Fan violence funny on TV, but not in real life

Published May. 16, 2011 7:02 p.m. ET

Alec Baldwin is a funny guy, in an erudite sort of way. John Krasinski is, too, as fans of ''The Office'' can tell you.

Together, they're quite entertaining, as they showed last month in the first commercial of what is to be a series of ads for the New Era cap company. Filmed in black and white, the 60-second spot features Baldwin as a rabid Yankees fan and Krasinski as a Red Sox die-hard arguing about the chances of their respective teams this season.

The writing is particularly good, especially when Baldwin dismisses the idea that the Yankees actually have a rivalry with the inferior denizens of Fenway Park.

''Lawnmowers don't have a rivalry with grass,'' Baldwin says. ''America doesn't have a rivalry with Costa Rica.''

Funny stuff. Only that commercial is long gone.

In its place this weekend was a second commercial in which Baldwin, fuming over what he thinks is a Yankees loss, runs over to Krasinski's apartment and lands a sucker punch to his face.

This one couldn't have been terribly funny to the family of Bryan Stow.


If the name Bryan Stow doesn't register, you might remember him as the San Francisco Giants fan who made the fateful mistake of attending opening day at Dodger Stadium while wearing the jersey of the team he has loved all his life. Stow was attacked in the parking lot as he was leaving by two men - one wearing Dodgers gear - who hit him repeatedly in the back of the head simply because, it seems, he was a fan of the other team.

Monday was a big day for Stow, who has been in and out of medically induced comas as doctors try to prevent him from going into seizures. The 42-year-old was taken from Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center and flown to San Francisco, where he will be treated at the only trauma center in the area that specializes in brain injuries.

''He's not ready for a long-term facility, he is still critically ill,'' said Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for San Francisco General Hospital. ''He will be in intensive care.''

His parents used the occasion to thank the people of Los Angeles for caring so much about their son, who remains unresponsive. His mother said she didn't blame Dodgers fans as a whole for what happened.

But the fact is, Stow was targeted for only one reason - he was wearing a Giants jersey at a Dodgers game. During the game he had sent a text message saying he was growing increasingly worried about his safety at Dodger Stadium.

It was fan-on-fan violence at its ugliest, a brutal beating that forever changed the life of the father of two who wanted nothing more than to spend the afternoon rooting for his team at a ball game..

Punch a guy in a television commercial over his choice of baseball teams and everyone laughs. Do it in a parking lot, and there's nothing funny about it.

No one, of course, is claiming New Era or its comedy duo condones the kind of vicious attack that happened to Stow. But you have to wonder about the sensitivity of both the official cap supplier of Major League Baseball and baseball itself for running the ad at all.

A spokeswoman for New Era said Monday that the commercial was shot before the beating at Dodger Stadium and wasn't pulled because the company thought people watching it would view it as comedic license. Dana Marciniak said the response has been overwhelming positive to the ad, though there were some who complained.

''It was never meant to be offensive or promote that kind of behavior,'' Marciniak said. ''It was meant to celebrate the fans and recognize the rivalry in sports. Our hearts go out to the victim and his family. It's disgusting what they did to him.''

The ad has now already run its course on television, so there's little else to do but chalk it up to bad judgment on New Era's part. It lives on the front of the company's website, though, where fans are encouraged to take sides in the Yankees vs. Red Sox debate.

The sucker punch aside, the ad does have its moments. These are, remember, two wild and crazy fans.

At the end of the commercial, Baldwin throws a wad of cash at Krasinski and tells him to fix his face with it. The Red Sox fanatic at first declines, then accepts after discovering ''there's like 20 grand here.''

Funny stuff, indeed. Certainly worth a few laughs between innings.

Unfortunately, it will take a lot more than 20 grand to fix Bryan Stow.


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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at) or follow him at