chipped laminate desk: a billy club, mace, and a copy of the quarterly budget figures for your division, awaiting approval from above. In the next cubicle, Joey H. is already rocking back and forth in his mesh swivel knockoff, working the screws on one of the padded armrests.
The word comes from headquarters right before lunch: the budget numbers are good.
Joey lets out a guttural shriek, rips the loosened arm off his chair and kicks the front wall off his cubicle, still howling. You grab the mace and billyclub and follow him as he tears a path of destruction to the break room, carefully avoiding getting too close, shouting at him to step down.
Joey ignores you and smacks out a fluorescent light fixture with his arm-rest, sending bits of glass and toxic powder all over accounting. Then he pulls a wad of gasoline-soaked newspaper out of his pocket, lights it with a lighter, and throws the flaming mass in the paper recycling bin by the door.
Mike D. wearily rises from his desk, shouldering his fire extinguisher, and heads for the blaze.
You follow Joey into the break room. He’s already used a folding chair to demolish the front of the snack machine, filling his pockets with KitKats while chanting “We’re Number One.” You notice he’s been working out.
“Put the Kit Kats down, Joey,” you say.
“F*** You, Pig-Man,” he screams, winging a full Red Bull can at your face. Luckily, you thought to wear your plexi face shied to work today. Now that you’ve cornered him, Joey head-buts your belly. That hurts. You smack him a few times with the billy-club, always aware that the altercation is being recorded on security cameras for later review. Finally, you manage to subdue him with the help of Kathy P., the new associate from sales. She’s brought her handcuffs, and Joey’s taken off to the bathroom to wash up and get ready for Personnel to review the security tapes.
Later that day, the verdict comes back from Human Resources. While you should have tried to stop Joey before he broke the front of the snack machine, you’re not going to get docked pay for using excessive force subduing him, like last quarter. Kathy P. however, is going to have to go before the panel and explain why she bruised Joey H.’s wrist while snapping the handcuffs on.
Joey H. gets assigned five hours of community service, which immediately gets suspended, as HR is testing a new program which will use positive messaging and self-esteem training to encourage him to stop setting the office on fire. (Nancy W., still recovering from those lycra burns from the spring quarter numbers, stifles a bitter laugh). Joey takes the rest of the afternoon off to meet his new esteem coach at the Starbucks. The rest of the staff gets down to sweeping up broken glass and trying to scrub the scorch marks off the walls while running the numbers on the cost of replacing the carpet.
All except Kathy P., who is hiding in the bathroom to avoid those a-holes from PR who want to snap her picture and use it to illustrate a story they’re writing about the proper way to subdue a co-worker. You settle into your smoke-fill cubicle and tug your rumpled necktie, wishing you could take it off as you start in on the stack of paperwork explaining your actions.
It’s going to be a long night. There’s no way you’re going to catch that Lakers game.
That job would really suck.
It’s called “policing.”
I think most police would be grateful if the media and political leaders would just drop the fiction that such premeditated and utterly predictable riots (oh, I’m sorry, University of Santa Cruz: “uprisings”) really have anything to do with uncontrollable fan excitement over sporting events.
For every honest person knows that certain sporting events are just used by criminals and criminal wannabes to justify — to schedule — their own main events: destroying property, setting fires, looting stores, and throwing heavy things at policemen who are damned if they do respond and damned if they don’t respond. The Los Angeles Times described the mayhem this time as a “a sour note as Los Angeles Police Department officers clashed with rowdy fans.” Clashed with?
Imagine what a strictly factual report would say:
Police were forced to prepare for weeks in advance, planning and deploying tactical forces at great personal risk, including risk of lawsuits, and all at taxpayer expense, to try to minimize the anticipated violent lawbreaking scheduled for the conclusion of the Lakers game.
Rowdy fans? Do these look like rowdy fans, or do they look like people who showed up knowing they’d have some consequence-free fun breaking things and attacking bystanders and cops?
Psychologist and author Robert Cialdini, who has studied the behavior of sports fans, said the seemingly inevitable reaction by fans on the winning side is rooted not only in the emotional connection they build to their teams but in a chemical one as well. Fans are so heavily invested in their teams that studies have shown that their testosterone levels spike significantly after they watch a major victory, Cialdini said. Elevated levels of the hormone are known to cause increased aggression, especially in young men.
See, they’re not responsible. They’re just hormonal.
“When the team wins, we win and we feel it in a very personal way,” Cialdini said. “We’re likely to experience a great sense of arousal and joy even though we haven’t done anything.”
OK, why do people riot when their team loses, too? Shouldn’t they be taking up needlepoint and thinking about changing their hairstyles instead? And does this really look like joy over a championship season?
How about holding the rioters accountable, instead of the police? L.A.T. columnist Sandy Banks did acknowledge that the police presence was necessary, but even she couldn’t resist minimizing the actions of the criminals and reserving too much irritation for the cops putting their lives on the line . . . to protect people like her. It’s certainly a step in the right direction, but why is it so difficult to look at images like this and just blame the guilty parties . . . full stop?
The antics of a bunch of losers shouldn’t obscure the patience, goodwill and high spirits of the thousands of fans who ventured downtown for a communal party and wound up being treated like pariahs. . . The basketball game had barely begun when LAPD officers were summoned to dispatch growing crowds in the area. “Keep moving, keep moving.” The command came over the loudspeaker as a phalanx of officers advanced, moving us off the paseo and onto crowded Figueroa Street. They pulled metal gates across the entrance to the complex to keep us out. . . . [The police] deserve a lot of credit for controlling the chaos. Everywhere you looked there were cops: on horseback, scooters, motorcycles and bikes, in buzzing helicopters and siren-blaring black-and-whites. If that set some nerves on edge, it also made clear who was in charge. But it was hard not to feel unwanted. “If you don’t have a ticket, go home” was the officers’ message — explicitly delivered and universally ignored.
Throwing chunks of concrete at cops’ heads and trying to pull people out of their vehicles aren’t “antics.” And what Banks labels a police message here is actually a message from the criminals, to people like her: they own the streets, and law abiding people don’t. The police were merely stuck in the middle, trying to prevent innocent people from being injured by violent, lawless criminals.
I’d like to see Ms. Banks follow up by following the cases of fifty-or-so rioters arrested for violent “antics,” as they get serially dismissed by the courts.
Maybe then she’ll gain a better understanding of why it really is that L.A. — and other cities, like Atlanta — can’t host public events for decent people like her. And the answer has nothing to do with whether your team wins, or how the police react to it.