No, I didn’t formulate that question. Political blogger Mickey Kaus did in his “assignment desk” feature over at the Daily Caller. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, Kaus uses the feature to play editor, coming up with a question that interests him, outlines the parameters and then “assigns” it to a reporter he thinks would be good at handling it. The questions rarely actually get researched. It’s just his way of playing the “hey, I’m just saying” game. Sometimes the questions are interesting. Sometimes they are not.
In this instance, the formulation is probably more interesting than the actual question, because Kaus is interested in exploring ballpark violence in terms of one of his very old topics: social equality and the idea that, to sustain both equality and capitalism, policies should be pursued that make it so that money should have as little influence as possible. The idea: let us do things to avoid a society in which people can simply buy their way out of interacting with everyone else via VIP sections, priority lines and seating, hospitals for only the rich, etc.
Why? Because the coming together of people from all walks of life — be it for good things like Fourth of July parades or bad things like all of us having to wait in the same line at the airport — fosters democracy and social health and all of that. He wrote a book about it once that I actually kind of liked, even if I think Kaus gets a lot of stuff wrong a lot of the time.
Anyway, Kaus would probably include luxury boxes in ballparks in that world view, and here he wonders if they aren’t in part to blame for violence and rowdiness in the cheap seats:
Here in L.A. we’ve been traumatized by the vicious beating given a San Francisco Giants fan who attended a game at Dodger Stadium. Many are shocked that this could happen at a ballgame, but I remember being told several times, when I was sitting in fairly expensive seats at the stadium, that I shouldn’t go to the bleachers because that’s where thugs hung out. Which raises a question: Has the class segregation of sports stadiums helped promote hooliganism? The argument would be a fairly straightforward miniaturized version of the argument that concentrating the poor in inner cities helped breed an underclass. Specifically, if all the classes were mixed together–no skyboxes, no separate, more expensive decks–middle class values would prevail, or else the cops would be called and management would hear about it in no uncertain terms. The more they are unmixed–with the cheap seats geographically cut off from the mainstream–the more we a) allow general mainstream norms to be flouted in the cut off areas and b) ensure that the affluent are insulated and won’t care about (a). … Problems with theory: Even bleacher seats aren’t that cheap.
The bigger problem with that theory — aside from the fact that he was sitting in high-end seats when the question occurred to him — is that, as I said last week, I’m willing to bet that there were more problems with hooliganism in the 70s and 80s than there is now, and there was way less class segregation then due to fewer club level,elite level, etc., options in ballparks.
People pay more attention to incidents at ballparks now and they get reported in the media more often. And of course, the Bryan Stow case was such an outlier in terms of its severity that of course it’s being discussed more. Especially in Los Angeles, where Kaus lives.
So, interesting idea, Mickey. I have a pretty strong anti-elitism streak in me (fostered by both reason and, I’ll admit, occasional jealousy!) so I think it’s a good idea to ask whether or not luxury boxes are a good thing in an absolute sense (not that they’re going anywhere). But I have a hard time linking their existence to increased bad behavior in ballparks, simply because I don’t believe that there is more bad behavior in ballparks than there used to be.
(link via BTF)