Riots don’t just break bones, businesses and hearts.
They break the social contract.
Baltimore’s ordeal this week has been scary enough.
Closer to home and on a much smaller, yet still harrowing scale, a violent mob of rampaging teens did damage of their own — physical and emotional — in peninsula Charleston very early Sunday.
Calling that local disturbance a “riot” is a stretch.
Then again, a semantics distinction can’t heal injuries inflicted by those marauding punks — including the broken nose of one man and the fractured bone near the left eye of another.
Don’t discount, either, the casualties to public confidence in law and order when the authorities can’t — or just don’t? — effectively defend us from the forces of street chaos.
And those Baltimore rioters didn’t just hurt 20 officers, set fires and loot while distracting from an important debate about police treatment of black Americans.
They hit me hard with the scene of their crimes: My year (1985) in “Charm City” was a grand ride. Baltimore’s friendly, generous people (not counting rioters, of course) make it a special place.
Now those 2015 rioters have tainted that image while disrupting Baltimore business as usual — including the national pastime.
Sure, baseball rates way down on the Baltimore rioting victims’ list.
But consider this still-glowing memory of mine from way back:
Fifty years ago today, my 11-year-old mind was rounding third with full-speed enthusiasm over the possibility, raised by my dad, that before season’s end he would finally take me to my first big-league game. Fifty-four long days of eager anticipation later, he and my mom did just that.
On June 23, 1965, we sat about 10 rows up behind the first-base dugout at the original Yankee Stadium — “The House That Ruth Built.” The home team in pinstripes was my only team back then (the Braves’ first season in Atlanta after abandoning Milwaukee was 1966).
The Bronx Bombers, coming off 14 pennants and nine World Series in the previous 16 seasons, had begun a steep decline, entering the game with a dismal 29-36 record.
On that glorious Wednesday night, though, they roared to an 8-0 lead after two innings, then coasted to an 8-3 victory over the hapless Kansas City Athletics.
Even the absence of my hero Mickey Mantle from the lineup couldn’t spoil the epic occasion.
We saw Yankee southpaw great Whitey Ford go six innings for the win, not-so-great first baseman Frank Barker hit a two-run homer in the first off Diego Segui, and savvy second baseman Bobby Richardson of Sumter, the future USC Gamecock coach, go 3-for-3.
What has my major-league joy in 1965 New York City got to do with lowdown despair in 2015 Baltimore?
Think about a kid who had been looking intensely forward to seeing his — or her — first big-league game this week at Camden Yards, the Orioles’ home ballpark near the Inner Harbor.
Think about how the rioting forced decisions to postpone Oriole home games for Monday and Tuesday nights, to play one Wednesday in an empty stadium (Orioles 8, White Sox 2), and to move the home games set for Friday, Saturday and Sunday against Tampa Bay to St. Petersburg.
What do we tell that kid?
What do we tell ourselves?
What’s wrong with this picture?
More on sports’ intersection with societal upheaval:
Longtime sportswriters/columnists/commentators Michael Wilbon and Tony Kornheiser deliver timely information, humor and insight — and not just about the athletic arena — on ESPN’s “Pardon the Interruption,” a half-hour show airing at 5:30 p.m. weekdays.
Yet Wilbon committed a galling error early in Tuesday’s show. Recalling the summers of 1966 and ’68 in Baltimore, he pointed out “the frustration and pain that was felt across many communities, most of them urban, and the unrest which followed.”
Stressing that “this is not a prediction, this it not a forecast,” Wilbon cited “the great disparity of wealth, and poverty versus wealth, in Baltimore in particular, and all of the indicators that point to the frustration arising from that.”
To borrow from Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo) on NBC’s hilariously unorthodox 1972-77 sitcom “Sanford and Son,” that rioting rationalization is “gobbledygook.”
President Barack Obama, however, got it right on Tuesday when he pegged those rioters as “criminals and thugs” (see editorial on Page A10).
Closer to home again, our RiverDogs, a Yankees affiliate, are in first place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division.
They return to Riley Park (designed by the same company that did Camden Yards) for a four-game series starting Friday night against the Northern Division-leading Hickory Crawdads.
No, Whitey Ford doesn’t pitch for the RiverDogs.
And no, we don’t call them the Charleston Yankees — though we should.
But lots of kids — and even some older folks trying to stay young at heart — will be cheering for our home team.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.