Football fans' rude, illegal behavior is intolerable

October 22, 1997|By GREGORY KANE

Look at Lisa Gladden's tall, slender frame wrapped in such good looks and - if you're inclined to think stereotypically - you would think "model." But, as in most cases where stereotypical thinking is used, you'd be wrong.

Try thinking ex-Marine. Ex-corrections officer. Former counselor to gang members in Boston before she moved to Baltimore.

Try also thinking woman of action, as city officials found out earlier this year. Gladden lives within a block of Memorial Stadium, home of the depressingly mediocre Baltimore Ravens.

On Aug. 31, less than an hour after the Ravens lost their home opener, Gladden saw something that, in her words, "horrified" her.

Her 8-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were playing across the street in the playground of Waverly Elementary School. A parking lot adjacent to the playground was full. The school sells spaces during Ravens games to raise money.

A woman driving a gray 1995 Nissan Pathfinder drove over the curb, onto the playground, over the sidewalk and out into 34th Street. The Nissan barely missed her children and seven others. As terrifying as that was, that wasn't the end of it.

The driver came back, drove up onto the sidewalk and onto the playground again. By this time, Gladden was in the playground and chided the driver for her reckless behavior.

"I told her she was showing disregard for my neighborhood," Gladden recalled. "I asked her how she would like it if I came to her neighborhood and did that. She suggested I move from the stadium area."

Gladden got only a little more sympathy from police at the Northern District. The administrative lieutenant there, according to Gladden, suggested she keep her children indoors on game days. The notion didn't sit well with Gladden, especially Sunday afternoon as she watched some Ravens fans hold tailgate parties in the school lot. Two of the partygoers' children went to the lot and romped on the monkey bars and sliding board. It's the same lot that the Northern District lieutenant suggested children who actually live in the neighborhood not use on game days.

In the days that followed the Aug. 31 incident, Gladden talked to city police, who said the problem should be handled by school police. School police said the incident involved negligent driving and only city police could issue a summons. A frustrated Gladden dashed off a letter to Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who requested that Commissioner Thomas Frazier look into the matter.

School police interviewed Gladden on Oct. 9 and said they would try to send someone to monitor the school parking lot for the remaining Ravens home games. A school police officer did show up Sunday. He took down the tag numbers of two cars that were parked before the attendant arrived (they belonged to city police officers). The officer stayed about 15 minutes before the game started and about 15 after it ended.

Gladden, dressed in her Sunday afternoon relaxation and cooking attire - sweat pants and a T-shirt - peered out the window of her enclosed front porch. She seemed genuinely grateful for the officer's appearance. But she has seen football fans tramping through her block, urinating on trees and front lawns. She has seen the beer bottles and trash they leave behind.

(For the record, the tailgate partygoers on the school lot Sunday were orderly and left the lot as they found it.)

"Why," she wondered, "didn't he question them [the tailgate partygoers] about the public consumption of alcohol?"

Because they're pro-football fans. Pro football has taken on a status akin to religion in this country. A bunch of guys drinking beer at a tailgate party is not going to be treated the same as a bunch of guys drinking beer on a corner. We've decided when, where and why our laws against the public consumption of alcohol will be enforced. They will not be at pro football games.

Gladden has the curious but noble notion that the safety of children and inviolability of neighborhoods come before pro football. She's not against all football fans, only those with certain attitudes.

"They who have the attitude that 'we're here because we spent $60 on a ticket and we can act any way we want to,'" Gladden says. She's here to tell that type of fan that neither that attitude nor boorish conduct will be tolerated along 34th Street anymore.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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